HALIFAX—No wonder a lot of people think anger-merchant Pierre Poilievre has a shot at becoming prime minister.
No wonder the CPC has managed to convince itself that retreads from the old Harper government can take them back to power—even though the record shows that the two times the party has tried that, it has lost at the polls.
And no wonder every mildly progressive Conservative leadership candidate is reviled by the party establishment with a zeal normally reserved for attacking the government. If the party wanted “reasonable” candidates, it would not have dumped Patrick Brown, and Jean Charest would not be looking at Poilievre’s tail-lights in the leadership polling.
But the CPC doesn’t want reasonable, it wants aggrieved. It wants the new leader to steer away from policy ideas of the kind Charest has injected into the contest in order to reflect the anger that is bubbling up in this country and the United States. Widespread public anger is their ticket to ride—or at least they think so. And maybe it is. There is certainly a lot to be angry about.
Gas, home heating, houses, groceries, travel (if you call being put in storage at airports travel), have all skyrocketed in price. Inflation is pushing ominously close to ten per cent year-over-year. Everyone is feeling the pain.
Central banks are raising interest rates to cool off the economy, which will put a lot of debt-laden homeowners underwater. Every time the rates go up, it feels to regular people the way it does when their dentist hits a nerve while drilling a tooth. And there is no guarantee that this tricky game of tightening the monetary belt won’t lead to a recession or worse.
And then there is the loss of faith in political leaders and institutions. Recent polling from Angus Reid showed massive dissatisfaction in Atlantic Canada with the health care system—a system that will be further ravaged this fall and winter, when the folly of reopening during an ongoing pandemic will be exposed by new and far more infectious sub variants of the virus.
Political leaders have been whistling past the graveyard on this one, hoping it will go away. It will not. When the seventh and eighth waves of the virus start rolling and restrictions have to be reintroduced, there will be hell to pay.
Political leaders in Canada and the United States have also lost significant moral capital with voters. In Canada, the Trudeau government had to choose between returning gas turbines to Germany, that will guarantee it will be able to continue getting gas from the Nord Stream 1 system of pipelines; or abide by sanctions it imposed on Russia after the invasion of Ukraine.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decided to return the turbines in the interest of supporting Canada’s European allies, while they transition away from Russian gas. But there is a massive contradiction here, particularly in light of the government’s high-profile support of Ukraine and its now iconic president. That decision will guarantee that Russia will be able to continue selling its gas, and using the proceeds to fund what some have called a genocidal invasion of Ukraine.
The real stinker in this? It is going to take a long time for Europe to find alternate energy sources to Russian gas. Until they do, Russia’s war machine will remain well-financed and Canada will have helped.
Time is the one thing Ukraine doesn’t have. Which is why Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy denounced Canada’s decision, and warned that Russia will view it a sign of Western weakness in enforcing sanctions. Ukrainian Canadians, who want this decision reviewed and reversed, may see it as a stab in the back.
In the United States, U.S. President Joe Biden is caught in a grave moral dilemma of his own. Based on hard information from multiple U.S. intelligence agencies, Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman was involved in the butchering of former U.S. resident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Turkey.
Former president Donald Trump blew off Khashoggi’s gruesome murder, the better to suck up to rich Saudis. His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, even became besties with the Crown Prince. Biden, however, promised a different response. The United States would turn Saudi Arabia into a “pariah” state for its homicidal barbarism and massive human rights abuses.
But gas prices have clearly trumped principle and Biden’s promise. The president is now set to visit Saudi Arabia to beg for greater oil production from the Saudis, a move he hopes will ease the pain of filling gas-tanks in America. So far, he won’t even say if he will raise the state-sponsored assassination of Khashoggi with his hosts.
That’s why The Washington Post says this disgraceful reversal of policy weakens the moral authority of the United States. But what is moral authority with mid-term elections just months away, and prospects for the Democrats more than dismal?
Make no mistake about it, public anger is a potent force. But here is the fatal problem with anger politics as practised by the Republican Party in the United States and the Conservative Party in Canada.
It works by transforming anger into hatred, and then training that hatred onto individual people. Policy becomes an afterthought, unless you think firing the head of the Bank of Canada or cryptocurrency as the answer to inflation are policies.
Politics at that point becomes irrational and extreme. That’s when the “lock-her-up” chants carry the day, and the “Fuck Trudeau” signs appear. That’s when a Hillary Clinton gets demonized and a Donald Trump gets elected, and maybe re-elected, despite mounting and damning evidence that if anyone tried to steal the 2020 election it was Trump.
The Conservatives will likely choose the not-so-fabulous Poilievre in September. But before backing Poilievre’s sneering and cynical brand of politics, Canadians should keep in mind that a vote cast in hate is a wound on the country. And they should also remember that Poilievre’s idea of peace, order and good government was the Truckers’ Convoy.
Michael Harris is an award-winning author and journalist.
The Hill Times
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OTTAWA — When three Conservative leadership hopefuls met this past week for a debate, the same word kept getting repeated.
Unity. Or more precisely, the need for it.
In a contest largely seen as a battle for the party’s soul, which has put decades-old fissures on display between groups that make up its very coalition, what might it take to achieve unity after results are revealed Sept. 10?
As that question lingers, many in the party and beyond are preparing for a scenario in which Pierre Poilievre takes victory.
Much of that thinking is based on the longtime MP’s popularity with the existing grassroots, coupled with his ability to draw big crowds and sell what his campaign claims to have been more than 300,000 memberships.
But after winning comes the challenge of leading.
“Somebody has to give some thought to the morning after,” said Garry Keller, former chief of staff to Rona Ambrose, who served as the party’s interim leader after it lost government in 2015.
