Maxime Bernier attire de drôle de gens.
Some observers believe Bernier’s pivot to anti-immigration politics was prompted less by any ideological commitment than by a political calculation.
“Bernier is essentially a libertarian, except that he knows that if you say you’re a libertarian you get about half a per cent of the votes, so he has to find legitimacy elsewhere,” said Quebec-based conservative pundit Jeff Plante. “It’s normal that the conservative movement would attract the anti-mass-immigration vote in the country. The problem is that Bernier isn’t legit in this. He has no past in it. It’s like he’s throwing ideas around to see what sticks.”
But if he is using identity politics to expand the constituency for the libertarian ideas he has long touted, he is playing a dangerous game, says Daniel Béland, director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada.
“[Bernier] would be aware that this kind of rhetoric could attract people who listen to some of the Hitler rhetoric [and] who are associated with the far right. It’s hard to imagine that he would be unaware of the ramifications of these comments,” Beland said. “Simply saying he’s against racism while at the same time attracting these people is … problematic and might turn against him over the next few months if it gets out of control.”