By Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press on January 5, 2021.
OTTAWA – The one-time Conservative cabinet minister and MP who broke ranks to form his own political party is among the Canadians who’ve headed south in recent months.
Maxime Bernier, who leads the libertarian People’s Party of Canada, went to Florida in November with his wife for a vacation.
A spokesman says the pair did quarantine for the full 14 days required when they returned.
Bernier has been vocal in his disagreement with COVID-19 lockdown measures, including restrictions on travel.
In recent days, he’s used social media to berate the politicians who’ve been caught flouting public health warnings and heading abroad, accusing them of being hypocrites.
Bernier says the issue shouldn’t be that they travelled but that they agreed with the restrictions in the first place, and then broke them.
Several federal members of Parliament, at least one senator, and provincial politicians have been outed for taking trips outside Canada in the last few months despite the fact public health and government leaders have been urging everyone to stay home.
The senator, Conservative Don Plett, was a longtime caucus colleague of Bernier’s, but that didn’t stop the former MP from the Quebec riding of Beauce for castigating him on social media this week.
“Another moron,” Bernier wrote.
“Let me make this very clear: The problem is NOT that they travelled abroad. It’s that they publicly agree with the silly authoritarian rules imposed on Canadians AND THEN FLOUT THEM.”
Bernier was a Conservative MP from 2006 until he quit the party in 2018, following his razor-thin loss in the party’s leadership race the previous year.
He then formed his own party, arguing the conservative movement in Canada was moving too far to the centre.
While the People’s Party ran candidates across the country in the 2019 federal election, none – including Bernier – was elected.
He tried again in a federal byelection earlier this year in a Toronto riding, but lost to the Liberals.
Bernier’s approach to the pandemic has mirrored that of other populist, right-wing politicians around the world.
He’s been strongly against lockdowns, arguing they are a violation of people’s rights and do more harm than good, and he also attended at least one anti-mask rally, though photos from the event show him with a mask, just tucked under his chin.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 5, 2021.