Mad Max was not just a candidate. His campaign was a revolution for Canadian conservatism

Published on May 29, 2017

On Saturday, Conservative Party of Canada members voted by the narrowest of margins—50.95 per cent—to make Andrew Scheer the party’s new leader. Inches behind him—with 49.05 per cent of the vote—was Maxime Bernier. Bernier led in every one of the first 12 ballots, until support from other candidates pushed Scheer over the top on the 13th round.

Scheer is a competent and good-natured man who deserves the chance to unite all Conservatives. We should be ready and willing to extend and accept an open hand of friendship.

But for those of us who supported the man we call ‘Mad Max,’ Bernier’s loss was a heartbreaking disappointment. Yet, his defeat need not be a loss. His campaign was unlike any other for high national office in the modern history of Canada. It was not a traditional campaign focused on his likeableness or on minor ideological differences from other candidates, but rather one that proposed wholesale reform and sweeping policy changes. Max’s campaign was not simply about a candidate. It was a movement to revolutionize Canadian conservatism.

Max fused traditional conservatism with an aggressive, no holds barred libertarianism that would end conservative inconsistency on an array of issues

That movement can broadly be described as liberty-conservatism. Max fused traditional conservatism—patriotism, respect for civil and family institutions, a strong national defence, and fiscal responsibility—with an aggressive, no holds barred libertarianism that would end conservative inconsistency on issues like corporate welfare, supply management, equalization, micro-tax cuts, and federal overreach into areas of provincial jurisdiction. It is a ‘get off my lawn’ conservatism that believes that the government’s power should be sharply restricted—from intruding into our wallets, our televisions (CRTC, CBC), our dinner tables, our speech, and our bedrooms.

The liberty-conservative movement broke all the moulds of traditional, Laurentian-dominated, consensus politics. It was young, it was online, and it was aggressive. It took on sacred cows that no major, national candidate had been willing to talk seriously about before.

It also broke down the centuries-long solitudes of French and English conservatism. Bernier—often called the Albertan from Quebec—won Alberta with 53 per cent of the vote. This makes Max the first native francophone to win Alberta in a major contest since Sir Wilfrid Laurier, and only the second in 150 years of confederation. Many Albertans have an ingrained suspicion of Quebec politicians (with good cause), but Max overcame these concerns by speaking to the heart of our foundational values. He won every riding in Calgary, more than half of those in Edmonton, and a large number in rural constituencies.

I will leave to the pundits the task of analyzing why Max didn’t get the 0.96 per cent more support he needed to win, but Max’s supporters should know that he handled himself with dignity and strength in defeat. Addressing the core campaign team after the vote—many with tears welling in their eyes—Max said that he would not change a single thing about the campaign. He would not have compromised his principles. He would not have changed anything in his platform, even in the face of well organized resistance from special interest groups. He said he would do everything he could to support Scheer and unite the party, but also noted that our campaign was more than a book of promises: it was a movement.

Max’s campaign also broke down the centuries-long solitudes of French and English conservatism

As I write this article on a plane flying home to Alberta, it is with a heavy heart and a cheap glass of wine on my tray table. But I am proud of the man that I call my friend, and of the thousands of young, dynamic, liberty-conservatives who are now a national force, and who I know will someday reshape Canada.

I don’t often quote Bible verses, but I shared one with Max before I boarded the plane home on Sunday afternoon. From II Timothy 4:8: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

Our movement has achieved a revolution of Canadian conservatism, and it is still young.