Andrew Scheer removes Maxime Bernier from Tory front bench

Former Conservative leadership contender Maxime Bernier has been removed from the party's front bench in the House of Commons, says Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.

'I have removed Maxime Bernier from the Official Opposition shadow cabinet, effective immediately': Scheer

Quebec member of Parliament Maxime Bernier, who finished a close second to Andrew Scheer in last year's Conservative Party leadership vote, has been removed from the party's front bench. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Former Conservative leadership contender Maxime Bernier has been removed from the party's front bench in the House of Commons.

"I have removed Maxime Bernier from the Official Opposition shadow cabinet, effective immediately," Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said in a short statement issued by his office.

"The shadow minister for science, Matt Jeneroux, will assume the additional role of shadow minister for innovation, science and economic development on an interim basis."

A Conservative MP spoke to CBC News on the condition he not be identified, and said Bernier was removed because of his decision last week to post a chapter from his book on his website. In the chapter, the MP said Scheer's victory as party leader was owed to "fake Conservatives" who only joined the party to defend supply management in the dairy industry. 

"What was more offensive than his attack on supply management was the attack on our supporters, quite frankly, calling them fake Conservatives, or nefarious paper millionaires," the MP said. 

After Bernier released the chapter in April, several Conservatives questioned whether he was challenging Scheer's leadership. Bernier later decided to pull the book from circulation and took to Twitter to explain his decision. 

"I realize that whatever I write, it will always be interpreted as me creating division and challenging our leader." 

Bernier wrote that the book was intended to focus on ideas, not the leadership campaign.

"After consideration, for the sake of maintaining harmony within our party, I have decided to postpone its publication indefinitely."

The decision to renege on that pledge, along with a number of other missteps, prompted his removal from the front bench. 

Bernier weighed in on Twitter again Tuesday night to "clarify" the chapter had been available previously and wasn't new.

"Caucus was very disappointed that Maxime chose to break faith with them," said the Conservative MP. "It's unacceptable … one member can't put himself above the team, and we certainly expect members to keep their commitments to each other."

"He was given every opportunity to put his shoulder to the wheel with the rest of the team, and instead he's chosen to pursue his own project and to break faith when he said he wouldn't pursue that project," said the MP.

Dean Baxendale, Bernier's publisher, said the Beauce MP continues to work on the book.

Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer kicked Maxime Bernier out of his shadow cabinet Tuesday evening 1:00
"There are no plans at present to publish the book, but he continues to work on the policies and ideas and will continue to forward them at the [policy] convention in Halifax," Baxendale said in an email to CBC.

"There are many paths forward, but only Maxime knows which one is in the best interests of his party and the majority of Conservatives that supported him on the popular vote."

Picking Twitter fights

Bernier also garnered negative attention for the party by engaging in a heated debate on Twitter with Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes over racism in Canada.

Bernier suggested Caesar-Chavannes believes "the world revolves around [her] skin colour."

"I would just draw attention to some of the social media fights he's picked, some of the things that seem to be more about raising his own profile and less about helping us get elected in 2019," the Conservative MP told CBC News.

Calls and emails to Bernier's office have not been returned. 

Conservative MP Tony Clement takes umbrage over reporters questions about Maxime Bernier's removal as a member of the Conservative Shadow Cabinet. 2:42