Maxime Bernier

Conservative Party of Canada Stephen Harper People's Party of Canada

Maxime Bernier

Maxime Bernier in 2017.jpg
Bernier in July 2017
Leader of the People's Party
Assumed office
September 14, 2018
Preceded byOffice established
14th Minister of State for Small Business, Tourism and Agriculture
In office
May 18, 2011 – November 4, 2015[a]
Prime MinisterStephen Harper
Preceded byRob Moore
Succeeded byBardish Chagger
7th Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
August 13, 2007 – May 26, 2008
Prime MinisterStephen Harper
Preceded byPeter MacKay
Succeeded byDavid Emerson
6th Minister of Industry
Registrar General of Canada
In office
February 6, 2006 – August 13, 2007
Prime MinisterStephen Harper
Preceded byDavid Emerson
Succeeded byJim Prentice
Chair of the National Defence Select Committee
In office
March 9, 2009 – June 20, 2011
Preceded byRick Casson
Succeeded byJames Bezan
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Beauce
In office
January 23, 2006 – October 21, 2019
Preceded byClaude Drouin
Succeeded byRichard Lehoux
Personal details
Born (1963-01-18) January 18, 1963 (age 57)
Saint-Georges, Quebec, Canada
Political partyPeople's Party
Other political
Conservative (until 2018)
Spouse(s)Catherine Letarte (m. 2019)
Caroline Chauvin
(m. 1991; div. 2005)
ParentsGilles Bernier (father)
ResidenceSaint-Georges, Quebec, Canada
EducationUniversité du Québec à Montréal (B.Com.)
University of Ottawa (LL.B.)
ProfessionAuthor, businessman, consultant, lawyer

Maxime Bernier PC (born January 18, 1963) is a Canadian businessman, lawyer and politician who served as a cabinet minister of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and as Member of Parliament (MP) for Beauce from 2006 to 2019. He is the founder and current leader of the People's Party of Canada (PPC).

Prior to entering politics, Bernier held positions in the fields of law, finance and banking. He was first elected to the Canadian House of Commons as a Conservative in the 2006 election in the same riding his father, Gilles Bernier had represented from 1984 to 1997. Bernier served in the cabinet of Prime Minister Stephen Harper as Minister of Industry, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism, which later became the Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism and Agriculture. Following the Conservatives' defeat in the 2015 election, he served as opposition critic for Innovation, Science and Economic Development in the shadow cabinets of Rona Ambrose and Andrew Scheer, until June 12, 2018.

Bernier ran for the Conservative Party leadership in the 2017 leadership election, and came in a close second with over 49% of the vote in the 13th round, after leading the eventual winner, Andrew Scheer, in the first 12 rounds. Fifteen months later, in August 2018, Bernier resigned from the Conservative Party to create his own party, citing disagreements with Scheer's leadership.[1] His new party was named the People's Party of Canada in September 2018. He lost his seat in the 2019 election to Conservative Richard Lehoux.

Early life and family

Bernier was born in Saint-Georges, Quebec, the son of Doris (Rodrigue) and Gilles Bernier, a well known radio host, who represented the riding of Beauce from 1984 to 1997, first as a Progressive Conservative and then as an independent.[2][3][4] In a 2010 interview with John Geddes, Bernier said he respects his father as a Mulroney-era politician, but tries not to emulate his style.[5] Bernier has stated that his views were shaped from his upbringing in Beauce to his life experiences.[6][2] He is the second oldest child and has two sisters, Brigitte and Caroline, and a brother, Gilles Jr. In his teens, Bernier played football as a member of the Condors, the team of the Séminaire St-Georges, that won the Bol d’Or in 1980 at the Olympic Stadium.[7]

Education and career before politics

Bernier obtained a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the Université du Québec à Montréal, completed his law degree at the University of Ottawa and was called to the Quebec Bar in 1990, of which he is still a member. For 19 years, Bernier held positions in law, several financial and banking fields, such as working as a lawyer at McCarthy Tétrault,[8] rising up to become branch manager at the National Bank, the office of the Securities Commission of Québec as Director of Corporate and International Relations,[9] an adviser (handling fiscal reform) from 1996 to 1998 in the office of Bernard Landry—Quebec's finance minister and Deputy Premier of Quebec at the time—and Standard Life of Canada as the Vice-President of Corporate Affairs and Communication.[9] He also served as Executive Vice-President of the Montreal Economic Institute, a Quebec free-market think tank, where he authored a book on tax reform.[7][9][10]