Of the 118 other members in caucus, a whopping 62 endorsed Poilievre. That’s compared to the party’s 2020 leadership race when the caucus was more evenly split between Peter MacKay and the eventual winner, Erin O’Toole.
O’Toole’s inability to manage caucus after losing the 2021 election to the Liberals ultimately led to his downfall. He was forced out by a vote from his MPs under provisions in the Reform Act, measures which will remain in place for the next leader.
Poilievre has said his campaign message of “freedom” serves as a great unifier among Conservatives. However, Keller said if some in caucus are taking that to mean they will be able to say whatever they want on social media, they shouldn’t.
“I think people will be solely disabused of that notion.”
Poilievre and his supporters have throughout the race been accused of sowing disunity in the party by instigating personal attacks against rivals, namely ex-Quebec premier Jean Charest.
Most recently, MPs endorsing Poilievre — along with Scott Aitchison, a rural Ontario representative and fellow leadership competitor — have called into question whether Charest, who has spent the past 20 years out of federal politics, plans to stick around the party after the race is over.
Longtime British Columbia MP Ed Fast, a co-chair on Charest’s campaign, tweeted “the purity tests must stop” and cautioned party members that when Conservatives are divided, Liberals win.
Fast himself resigned from his role as finance critic after criticizing Poilievre’s vow to fire the Bank of Canada governor, which ruffled some feathers inside caucus.
“It’s a sad situation that Jean Charest, a patriot and champion of Canadian unity, continues to have his loyalty questioned by party members looking to stoke division,” said Michelle Coates Mather, a spokeswoman for his campaign.
“What’s the endgame here exactly? Lose the next federal election by alienating Conservative members who support Charest? Seems a poor strategy for a party looking to expand their base and win a federal election.”
While Poilievre enjoys the majority support of the party’s caucus, most of the party’s 10 Quebec MPs are backing Charest, opening the question of what happens next if he is not successful.
Asked recently about that possibility, MP Alain Rayes, who is organizing on Charest’s campaign, expressed confidence in the former Quebec premier’s chances, saying the party doesn’t need “American-style divisive politics.”
“I’m deeply convinced that our members will make the right choice,” he said in a statement.
The group Centre Ice Conservatives, a centre-right advocacy group formed during the leadership race, contends the party has room to grow if it leaves the fringes and concentrates on issues that matter in the mainstream.
Director Michael Stuart says both Charest and Poilievre have policies that speak to the centrists, and what they’re hearing from supporters of their group is a desire for more focus on “dinner table issues,” such as economic growth and jobs.
“There’s a lot of distraction with noise around vaccines and the convoy and those sorts of things.”
Not only did Poilievre support the “Freedom Convoy,” he used his message of “freedom” to campaign on the anger and frustration people felt because of government-imposed COVID-19 rules, like vaccine and mask mandates.
How he will handle social conservatives also remains an open question.
Poilievre has pledged no government led by him would introduce or pass legislation restricting abortion access.
Jack Fonseca, director of political operations for the anti-abortion group Campaign Life Coalition, said many of those who strongly oppose vaccine mandates also share values with social conservatives.
“They are largely pro-freedom, pro-family, and yes, even pro-life and pro-faith,” he said.
Social conservatives have traditionally been a well-mobilized part of the party’s base during leadership contests and helped deliver wins for O’Toole and former leader Andrew Scheer, who is now helping Poilievre in the race.
While Fonseca and other anti-abortion groups are encouraging members to pick social conservative candidate Leslyn Lewis as their first choice, he said the “freedom conservatives” Poilievre recruited will expect results.
That includes giving Lewis a critic role, he said.
“He will be forced to face that reality and to deliver policy commitments to the freedom conservatives and social conservatives that are his base.”
“If it doesn’t, the peril is you become a flip-flopper like Erin O’Toole,” he said, referring to walk-backs the former leader made on promises after winning the leadership.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 7, 2022.
Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press
Former B.C. solicitor-general Rich Coleman is returning to politics – Terrace Standard
Two years after he retired, former B.C. Solicitor-General Rich Coleman is returning to politics, this time at the municipal level, with the “Elevate Langley Voters Association” civic party in the Township of Langley, according to an Elections B.C. register of elector organizations.
The register lists former Langley East MLA Coleman as the “authorized principal official” for the party.
While he has registered a civic party, whether Coleman will be running in the Oct. 15 election himself remains to be seen.
In a response to a Langley Advance Times query on Saturday, Aug. 6, Coleman confirmed he has been approached about running for mayor, but hasn’t decided yet.
“A lot of people have been on me to run for mayor,” Coleman told the Langley Advance Times.
“I’m seriously considering it.”
Coleman said he registered the Elevate Langley party when he did, because the Election B.C. deadline to register elector organizations for the pending municipal elections was Aug. 2, and he wanted to provide a vehicle for some potential Township candidates he has been mentoring.
“I’ve got some young folks who want to run,” Coleman said.
In the Elections B.C. register entry, Elevate Langley listed a contact phone number that turned out to be the office number for current Langley East MLA Megan Dykeman, who said she has no involvement with the party, calling it “absolutely an error.”
Coleman said he would check into it.
In 2018, Coleman was considering a run for Surrey mayor, but decided against it.
Coleman spent 24 years in provincial politics before he retired in 2020, including four years as provincial Solicitor-General.
Langley Township councillors Eric Woodward and Blair Whitmarsh have also announced mayoralty bids. So has former councillor Michelle Sparrow.
Elections B.C.’s register of civic parties listed Woodward as the principal official for the “Contract with Langley Association” party, which, the filing indicates, will be fielding candidates for council and school board.
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