Monday, September 13, 2010

Maxime Bernier's Sweet Revenge

A while back I wrote about the incredibly rough ride Maxime Bernier received in Quebec over a speech he gave in which he blasted his fellow Quebeckers over their uncontrolled spending and penchant for big government.
See: Maxime Bernier Burns His Bridges  and  Read the speech.

As you can imagine, it went over like a lead balloon and Bernier was chastised and even labelled  a "Quebec-basher' by no less than the Liberal finance Minister Raymond Bachand, himself. The ad hominem attacks failed to address the issues he brought up, which is typical of those who have no arguments to put forth.
“I was flabbergasted to hear his false, contemptuous declarations,” said the former separatist premier,  Bernard Landry
While the speech was received negatively in most of Quebec, it got the opposite reaction amongst traditional conservatives across the country and all of a sudden, Maxim Bernier was lifted from obscurity to someone on everyone's radar.

To refresh everyone's memory, Bernier was a rising star in the Harper cabinet until a silly indiscretion, where he left some confidential documents at his then girlfriends house. It turns out that the girlfriend had some dubious contacts with bikers and the press and the opposition had a field day playing up the story as a national security issue, when in fact it was her boobs and her 'hotness,' more than her dubious contacts that made her interesting.

You may recall that the girlfriend raised eyebrows by showing up to Rideau Hall for Bernier's investiture into cabinet, wearing a dress with a decidedly plunging neckline. Ever since then, reporters were on her case and when the incident over the documents occurred, they went to town.

Stephen Harper could have easily backed his minister and ridden out the storm, but back then, he was riding high on his morality horse and dropped Bernier from the cabinet over the indiscretion.

Bernier had no choice but to accept the demotion with dignity, but felt betrayed. When after a suitable period in purgatory and he wasn't returned to cabinet, he realized that the writing was on the wall for him, as far as Harper goes. 

And so Bernier retired to the back benches, quietly plotting his return. It isn't an uncommon phenomenon, just ask Quebec Liberal Pierre Paradis who is now plotting to overthrow Jean Charest,  after a similar falling out and banishment.
It's all about timing...

Last week Bernier struck and did so with a vengeance.

Stephen Harper was flirting with the idea of helping Quebec City finance a new arena in the hope that it would boost Conservative prospects in Quebec. It isn't clear whether this was a legitimate offer or just a gambit to hold a carrot out to the Quebec electorate, before a possible Fall election.

Although a majority of Harper's Conservative party caucus were aghast at the idea of federal money being spent in support of private industry, Harper was confident that he could hold everyone in line with the promise of a majority government.

Of course, helping Quebec City get a new arena would mean that the feds would have to help Edmonton, Regina and other Canadian cities realize their stadium or arena dreams, but no matter, the whole commitment would cost under two billion dollars, a fair price to pay,  in his estimation, I imagine, for a majority government.
After all, Harper had no qualms about blowing a billion dollars on the G20 conference in Toronto, with zero long-term return.

Plans were going along neatly with Quebec federal Conservative MPs posing for the media in Nordiques jerseys, giving the media and the public, a not so subtle message that help might well be on the way.

But conspicuous by his absence was Maxime Bernier and he was soon questioned by the press as to why he didn't appear in the picture.

At first Bernier played it coy, offering a terse 'NO COMMENT' to reporters, but as the pressure built and a Conservative backlash developed, he finally unloaded in his blog. 
"...I too share the dream of again seeing a professional hockey team come back to play in our region and I sincerely hope that a way will be found to make this dream come true. But dreaming does not make the hard financial reality go away. It’s nice to have dreams, but when you use borrowed money to achieve them and act as if money grows on trees, you may have a brutal awakening. For all these reasons, I cannot in good conscience support this project." Read the blog piece in English
His pronouncements served to act as a 'tipping point' in the Conservative caucus, Bernier saying openly, what so many wanted to, but were afraid to voice in fear of the inevitable Harper retribution.
It seems that Bernier has effectively destroyed Harpers's plans and the 'arena gambit' is dead.

Support for Bernier in the Conservative party is slowly and quietly building. He is now being perceived as an attractive package and a viable alternative to Harper, who is more and more being seen as a sell-out to traditional conservative values and like the biblical Moses, he seems unable to deliver the ultimate prize.

For Harper it's another bitter lesson that punishing foes and adversaries by banishing them, may not be the best prescription.
Like Helena Guergis, who was also thrown under the bus prematurely and who is coming back to haunt Harper now that she has been exonerated, Bernier is now more than a thorn in the side and is launching a legitimate challenge.

Lost on Harper is the old "Art of War" quote;
"Keep Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Closer" -Sun Tzi
Bernier remains safe in his Beauce Parliamentary seat. The region is atypically federalist, and fiercely entrepreneurial. Nothing will unseat him. Although unpopular for his stand on the Quebec arena now, the press is begrudgingly respectful.
Should he ever become leader of the federal Conservatives, his good looks might even trigger a modern Trudeaumania effect. If he can deliver between 30-35 seats in Quebec, the Conservatives might well achieve a true 'Big C' Conservative majority, something Harper is unlikely to ever produce. It's not impossible, Brian Mulroney once delivered 58 seats. Things change quickly in Quebec.