Political career

In 2005, Bernier became the Conservative Party candidate for the riding of Beauce for the 2006 federal election. Stephen Harper had asked his father to re-enter politics, and the latter advised Harper that his son should run instead of him.[11] Bernier won handily, taking 67% of the popular vote, the largest majority for a Conservative politician outside of Alberta.[12][11] His ties to the riding[13] and his support for provincial jurisdictions (which earned him an endorsement from former Social Credit party leader Fabien Roy) were factors in his win. Some political pundits believed Bernier's ideas led to the unexpected Conservative breakthrough in Quebec during the election.[11][14]

Minister of Industry (2006)

Bernier was one of the higher-profile freshman MPs from Quebec, and as such, on February 6, 2006, was appointed Minister of Industry and minister responsible for Statistics Canada, and by virtue of being appointed as the Minister of Industry, he also served as the Registrar General.[15] During his time as Industry Minister, Bernier set in motion steps that led to reformation of the telecommunications industry, particularly on local phone service.[16][17][18] Professor Richard J. Schultz from McGill University lauded his attempt to deregulate the telecommunications industry, calling him "the best Industry Minister in 30 years, without challenge".[19][20] James Cowan from Canadian Business, called Bernier's tenure "a golden age" for Canadian business policy.[21][22]

Minister of Foreign Affairs (2007)

On August 14, 2007, Bernier was appointed as Minister of Foreign Affairs, replacing Peter MacKay, who became the Minister of National Defence. The rumour is that appointment had to do with preventing Bernier from pushing his personal views such as opposing corporate welfare farther as industry minister.[23][24][25][26] During the beginning of his tenure, Bernier's personality and charm received praise among foreign dignitaries.[27]

In May 2008, it was revealed that, one month earlier, Bernier inadvertently left a confidential briefing book at the home of his girlfriend at the time, Julie Couillard.[28][29] While Prime Minister Stephen Harper originally defended Bernier,[30] he ultimately accepted his resignation on May 26, 2008, saying "It's only this error. It's a very serious error for any minister. The minister immediately recognized the gravity of that error."[29] Bernier explained that the incident made him rethink his political career and that he would avoid taking government information out of his parliamentary office in future.[31]

Recalling his tenure as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bernier felt unsatisfied due to the Prime Minister's Office controlling the portfolio, making it harder for him to implement his views into Canadian foreign policy.[27]

Backbench (2008-2011)

Six days before the 2008 election, Couillard released a book which was supposed to reveal his confidential opinions such as his personal objection to Canadian involvement in the Iraq War.[32][33] The English version peaked at No. 6 on La Presse's bestseller list while the French version reached No. 5. However, the book was viewed negatively by some of Bernier's constituents.[34] He was reelected with 62% of votes,[5] and was made chair for the National Defense Select Committee.[35]

In 2009, Bernier decided to start a blog and spent the next four years travelling across the country to discuss political issues.[36][37] Bernier's speeches were criticized by Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Raymond Blanchard and Tom Mulcair,[38][39] but praised by Andrew Coyne, Warren Kinsella, and André Pratte.[39][40][41][42]

In September 2010, after Bernier's Quebec colleagues pushed for the federal government to invest $175 million in the Videotron Centre in Quebec City, Bernier expressed opposition to the proposed project and a feasibility study by Ernst & Young, stating that the proposal made little financial sense.[43][6] The government later decided against the investment.[44] When recalling about that decision, he revealed that his colleagues were furious at him because they wanted to use the investment to "Buy votes".[45][46]

It had been rumoured that Conservative Party insiders wanted Bernier to take over as leader of the Action démocratique du Québec (ADQ) party if Stephen Harper's preferred choice, Mario Dumont, became Quebec lieutenant, and that Bernier was considering a leadership run.[47][48] In 2009, there was a movement to draft Bernier for the leadership of the ADQ. Bernier called the attention flattering, but declined to run.[49]

Minister of State (2011–2015)

On May 18, 2011, Bernier was appointed as Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism),[50] a junior ministerial post.[27] Bernier did not enjoy being bound by the principal of cabinet solidarity, and disliked being named to a minor department, but accepted the role out of deference to his colleagues and to regain credibility via a return to the cabinet.[27] Bernier later said he also accepted the position because he had felt he did not accomplish enough in his career and expressed a desire to end the budget deficit.[31]

His responsibilities were expanded with his appointment on July 15, 2013, as Minister of State (Small Business, Tourism, and Agriculture).[50] During this time, he led the Red Tape Reduction Commission, which created a rule that for every regulation added another one has to be cut.[51]

In opposition (2015–2019)

