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Uzelman: Poilievre, anointed to lead?

New column from Bruce Uzelman
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, June 15, 2022. The Ontario MP remains the heavy favourite to be the next Conservative Party leader.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

~BW Uzelman

The Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) caucus strongly support Pierre Poilievre in the CPC leadership race. (Ten MPs in BC, including three in the Okanagan and several in other Interior constituencies, support him.) That is a little puzzling. Poilievre displayed a serious lack of judgement earlier in 2022. He supported the Freedom Convoy in their illegal occupation of Ottawa. Many freestanding businesses and an entire shopping mall were forced to close, residents did not feel safe to use their streets, and big rig horns blasted day and night – for four weeks.

At the same time, blockades illegally stopped all international border traffic in Windsor, Ontario and Coutts, Alberta and elsewhere. This caused businesses and working truckers great inconvenience, additional costs and an inability, in many cases, to operate or work at all. The occupiers and blockaders were allegedly protecting their freedoms, but in the process, they stomped on the freedoms and rights of others.

For an MP, to support such protests, is unacceptable. And Poilievre is continuing to appeal to this constituency with his freedom rhetoric and anti-mandate policies. He has irresponsibly vowed to ban vaccine mandates. Covid is still here. New variants could threaten many Canadians’ health, and impose new stresses on our fragile healthcare system. That Poilievre supports such positions is indeed perplexing.

He, for years, has been the most partisan and aggressive MP in the House of Commons. In his time as former Prime Minister Steven Harper’s Parliamentary Secretary, he became known as Harper’s “attack dog”. Harper, as PM, demonstrated good judgment, and provided very capable government. I have seen nothing in Poilievre to lend me hope that he will develop the same skills.

Poilievre, personally, may have slightly moderated his tone over the years, but his campaign is highly antagonistic. Jenni Byrne, a top advisor to Poilievre, offered up an exceptional rebuke of her own Party in a July Statement, “The Party chose a Laurentian elite liberal media personality to moderate the Edmonton Debate.” Okay, she lost most readers at “Laurentian elite”, but to her it is a contemptible liberal business, political and academic elite.

She contended the debate fiasco “happened despite strong cautions to the Party about both the moderator and the format – all of which were ignored.” She colourfully added the moderator, “played a sad trombone sound when a candidate or the audience didn’t comply with his stupid rules.” Her criticism of the moderator and the Party is right on the mark, but why savage your own Party?

She ends with a skewering of Jean Charest, “No one is interested in a scandal plagued, tax and spend, carbon tax-loving, defeated Liberal Premier.” Nasty! So much for CPC Party unity. Jenni Byrne is to Pierre Poilievre what Pierre Poilievre was to Steven Harper.

However, Poilievre is a good communicator, is reportedly intelligent and has a slightly geeky type of charisma. Perhaps that, and the fact CPC MP’s expect him to mortally bruise the Trudeau Liberals, explains their overwhelming support for him. The caucus, which is relatively right wing, have come to view Poilievre as a true conservative, though he has offered very little in the way of substantive policies, and the policies offered are more populist than conservative.

An Angus Reid poll released July 25, 2022, shows with either Poilievre or Charest as leader of the CPC, the party achieves 34% of the national vote, but Charest would double Poilievre’s lead over the Liberals, 10% as opposed to 5%. Similarly, in BC, with either Poilievre or Charest as leader, the CPC wins 35% of the vote, but the differential between the CPC and the Liberals is a whopping 13% under Charest, while it is 7% under Poilievre. The lead over the Liberals is important because the Liberal’s vote efficiency is higher than the CPC’s. (The Liberals significantly top the seat count when the vote count for each party is comparable.)

If CPC party members base their choice purely on election winnability, they would be well advised to choose Charest. Indeed, if they base their choice on solid, conservative policy proposals, they should choose Charest as well.

Bruce Uzelman lives in Kelowna and has a Bachelor of Arts, Advanced, Majoring in Political Science and Economics from the University of Saskatchewan from Saskatoon, Sask.


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