For Bernier, revenge is sweet.
Not only has he destroyed Harper's "arena gambit," he has raised his profile and stature.

For Bernier, his star is rising, having "passed GO and collected his $200 successfully"


  1. Mississauga Guy said...

    Ohhhhh...why doesn't it surprise me the Nordiques topic was going to lead this week? On the other hand, Editor, nice curve in your delivery. I didn't figure you would so neatly wrap Maxime Bernier around the topic à la bacon-wrapped filet mignon...but you did!

    Score one for Bernier, but another leader from Quebac? GAAAAAAAAAG MEEEEEEEEEEE! Now you want to fry the filet in a pool of butter, too? It's bad enough Justin Trudeau's rise to the helm is as inevitable as death, taxes and the total solar eclipse through Eastern Canada on April 8, 2024. I'm sure Justin will have taken the mantle of leadership and probably the prime ministership before that eclipse date.

    There have now been too many leaders coming from Quebec. Being a born-and-raised ex-Quebecer, I was once pleased with that--ONCE! Now I'm not so pleased because all the leaders from Daddy Trudeau through Paul Martin and the loser Stephane Dion have bent over backwards for Quebec's favour at the polls and still managed to alienate Quebec's minorities.

    Maxime Bernier may have scored a power play goal in the back benches, but scuttling the idea of subsidizing an arena in Quebec is now inevitable unless and only unless the other teams out west get their piece of the pie as well. To do otherwise will ensure Harper is as slow cooked as a pulled pork butt!

    Personally, I hope Quebec gets the same amount as the western teams--NOTHING! The NHL is private enterprise, and government should be forbidden by the NHL to meddle in ownership assistance. More often than not, it doesn't help, and taxpayers are subsequently left on the hook. Of course, the NHL is not going to implement that kind of policy as (NHL Commissioner Gary) Bettman's goal when he took that helm was to bring the League to 30 teams, come hell or high water. I don't see new teams expanding into Winnipeg or Quebec, but they may be the result of teams uprooted and transplanted in those cities much the way the teams left in the 1990s. Phoenix and Nashville are two teams I see as easily transplantable. Phoenix returning to Winnipeg would be poetic justice!

    Before continuing to go off topic, I don't hope for Bernier's rise to power, but hooking the arrogant Harper by his ankle and letting him fall on his face once or twice may cause him to remove the gags on his team's collective mouth. Are MPs supposed to serve their constituents or not? It seems not, but this is why as the decades go by, the democratic deficit gets larger like the national debt, and the voter turnout correspondingly shrinks.

    I would see Bernier as being too much of Daddy Trudeau who used to fling about the dating scene. One playboy PM in my lifetime is more than enough. At least the younger clone is married with children, but so are many, many, many other politicians...

    I see Bernier as another playboy with many boobsy women on his arm. Like I just wrote, having had one playboy PM in my lifetime was more than enough.

  2. When you hear that the Infrastructure program is coming to an an end thus no more $$$ for *real* projects like hospitals. roads, school renovations. you cannot help but side with Bernier--political allegiances aside.

  3. Bernier’s speech should be printed up and nailed to the door of the national assembly. It should be printed up in every major Quebec newspaper on the front page every month or so. In the least, it should be taken very seriously for its content, and not dismissed off hand as "contemptuous".

    Ironically, his ideas is what would lay foundation for prosperity and independence of Quebec, and make possible an eventual separation of Quebec from the rest of Canada. Because how do you expect to separate from something on which you rely? On which you depend? Of which you leech off? You can’t.

    Being responsible would mean a low high school drop out rate, a high university graduation rate, more efficient and goal-oriented workforce, no generational welfare, no need for 8 billion $ of transfer payments from other provinces ("federslime rentable"), no intrusive government, lower taxes, more efficient management of public funds. I couldn’t say it better than this comment in response to Bernier’s post:

    "Beaucoup de gens sont d’accord avec ce que M. Bernier dit. On est les plus taxés en Amérique du nord et malgré tout rein ne fonctionne et ça ne date pas des 8 dernières années. Il est grand temps d’essayer autre chose."

    And Editor, ad hominem attacks are typical of those who have no arguments to put forth, but so is the (ab)use of the word “contemptuous”.

