Maxime Bernier – promises, promises

Written by  //  May 28, 2008  //  Canada, Security  //  1 Comment

See also PC Party & Harper
August 1
Bernier’s loss of documents hurt Canada’s reputation: report
OTTAWA — An internal review says Maxime Bernier’s carelessness with government documents tarnished Canada’s “good reputation within NATO circles.”
“The NATO Summit Conference Briefing materials were not adequately safeguarded,” the report says, noting the set of 26 documents – including some marked secret – were left unattended in the minister’s unlocked briefcase both in a Bucharest hotel room and in Canada after his return from the early April conference. Leading to the conclusion that he really didn’t care much about the briefing docs — but why would he not notice that the briefcase was considerably lighter than when he arrived at Mme Couillard’s – 26 documents + binder is quite a bit of paper.
The National Post gives more information than most media reports on the timeline.
June 4
Salon gossip led to downfall of Bernier
Bloc Leader frequented Montreal shop where word of Couillard’s biker ties swirled

(Globe & Mail) OTTAWA — A chic hair salon in downtown Montreal is the venue for the leak that eventually cost Maxime Bernier his foreign affairs portfolio.
Coiffure Louis Robert on Montreal’s tony Montagne Street has been frequented for years by Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe and his wife, Yolande Brunelle.
Coincidentally, Julie Couillard, Mr. Bernier’s former girlfriend, also uses the services of the salon, according to a well-placed source.
The source said yesterday that it was through “typical hair-salon chatter” that Mr. Duceppe’s hairdresser unwittingly revealed the connections between Ms. Couillard and the Hells Angels biker gang. But while word was all over the salon, there has been no indication that the RCMP or CSIS raised red flags about Ms. Couillard’s past relationships.

We have been waiting for the New York Times to pick up this story. It was worth waiting for the positively lurid headline, though the accompanying photo makes Mr. Bernier look more repentant than we think he is.

Canadian Official Quits Ahead of Ex-Lover’s Interview
(NYT) First Maxime Bernier lost his girlfriend. Then he lost his job as Canada’s minister of foreign affairs. Mr. Bernier’s political and personal setbacks are directly related.

Foreign minister of Canada quits over ‘biker’s moll’ girlfriend
(The Independent) The curtain came down yesterday on the brief and embattled cabinet career of Canada’s Foreign Minister after a scandal involving his relationship with a woman who was once linked to criminal biker gangs.
The gaffe-prone Maxime Bernier – who promised to send Burma aid on a plane that does not exist and was sworn in with the so-called bikers’ moll on his arm –will likely be remembered for longer than he served as his exit cast fresh doubts on the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. OUCH!
May 27
La démission de Maxime Bernier a relancé le débat aux Communes
Jonathan Kay on Maxime Bernier, poster boy for a republican system of government
A U.S. President can build his cabinet from among his country’s greatest experts — no matter whether they happen to be professional politicians or not. Here in Canada, on the other hand, prime ministers are generally confined to the small handful of folks who kissed enough babies to get elected as an MP. And so — as in the case of Maxime Bernier, now departed from the Foreign Affairs portfolio — they dispense with even the pretense of merit appointments, and simply fill positions on the basis of political expediency and regional balance.
… the United States, where the last three Secretaries of State have been (1) a distinguished and brilliant Stanford University academic, (2) a military man of such stature that he was once seen as a bona fide presidential contender, and (3) a seasoned diplomat conversant in six languages.
Editorial: The difficulty of building a representative cabinet
(National Post) Of course, we all like to pay homage to the principle that it is the best who should be chosen for any job, irrespective of inessential credentials such as geography. But however thoroughly one might like to pull down Canada’s system of government and rebuild it, the need for Quebec to participate in power — and to be seen to participate in power — would still be present. Guided by this necessity, Mr. Harper took the risk that Mr. Bernier could be trusted with a top portfolio whose real business is mostly conducted by an elite bureaucratic corps that normally outlasts its minister, and often, if the legends are true, escape his notice entirely. Apparently, that trust was misplaced.
Un gaffeur invétéré
Denis Lessard
(La Presse)
La décision de Stephen Harper de choisir Maxime Bernier comme ministre des Affaires étrangères, le troisième poste en importance au Canada qui fait de son titulaire le représentant du Canada au sein du G8, a été accueillie avec étonnement dans l’entourage de Bernard Landry.
Avec la série de gaffes du Beauceron et sa démission impromptue, tout retombe en place. Maxime Bernier est toujours l’incorrigible gaffeur qu’il était comme employé politique du très souverainiste Bernard Landry.
Despite our disdain for his conduct as Minister of Foreign Affairs, we never would have believed that (now former) Minister Bernier would exit so quickly from the portfolio. He seems not to have needed our assistance, but helped himself along in a virtually suicidal manner. The world press (see samples below) has given his resignation more play than any other news item from Canada since we can’t remember when and we are sure that the U.S. will be thrilled to know that he left sensitive documents lying around the girlfriend’s apartment . And such timing — just as the PM is off to Europe on a green diplomatic mission while Gary Lunn is handling Arctic
May 26
Don Martin: Maxime Bernier’s grave mistake
(National Post) Rarely has any minister in any government been punted under such abrupt and strange circumstances, never mind a senior one who served as Canada’s ministerial face to the world and rising star from Quebec. But Cabinet documents in a former girlfriend’s apartment equals a security breach. And with that, the once-mighty Max was minimized into a mere backbencher.
Foreign Affairs Minister Bernier resigns
(CBC) Embattled Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier has resigned from cabinet, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters on Monday.
The resignation came ahead of a controversial French-language television interview of Bernier’s former girlfriend to be aired later Monday.
Harper said he accepted Bernier’s resignation after learning late Sunday that Bernier had left classified documents in an unsecured location.
BTC: Say goodnight, Boo Boo
(Maclean’s.ca blogs) … Those on the left side of the House may now bask, if quietly, in some redemption. And Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition and our federally recognized sovereigntists will no doubt point out in the days to come that now it is this government who has a responsibility to peer into Mr. Bernier’s private life and determine just how great of an error he has made here.
We’ll save the political obituary for later. Though there are no doubt a few lessons to be taken from Mr. Bernier’s rapid rise and spectacular flop, there is probably one lesson to take away immediately. Namely that every so often, the accusations of scandal and whispers of wrongdoing that are endemic to this place do indeed amount to something. Sometimes there is a there there.
(Xinhua) Canadian foreign minister resigns
(The Australian) Secret files ‘left in girlfriend’s flat’
Mr Bernier’s resignation spectacularly ends the political career of a man who some believed could eventually challenge for the position of prime minister. It also removes a foreign minister who looked out of his depth from the start.
Mr Bernier had been industry minister when Mr Harper asked him to take over at foreign affairs and sell the Afghan mission to the politically influential French-speaking province of Quebec, where anti-war sentiment is traditionally high.
The new minister made only one speech in Quebec on the mission and then disappeared from view on the file.
(BBC) Canada’s foreign minister resigns
Démission du chef de la diplomatie canadienne Maxime Bernier

