Politics

Libertarians considering a merger with Bernier's People's Party

The Libertarian Party of Canada is considering a merger with Maxime Bernier's new People's Party.

Leader thinks Bernier's ideas are a little 'milquetoast', but he's willing to talk

Maxime Bernier speaks about his new political party during a news conference in Ottawa, Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Tim Moen may not like the name of Maxime Bernier's new party ("a bit too left-wing for me"). He may not think the former Conservative minister's policies are daring enough ("milquetoast libertarian" is how he described them). But the leader of the Libertarian Party of Canada is still considering a merger with Bernier's new political venture.

"If party membership votes to merge [with The People's Party of Canada], I look forward to standing as a candidate and preaching the gospel of liberty in a principled manner like I've always done," Moen told party supporters in a recent video.

A spokesperson for Bernier's People's Party said "merger" might not be quite the right word for what's being discussed— it could be something of a takeover of the Libertarian party structure by Bernier.

Bernier is continuing the process of gathering signatures and completing the other steps required to obtain official party status, said his spokesperson Martin Masse.

A fundraising shortcut?

However, Masse said Elections Canada rules require a party to run a candidate in a by-election before that party can start handing out tax receipts to donors. By taking over the Libertarian Party and renaming it, he said, Bernier's venture might be able to take a shortcut to that lucrative step.

But Masse said the new party isn't counting on the Libertarians to give it a head start.

"If they can add something — in terms of members and in terms of this process to get a tax credit — good, but we're not waiting expecting that to be our lifeline," he said. "It might be useful if they offer it."

Bernier is working on a party constitution to be released publicly in the coming days, said Masse. Moen said that document will help him decide whether to recommend a merger to his party members.

Moen said he also hopes the People's Party would take on "the majority" of the 70-odd candidates the Libertarians have nominated for the next election, adding he'd expect to see Libertarians "play an influential role" in the PPC's upper ranks.

Moen's even talking about a leadership race at some point, possibly after the next election. He said he might challenge Bernier for the leadership, although he concedes he'd probably lose.

Bernier's team isn't committing to any of that just yet.

"There will definitely not be a leadership race in the next few months," said Masse. "We're preparing [for] the next election. We're not doing that just for fun and [then] see who will be the next leader." Masse said that the party constitution could include some sort of review process for the leadership after the next election.

Moen's party had been trying to woo Bernier to take over for quite a while. It even adopted Bernier's platform as its own after the Conservative leadership race.

Where Bernier and Libertarians part company

However, Moen acknowledged that there are many policy areas where Libertarian members would like to go farther than Bernier. Many Libertarians believe in legalizing all recreational drugs, for example — an idea in which Bernier has shown no interest.

Historically, Moen said, Libertarians also have favoured fairly open borders and distrust letting government handle immigration issues. Bernier has said he wants to decrease immigration levels and argues Canadians need to talk about how to maintain Canadian values against the alleged effects of immigration.

The merger could still be worthwhile, said Moen, if it takes Libertarian principles mainstream. 

"The biggest thing is that we see some level of commitment to restraining government and the principles of liberty that we think Canada and Western Civilization is founded on," he said.

Whatever advantages a potential merger might bring to Bernier and his new party, they likely won't include money. Elections Canada data show the Libertarian Party only raised $30,443 in 2017.

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