  4. "Support for Bernier in the Conservative party is slowly and quietly building. He is now being perceived as an attractive package and a viable alternative to Harper," Are you kidding me? No hope in hell. Canada will never elect a leader from Quebec to run and continue to destroy this country again. Never again, we have seen the damage that Turdeau, Mulroney and Chretien polices have done. We have seen how all leaders from Quebec have allowed and supported the racist anti-English language laws in Quebec for decades now, a la bills 22, 178, 101…This Bernier clown is a complete moron. Mistake after mistake, oops I left sensitive government files at my bikers chicks house…and on and on. Oops I can’t speak English, ahh but who cares. Oops I support Bill 101…ahh but who cares…come on, this clown leader of the conservative? Never!!! I am not impressed with Harper at all, but another francophony will never lead this party again, especially a Quebecer. Just look at what Mulroney and his gang of bigots from Quebec did to the party. ESL MAX, ESL.

  5. Why does Quebec have such a huge government and such massive, powerful bureaucracy? Has this served as an emotional 'replacement' for the Catholic church for Francophones? Then again France has the same thing too. Maybe it is just a French thing? In any case the consequences for Quebec (and its sugar daddy, Canada) have been bad. I'm not sure Quebec is going to be a factor in forming majority governments much longer. The rest of Canada is very tired of Quebec and its leaders. "Trudeaumania" occurred against a background of centennial spirit, a belief he could "solve" the country's unity problems, etc. This all proved false. As for Mulroney, he would have won the 1984 election without any help from Quebec at all. He only became the P.C. leader because of the perceived need for someone who could speak French. There will soon be 30 more seats in the commons OUTSIDE Quebec. In this century Quebec is going to have nothing like the influence it had previously. The Toronto guy.

  6. T.O.guy: "Why does Quebec have such a huge government and such massive, powerful bureaucracy? Has this served as an emotional 'replacement' for the Catholic church for Francophones? Then again France has the same thing too. Maybe it is just a French thing? "

    A little bit from column A, a little bit from column B. That the French are in general deferential to overbearing governments, while the English are mistrustful of them and prefer less government intrusion has been noted a long time ago by the great French thinker Alexis de Tocqueville. De Touqueville praised the English model, and criticized the French one. The real "replacement" of the Catholic Church was the nationalism, and not necessarily their economic model. It’s the nationalism a-la-Leveque that replaced the Catholicism and the Pope.

    How the "Quebec Model" of "social justice" and redistribution of non-existent or borrowed wealth is a road to trouble was raised not only by Bernier, but also by Lucien Bouchard. In addition, a Francophone documentary called “L'illusion Tranquille” (a play of words on "La Revolution Tranquille") came out a couple of years ago and aimed to expose the inefficiency of the Quebec system. The movie was cleverly dispatched into oblivion after one or two days of bashing in Quebec media - the same thing that happened to Bouchard, Bernier, and the recent inconvenient poll that revealed that most Quebeckers support the freedom of instruction in English. In the words of Barbara Kay: "So uniform is the mainstream media’s loyalty to the Quebec Model, facts like these rarely filter down to individual Québécois."

    Kay's full NP article:

    Quebec's glorious fantasy world

    The documentary "L'illusion Tranquille" (in French):

  7. L'Illusion Tranquille


    “La nouvelle chapelle, la nouvelle église qui est cette église de la social-démocratie traditionelle qui a le plus pouvoir au Quebec...les syndicates sont les grandes prêtres, les curés de cette nouvelle église...” Marcel Boyer, professor of Economics, Université de Montreal


    “Maintenant quand on n’a plus de l’ église Catholique Romain pour nous unifier...nous remplacons le dogme de l’ église par le dogme de social nationalisme” Frederick Tetu, professor of Philosophy, College Francais Xavier Garneau

  8. Paris Guy dit: C'est assez marrant de voir que certains s'intéressent à Maxime Bernier. Inutile de souligner l'insignifiance de ses propos et de sa vision du Québec (dont il est un enfant). Mais que voulez-vous le Canada anglais aime bien voir des Québécois faire le travail de bras à leur place (Voir Trudeau, Hébert et cie), ça le rassure dans ses choix et le conforte dans sa prétendue grande vertu idéologique. Mais pour terminer, Maxime Bernier a quand même affirmer auparavant que l'indépendance du Québec était inévitable... ''Ainsi, Maxime Bernier, ministre fédéral, soutenait que la «l'indépendance du Québec était une chose inévitable et qu'il s'y préparait»'' Pourquoi pas une construction du Colisée des (nouveaux) Nordiques financée par l'argent retrouvé du scandale des Commandites ?

  9. Le modèle que vous apprécier, c'est celui de la libre entreprise. Tel qu'il est glorifié aux
    États-Unis, pays avec des disparités incroyables ainsi qu'un taux de criminalité effarant ? Il existe des alternatives à ce que vous pouvez penser être la SEULE avenue possible. Vive le Québec libre !

  10. 18:01

    "Plutôt que de creer de la richesse, nous nous sommes contenté du lois anti-pauvreté - une exclusivité en Amerique du Nord"

    Another Quebecois obsession – to regulate everything with laws. Language, economy, poverty, prosperity, behaviour, worldview. The credulous belief in supposedly omni-potent laws which more often than not turn out rather impotent.