(Romandie News) Le chef de la diplomatie canadienne Maxime Bernier a démissionné pour avoir laissé dans un endroit non sécurisé un document secret, a annoncé le premier ministre Stephen Harper. Cette “gaffe” est venue s’ajouter à une série d’impairs commis par le ministre.
Canadian foreign minister Maxime Bernier resigns
(AP/International Herald Tribune) TORONTO:Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Monday that the country’s foreign minister has resigned for leaving classified documents in a nonsecure location.
Foreign Affairs Minister quits
Security breach led to Bernier’s downfall

ALEXANDER PANETTA The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper has accepted the resignation of his embattled foreign affairs minister over an apparent security breach involving secret military documents.
Two sources told The Canadian Press that Bernier left sensitive classified material at Couillard’s apartment, her lawyer notified the Foreign Affairs department about the documents on the weekend, and the material was returned.
One source said the package included a mix of classified material and briefing notes publicly available through the Access to Information Act.
The package, he said, was preparation material for Bernier’s trip to the NATO summit in Bucharest — where Canada announced its intention to remain in Afghanistan until 2011.
May 25
La promesse de Bernier coûte un million
(La Presse) Il coûtera environ un million de dollars au ministère de la Défense pour louer un avion russe Antonov afin d’assurer le transport de quatre hélicoptères de l’ONU dans la région de la Birmanie.
Cela, pour remplir un engagement pris mercredi par le ministre des Affaires étrangères, Maxime Bernier, qui prévoyait utiliser les quatre nouveaux avions de transport C-17. Sauf que les appareils n’étaient pas disponibles.
May 24
Mad Max is at it again
We searched for an appropriate existent post for the item below and decided that it truly deserves a place of its own. Of course, we can always add to it in the future (should he continue to have a future). This is “Canada’s top diplomat” whom the Toronto Star thinks we should be sending to the high-level meeting on the Arctic. Words fail us.

