Maxime Bernier’s leadership bid lands endorsement of Tony Clement

Former Conservative leadership candidate Tony Clement is backing his onetime rival Maxime Bernier to become the next Conservative Party leader, saying he offers a “clarity of purpose and principle” and has what it takes to win the next election.

At a news conference Thursday morning, Clement called Bernier a “giant” of the Conservative movement who has the potential to help it grow.

The former cabinet minister, who held the health, industry and Treasury Board portfolios under Stephen Harper’s leadership, will serve as a special adviser on Bernier’s campaign team.

In a conversation with CBC News, Clement said he has decided to back Bernier because he believes Bernier is the Conservative Party’s best hope of beating Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the next election.

Bernier is the leadership candidate whose values are closest to his own, Clement said.

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Former Conservative cabinet minister Tony Clement withdrew from the leadership race earlier this fall, saying he was having difficulty raising enough funds for his campaign. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press.)

Wednesday, members of Bernier’s team had described today’s announcement as “a game changer.”

Clement was one of the earlier candidates in the race to replace former Conservative Leader Stephen Harper but dropped out in October after his campaign failed to raise enough money to “meet the financial realities of this race.”

“I set for myself a series of benchmarks that I believed were necessary to achieve, by the fall, to ensure I had a viable chance of success,” Clement told supporters in a note at the time. “Unfortunately, we did not achieve those milestones to my satisfaction.”

Funding is one problem Bernier does not appear to have.

Over the summer, he raised more money than all of his rivals combined, pulling in $371,000 between July and September.

Fourteen candidates now are vying for the Conservative leadership. 

Former Ontario MP Pierre Lemieux and Vancouver businessman Rick Peterson filed their paperwork and paid their deposits to join the race in time for its next official candidates debate, next Tuesday in Moncton, New Brunswick.

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