On November 20, 2015, Bernier was appointed by interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose as Critic for Economic Development and Innovation.[50] He resigned on April 7, 2016 to run in the Conservative Party's leadership election.[52]

In March 2016, Bernier introduced a motion to require Bombardier executives to testify to the Industry Committee to explain the reasoning for the federal government to bail them out. Bernier argued that Bombardier should restructure itself rather than seek public funds. Justin Trudeau's Liberal government blocked Bernier's motion.[53][54]

Campaign for the Conservative leadership

At a conservative conference in March 2016, Bernier said that China has "less government and more freedom" than Canada; a video of the speech was later circulated by the Broadbent Institute's Press Progress.[55] Bernier said that he was referring to economic freedom, not political freedom, and said that his remarks should not be construed to suggest that he supported Chinese dictatorship.[56]

On April 7, 2016, Bernier filed his nomination to be a candidate in the 2017 Conservative Party of Canada leadership election,[52] saying that he was running to promote his views and ideas on four principles: freedom, responsibility, fairness, and respect.[57][58]

In May 2016, Bernier parted company with his Conservative peers on the Canadian heritage agricultural system, in which a form of insurance is granted to farmers, be they dairy, poultry or egg. He said that there was no way to reconcile the Canadian system with his "free-market principles".[59]

After the Conservative Party decided to remove the traditional definition of marriage from their constitution, Bernier was one of few leadership contenders to march in the Toronto Pride Parade.[60]

Bernier achieved unexpectedly high levels of support,[27][36] finishing a close second in the 13th and final round of voting on May 27, 2017, taking 49.05% of the vote to Andrew Scheer's 50.95%.[61][62] A few days after the results, Michael Chong, another leadership candidate, argued that both his and Bernier's campaigns represented "real change, significant change" to the party but felt they wanted the status quo.[63]

Bernier with Andrew Scheer in Ottawa, several days after the Conservative leadership election concluded, 2017

Reaction by experts

Nathan Giede of the Prince George Citizen wrote that Bernier was "the living reincarnation of all Laurier's good ideas and Dief the Chief's pan-Canadian optimism".[64] In the Times Colonist, Bernier stated, "They can call me a fiscal conservative, they can call me a conservative who believes in freedom, they can call me reasonable libertarian, call me anything you want—call me Max, call me Maxime, call me 'Mad Max'."[65] Occasionally, he displayed a sense of humor which helped him gain voters' attention.[66][67] William Watson argued in the National Post that although some of Bernier's policies were reflective of the role "rugged individualism" played in Canada's past, and may have played a role in his loss, they could also affect Canada's future.[68] Stanley Hartt, former Chief of Staff to Brian Mulroney, found Scheer's victory not "stirring" and suggested that Scheer should have taken ideas from Bernier's economic platform, which Hartt praised.[69]

Post-leadership campaign

On August 31, 2017, Bernier was reappointed critic for Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada by Andrew Scheer.[70]

After it was revealed that the 2015 Conservative campaign team knew about sexual assault allegations against former Conservative MP Rick Dykstra, on January 31, 2018, Bernier publicly demanded answers as he was heading towards a caucus meeting into the handling of the nomination[71] as did Conservative MP Brad Trost, who tweeted in favor of Bernier statement. After the meetings, Scheer reversed his previous decision.[72] and called for a third-party investigation.

Bernier intended to publish a book, Doing Politics Differently: My Vision for Canada. In April 2018 he pre-released a chapter on his publisher's website explaining why he made the abolition of Canada's supply management system an issue during the leadership campaign.[73][74] The chapter referred to Quebec's dairy farmer lobby as "fake Conservatives" because they opposed his abolition of the supply management policy and supported Scheer's candidacy.[75][76] However, in deference to his Conservative colleagues who saw the chapter as an attack on the Scheer, Bernier agreed to postpone publication of the book indefinitely for the sake of party unity, while also saying that the book was not about his leadership campaign, but about important ideas.[77] He later told the Toronto Star in an email that he defended his comments and that the book would someday be published.[78]

On June 12, 2018, Scheer dismissed Bernier from the Official Opposition shadow cabinet, saying that Bernier had violated his pledge to delay publication of the book by posting the chapter on his website on June 5, after it had been removed by from the publisher's website. Bernier denied that he broke the pledge, saying that the published excerpts had previously been publicly released on his publisher's website.[79] During an At Issue panel after Bernier's demotion, Chantal Hebert was critical of Bernier decision to publish the chapter, Coyne found Bernier to be a victim of "a political setup" and Paul Wells thought Scheer was being "paranoid".[80] On June 15, Bernier stated in an interview that he believed his stance on supply management was the real reason behind his dismissal, not his decision to post the chapter.[81]