May 24
He’s Canada’s Minister of Mistakes
(Edmonton Sun) Maxime Bernier had it all: Good looks, fine business background, great political pedigree, perfect girlfriend. Oops — scratch that last one. But then, somehow, it all went terribly wrong.
Bernier, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, was in the weeds yet again this week, as it emerged that he’d offered one of our new C-17 air transports for Myanmar cyclone relief, before first checking to see if the military had one handy. D’oh!
May 23
Another Gaffe For Bernier, Another Reason He Should Step Down: Bob Rae
OTTAWA – Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic Bob Rae reiterated his call for the resignation of Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier in light of his most recent gaffe regarding the availability of Canada’s new C-17s to help the people of Burma/Myanmar.
“This latest blunder is not just an embarrassment for Canada – it is irresponsible,” said Mr. Rae. “These are people’s lives we’re talking about, and Mr. Bernier needs to have a better handle on precisely what it is Canada can and can not do to help them. “It is just the latest in a string of examples that proves Mr. Bernier is incompetent, and the only action left for Prime Minister Stephen Harper is to fire him.”
Bernier’s plane pledge catches Ottawa off guard
DANIEL LEBLANC AND STEVEN CHASE
OTTAWA — Federal officials scrambled yesterday to rent a high-priced Russian plane to ship helicopters to Myanmar because they could not deliver on Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier’s public pledge to provide Canada’s new C-17s for the job, sources said.
As officials quickly discovered, none of the recently purchased cargo lift aircraft were immediately available, contrary to what Mr. Bernier promised in Rome two days ago.
Senior federal officials said Canada’s military was caught off guard by Mr. Bernier’s promise to airlift World Food Program helicopters into the cyclone-ravaged country or neighbouring Thailand.
“Canada is there to help the people of Burma and we have a C-17 available,” Mr. Bernier said after meeting with the WFP’s director. “We’ll do this flight as quickly as possible.”
But sources said the Department of National Defence could not move quickly enough to fulfill Mr. Bernier’s vow, given that two of Canada’s four C-17s are undergoing work and the other two are in prescheduled use.
Foreign Affairs confirmed that it will have to rent an Antonov to ship the helicopters instead of using the Boeing C-17s, which the Harper government purchased with great fanfare last year at a total cost of $3.4-billion.
“The transportation of helicopters on behalf of the World Food Program is an urgent mission,” Bernier spokesman Neil Hrab said. “In order to alleviate human suffering as quickly as possible, a commercially chartered aircraft will be used to fly four helicopters from Ukraine to Thailand simultaneously.”
He said it’s possible a Canadian government-owned plane may be used later. “A C-17 may be used for follow-on missions – this is still being assessed.”
When the government received its first of four C-17s last year, it declared the new fleet would allow Canada to fulfill its missions “without having to rely on our allies or contractors.”
Asked why Mr. Bernier announced a C-17 was available to transport the helicopters, Mr. Hrab said that at the time it was considered the best tool for the job. “At the time of the WFP’s request, a C-17 appeared to be the best option to move the WFP helicopters. However, the other aircraft was available immediately.”
The scramble will not help Mr. Bernier’s reputation, which has taken hits in Ottawa over miscues on the foreign-policy front and opposition attacks about his recent relationship with a woman who had past ties to bikers.
“It doesn’t look good,” a senior Conservative official said of Mr. Bernier’s C-17 promise.
The Tory official said there is anger in government circles that Ottawa now has to rent an aircraft to do the work. “It remains to be seen who is going to pick up the tab,” the official said.
Mr. Bernier committed a diplomatic gaffe earlier this year when he publicly suggested that Kandahar Governor Asadullah Khalid, who faced allegations of corruption and involvement in torture, should be removed from office. The Harper government later had to issue a statement quoting Mr. Bernier as retracting the comment.
Mr. Bernier is also still being ridiculed for a photo-op in Afghanistan last year where he handed out Jos. Louis cakes to soldiers risking their lives for Canada.
An official said that there is one Canadian C-17 in Europe and another in Southeast Asia; a third is undergoing maintenance in Canada, and a fourth is being upgraded in the United States. Known as Globemasters, with cavernous interiors, the C-17s can carry a payload of 77,500 kilograms and can fly 4,400 kilometres without refuelling.
May 8
Woman who dated Bernier had links to biker gang
Minister’s onetime partner was potential target of Hells Angel kingpin, court papers show
TU THANH HA and JULIAN SHER AND DANIEL LEBLANC
MONTREAL AND OTTAWA — Julie Couillard, who dated Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier recently, was once a potential target of the Hells Angels kingpin Maurice (Mom) Boucher, who considered ordering her killing, court testimonies indicate.
Ms. Couillard came to the public eye last August when Mr. Bernier brought her to Rideau Hall the day he was sworn to the Foreign Affairs portfolio.
An example of how close a relationship they had forged came two weeks later when Mr. Bernier applied to designate her as the person eligible to travel with him on his MP’s budget. He described her as “my spouse.”
Background from the Globe & Mail
April 19
‘Mad Max’ and the mangled message
CAMPBELL CLARK AND KONRAD YAKABUSKI
OTTAWA and MONTREAL — When Maxime Bernier swept up to Rideau Hall with a striking brunette on his arm last August, the Prime Minister’s Office rebuked him for what was deemed her inappropriate attire for a ceremony to swear in a new cabinet.
His reaction was characteristic of the fun-loving Foreign Affairs Minister who enjoys the limelight, the Quebec Conservative golden boy ridiculed all this week for a titanic foreign-policy gaffe in Afghanistan.
Some [prescient] Tories in government think Mr. Bernier is shaping up as the next problem-child minister, the unhappy role filled by former environment minister Rona Ambrose and then former defence minister Gordon O’Connor, who were both shuffled to less prominent portfolios.

One Comment on "Maxime Bernier – promises, promises"

  1. A like-minded friend May 23, 2008 at 2:07 pm · Reply

    … our favourite Minister Maxime Bernier promised a Canadian C-17 to help transport helicopters to relief efforts now underway in Burma – great gesture – the trouble is he forgot to check whether we actually had any C-17s available (No is the answer) nor did he clear this act of generosity with Peter Mackay the Minister of Defence or the PMO before making the announcement.

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