Montreal

Can Maxime Bernier appeal to voters outside of Quebec's Beauce region?

Quebec MP Maxime Bernier wants to be the next leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Quebec MP to file candidacy papers to run in Conservative leadership race

Maxime Bernier, Conservative MP in the Beauce riding, is expected to officially launch his leadership race in Quebec City later this month. (Radio-Canada)

Quebec MP Maxime Bernier wants to be the next leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.

The Conservative MP for Beauce, a riding situated south of Quebec City, will file his candidacy papers this week. He will formally launch his leadership bid at an event in Quebec City later this month.

"I think it has to be someone who defends Conservative values – the values of freedom, responsibility of the individual, fairness, respect, respect for the Canadian Constitution, respect for taxpayers. That's what's most important," Bernier said in an interview with Radio-Canada. 

Bernier, who plans to frame his campaign around lean government and ending subsidies for business, has been meeting with party supporters across the country for months now.

"I will debate these ideas with all Canadians. The most important thing is how does a candidate see our party in the next few years?"

Well-known in the Beauce region

Bernier entered federal politics in 2006, when he ran as a Conservative candidate in Beauce and won.

The former vice-president of Standard Life of Canada insurance company won his seat with 67 per cent of the votes.

He was well-liked and well-known, thanks in part to his father, Gilles Bernier, who was an MP for Beauce from 1984 to 1997.

The younger Bernier, now 53,  held several portfolios in Stephen Harper's governments, including foreign affairs and industry. He was also minister of state for small business and tourism.

Although well-loved by his constituents, he's made some gaffes.

In 2008, he made national headlines after media reports revealed court documents that said his former girlfriend, Julie Couillard, was once married to a member of the Rockers biker gang and was a potential target of Hells Angels' kingpin Maurice (Mom) Boucher while she dated another biker in the 1990s.

A few weeks later, he made headline again for having left a classified document at Couillard's house.

He resigned from cabinet, but got another cabinet post under Stephen Harper in 2011.

Bernier's candidacy 'no surprise,' analyst says

CBC Montreal political analyst Yolande James says Maxime Bernier will have to broaden his appeal in order to gain support during his leadership race for the Conservative Party of Canada. (CBC)
CBC Montreal's political analyst Yolande James said Bernier's leadership bid comes as no surprise.

"It was expected. I think Maxime Bernier is a person who politically has survived the Julie Couillard storm. That's what I feel most Canadians remember him from – that scandal, after which he was able to come back into cabinet."

James addressed some of the other big questions facing his candidacy.

Q: What will be some of his biggest challenges?

A: He is known and very well beloved in the Beauce, where he's from. But if you want to be head of the Conservative Party, a national party, you're going to have to have a bigger appeal, and not just Quebec.

I don't know that his support among his colleagues in Quebec can be guaranteed...I don't know they will all be supporting his candidacy because he is so right-wing. For example, with Bombardier, he feels they should have absolutely no government support.

The question remains: is he going to have a broad base?

Q: Will his right-wing stance help him in western Canada?

A: I think that helps him there. They will love a Maxime Bernier, they will love him there for sure.

I think for him, he is going to have to show people that he can rally a lot of Conservatives together...When you look at it now, he's not polling very high because a lot of people don't know him

I feel like he is really loved by the people in his area in la Beauce, also because of the presence of his father.

Stephen Harper brought him back to cabinet. He kind of coasted – he didn't really do anything great, but he didn't make any other mistakes either.

So, that question that still remains for me is, is he all that loved outside of la Beauce? He certainly has all those qualities.

With files from CBC's Kim McNairn

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