In a series of Twitter posts in August 2018, Bernier garnered attention for criticizing Prime Minister Trudeau's comments about "diversity is our strength".[82] He later tweeted that naming a park in Winnipeg after Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was an example of "extreme multiculturalism".[83] The tweets were broadly seen as divisive and inflammatory with calls for him to be reprimanded or removed from caucus such as John Ivison;[84] However, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer stated Bernier "speaks for himself" amid calls for Bernier to be expelled from the party's caucus.[85] Scheer later claim that he did not use identity politics to gain support; which Bernier issued a serious of tweets counter-arguing the point.[86] Others such as him Mathieu Bock-Côté,[87] Lise Ravary[88] and Neil Macdonald[89] defended his comments by writing op-eds to counter arguing critics. While, Tom Walkom,[90] Deborah Levy[91] and Andre Valiquette[92] found his critique common within mainstream Quebec. In his resignation speech, Bernier, had an issues with Scheer's response, and later clarified that he wanted to have a conversation about "ethnic division".[93] When asked about his tweets by Question Period, he responded by stating "Instead of always promoting the diversity in our country, why not promote what unites us. That's the most important."[94] Commentator Colby Cosh later wrote that Bernier had previously praised ethnic diversity, while also "objecting to its elevation to cult status".[95]

Formation of People's Party of Canada

Logo of the PPC

On August 23, 2018, Bernier announced that he was leaving the Conservative Party with the intention of founding a new political party.[96][97] He held a press conference at which he declared that the Conservative Party was "too intellectually and morally corrupt to be reformed", and was afraid to address important issues or articulate a coherent philosophy.[93][98]

Bernier's departure was criticized by former Conservative Prime Ministers Stephen Harper and Brian Mulroney. Harper suggested that Bernier was a sore loser,[99] while Mulroney said that Bernier's creation of a new party would split the vote and make it more likely that Trudeau's Liberals would win the 2019 election.[100] Conversely, Bernier's decision was praised as courageous by columnist Christie Blatchford.[101] In a National Post op-ed, Bernier stated that his establishment of a new party aimed to reverse what he called a "public choice dynamic" in Canadian politics, that led to vote-buying and "pandering" by the main political parties.[102]

On September 14, 2018, Bernier announced the creation of the People's Party of Canada,[103] saying the party would advocate for "smart populism", which Bernier defined as policies based on principles of freedom, responsibility, fairness, and respect.[104][105] Bernier positioned the People's Party to the right of the Conservative Party;[106] the party has been variously described as conservative,[103] libertarian, right-wing populist,[107][108][109] classical liberal,[110] far-right,[111][112][113][114][115][107][108][109] and alt-right.[116][117] In December 2018, some of its founding members were shown to have ties to American white nationalist and anti-immigrant groups.[118][119] The party later told Le Devoir that they did not have enough resources to vet them at the beginning of the PPC's formation.[120]

Campaigning in advance of the 2019 Canadian federal election, Bernier and his chief strategist, Martin Masse, aligned the People's Party with the anti-immigrant European New Right. Bernier called for steep cuts to immigration to Canada and criticized multiculturalism,[107] his focus on issues like cutting immigration marking a change in his public profile that contrasted with his earlier focus (while in the Conservative Party) on free-market, libertarian stances, such as telecom monopolies and deregulation.[107] Bernier also proposed reductions in federal income tax, called for a reduction of the federal role in healthcare and the replacement of the Canada Health Transfer, and proposed the replacement of the Indian Act. He was the only leader of a party represented in the House of Commons to reject the scientific consensus on climate change.[121][122][123][124] He said he would do "nothing" to deal with climate change, and that Canada should withdraw from the Paris Agreement on carbon emissions.[125]

In the election in October 2019, Bernier was challenged for his seat in Beauce by Conservative candidate Richard Lehoux, a fourth-generation dairy farmer and past president of the Fédération Québécoise des Municipalités.[126] He lost over 20 percent of his vote from 2015, finishing with 28.3% to Lehoux's 38.6%, with the Bloc Québecois and Liberals finishing a distant third and fourth, respectively. Nationally, Bernier was the only PPC candidate to come within sight of being elected; no other candidate won more than four percent of the vote, and the party as a whole won only 1.6% of the popular vote.

Upon the December 2019 resignation of Scheer from Conservative Party leadership, Bernier stated he would not be interested in returning to the Conservative Party.[127] In January 2020 he announced an upcoming TV series with the English title The Max Bernier Show and French title Les nouvelles de Maxime.[128]

In February 2020, Bernier launched a lawsuit alleging defamation against Warren Kinsella.[129]

Bernier has said he intends to run in either the Toronto Centre or York Centre by-elections, which are currently pending and due to be held sometime between October 2020 and March 2021.[130]

Personal life

Bernier is the father of two teenage daughters.[131][8] Since 2010, he has been in a relationship with Catherine Letarte, a National Ballet School-trained ballerina, who worked for a women's shelter and currently runs a community centre for adults living with mental health issues.[132] Bernier and Letarte married in the summer of 2019.[133][134] Bernier has a history of quoting James M. Buchanan, Friedrich Hayek, and Henry Hazlitt and been known as "Mad Max",[135][136] the "Bloc-buster",[137][138] or the "Albertan from Quebec" by his Ottawa colleagues.[2][139]

In September 2013, Bernier trained for and ran an ultramarathon across his riding to raise funds for a local food bank.[140] In 2014, Bernier participated in the Rodeo de Cochons after being challenged by a local mayor.[141][142]


Electoral record

2019 Canadian federal election: Beauce
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Conservative Richard Lehoux 22,817 38.59
People's Maxime Bernier 16,772 28.37 -30.5
Bloc Québécois Guillaume Rodrigue 8,355 14.13 +6.71
Liberal Adam Veilleux 6,895 11.66 -10.6
New Democratic François Jacques-Côté 1,799 3.04 -6.7
Green Josiane Fortin 1,415 2.39 +0.7
Rhinoceros Maxime Bernier 1,072 1.81
Total valid votes/Expense limit 59,125 100.0  
Total rejected ballots
Turnout 59,125 68.48 +2.33
Eligible voters 86,333
Conservative gain from People's Party Swing +
Source: Elections Canada[144]
2015 Canadian federal election
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Conservative Maxime Bernier 32,910 58.89 +8.17
Liberal Adam Veilleux 12,442 22.26 +11.27
New Democratic Daniel Royer 5,443 9.74 −20.26
Bloc Québécois Stéphane Trudel 4,144 7.42 +0.75
Green Céline Brown MacDonald 943 1.69 +0.08
Total valid votes/Expense limit 55,882 100.0     $222,691.43
Total rejected ballots 712 1.25 0.02
Turnout 56,594 66.15 +3.13
Eligible voters 85,547
Conservative hold Swing +14.22
Source: Elections Canada[145][146]
2011 Canadian federal election
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Conservative Maxime Bernier 26,799 50.71 −11.70 $80,639.74
New Democratic Serge Bergeron 15,831 29.95 +21.43 $1,165.17
Liberal Claude Morin 5,833 11.04 +0.72 $53,133.79
Bloc Québécois Sylvio Morin 3,535 6.69 −7.29 $19,711.99
Green Etienne Doyon Lessard 852 1.61 −3.16 $2.00
Total valid votes/Expense limit 52,850 100.0     $90,992.37
Total rejected, unmarked and declined ballots 681 1.27 −0.30
Turnout 53,531 63.02 +0.64
Eligible voters 84,941
Conservative hold Swing −16.56
2008 Canadian federal election
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Conservative Maxime Bernier 31,883 62.41 −4.61 $69,558.01
Bloc Québécois André Côté 7,143 13.98 −5.99 $13,263,15
Liberal René Roy 5,270 10.32 +2.40 $2,129.85
New Democratic Véronique Poulin 4,352 8.52 +5.97 $2,575.32
Green Nicolas Rochette 2,436 4.77 +2.23 none listed
Total valid votes/Expense limit 51,084 100.0     $87,470
Total rejected, unmarked and declined ballots 817 1.57 +0.75
Turnout 51,901 62.38 −5.24
Eligible voters 83,205
Conservative hold Swing +0.69

2006 Canadian federal election
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Conservative Maxime Bernier 36,915 67.02 +49.93 $79,344.54
Bloc Québécois Patrice Moore 10,997 19.97 −16.29 $66,069.90
Liberal Jacques Lussier 4,364 7.92 −33.46 $54,809.07
New Democratic Cléo Chartier 1,405 2.55 −0.50 $1,020.20
Green Jean-Claude Roy 1,397 2.54 +0.31 $108.47
Total valid votes/Expense limit 55,078 100.0     $81,497
Total rejected, unmarked and declined ballots 454 0.82 −1.42
Turnout 55,532 67.62 +8.12
Eligible voters 82,123
Conservative gain from Liberal Swing +33.11


  1. ^ Office became known as "Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism, and Agriculture)" from 2013 to 2015.


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