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Politics Briefing: Conservative Party says it has 678708 members, record for Canadian political party – The Globe and Mail




The federal Conservative Party says its membership has reached 678,708, a record for a Canadian political party.

The figure announced Friday is the final verified number in the race for party leadership, and is about 3,000 higher than a preliminary figure announced a month ago.


In a statement, the party said totals indicate that the most significant growth, by percentage, is in Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, British Columbia and New Brunswick.

Their are five candidates vying for the leadership. They are Ontario MPs Scott Aitchison, Leslyn Lewis and Pierre Poilievre, former Quebec premier Jean Charest and Roman Baber, a former Progressive Conservative member of the Ontario legislature.

Mr. Poilievre’s campaign has said that they have signed up about 311,000 members, with the campaign of disqualified candidate Patrick Brown saying they signed up about 150,000 members.

Mr. Brown’s name remains on the ballot given the timing of his departure over financial irregularities alleged by the party.

As the leadership race unofficially began in February, with the caucus voting out Erin O’Toole as leader, the party said it had about 160,000 members. Through to a June 3 deadline, leadership campaigns were signing up members they hoped would support them in voting.

The 678,708 figure compares with more than 269,000 people registered for the 2020 Conservative leadership race – a record for the party at that time. The party’s membership high was about 282,000 after the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives merged in 2003.

The Liberal Party had 294,002 members when Justin Trudeau was elected leader in 2013.

Conservative members are mailing in their completed ballots ahead of a Sept. 6 deadline and the Sept. 10 announcement in Ottawa of a winner. The party said in a statement that to date it has received 80,000 ballots for registration and verification by the professional services company Deloitte.

There will be no newsletter on Monday’s Civic Holiday.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.


CONDOM USE CONDITION OF CONSENT: SUPREME COURT – The Supreme Court of Canada says sex with a condom is a different physical act than sex without one, and that the use of a condom can be a condition of consent under sexual-assault law. Story here.

PAPAL TOUR – Pope Francis is set to end his six-day tour of Canada that he has called a pilgrimage of penance with meetings in Quebec City and Iqaluit. Story here.

MINOR HOCKEY ASSOCIATION REBELLION – Minor-hockey associations across the country have begun to rebel against Hockey Canada after learning that a portion of funds from players’ registration fees have been used to settle sexual-abuse claims. Story here.

UKRAINE EMBASSY SHUTTERED DESPITE PM VISIT – Nearly three months after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a surprise visit to Kyiv to officially reopen Ottawa’s embassy there, Canada’s diplomatic presence in the war-torn country’s capital remains shuttered. Story here from The National Post.

CANADIAN ECONOMY FLAT – The Canadian economy stayed flat in May, with real gross domestic product showing neither growth nor contraction after a 0.3-per-cent expansion in April, Statistics Canada reported Friday. Story here.

MAY WANTS TO LEAD GREENS AGAIN? – The Toronto Star says here that Elizabeth May is preparing to run for the leadership of the Green Party she led from 2006 to 2019. .

SENIOR MOUNTIE ADVISED NOT TO DISCUSS CALL – A senior Mountie told a public inquiry on Thursday that federal lawyers advised him not to disclose a call he received from the RCMP Commissioner that he says appeared to be motivated by a desire to use the Nova Scotia mass shooting to boost support for Liberal gun-control measures. Story here.

TORONTO MAYOR UNDER INTEGRITY INVESTIGATION – Toronto’s integrity commissioner is investigating the city’s mayor, John Tory, over an alleged conflict of interest relating to his ties to telecom, media and sports giant Rogers Communications Inc. Story here.

SCORN PROMPTS PEI PUB TO PULL TRUDEAU PHOTOS – A PEI pub has pulled photos of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from its social-media accounts after getting a barrage of hate-filled comments and phone calls. Story here from CBC.


CAMPAIGN TRAIL – Scott Aitchison is in St. John’s. Jean Charest is in British Columbia. Leslyn Lewis is in Lloydminster. Pierre Poilievre is in Ottawa. There is no word on the campaign whereabouts of Roman Baber.

LEWIS WITHDRAWS FROM LEADERSHIP DEBATE – Leslyn Lewis has pulled out of next week’s official Conservative Party leadership debate, meaning that only three of five candidates plan to show up. Story here.

KENT AT CENTRE ICE – Former environment minister Peter Kent has joined the advisory board of the Centre-Ice Conservatives organization, according to a tweet here. The group aims to give a voice to the centre right of Canada’s political spectrum.


The House of Commons is not sitting again until Sept. 19. The Senate is to resume sitting on Sept. 20.

NG IN HALIFAX – International Trade Minister Mary Ng, in Halifax, holds a news conference on the Canada Digital Adoption Program.

PETITPAS TAYLOR IN REGINA – Official Languages Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor, in Regina, held a news conference with Saskatchewan Advanced Education Minister Gordon Wyant, at which she announced $7.1 million to support three projects related to postsecondary education in French in Saskatchewan.


New episodes of The Decibel are not being published on Fridays for the months of July and August. You can check previous episodes here.


“Private meetings” in the National Capital Region.


No schedules released for party leaders.


Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on a defence of the Deep State: why democratic rule doesn’t mean letting politicians run everything And yet this basic principle of democratic governance seems to elude a great many people – on both sides of the political divide. Whether it’s Conservatives proposing to override the Supreme Court or fire the Bank of Canada governor, or Liberals messing with an independent prosecutor – or, the scandal du jour, an RCMP investigation – supporters’ reaction to criticism is always the same: He’s the prime minister. He’s elected. They’re not. Who are these unelected elites – the gatekeepers, the Deep State and other epithets – to stand in the way of our elected leaders? So the prime minister ruffled a few bureaucratic feathers. That’s democracy. But this is to confuse democratic government with executive power.”

Tanya Talaga (The Globe and Mail) on the words that Indigenous people are still waiting for Pope Francis to say on his apology tour: Indeed, despite his claimed “deep shame and sorrow”, Pope Francis’ words have felt hard to trust. In fact, even though he said that the church would “conduct a serious investigation into the facts of what took place in the past,” according to a Vatican translation of his Spanish speech into English, the Vatican now says that the word “investigation” was “lost in translation” and that he meant “search”. So while there might be humanity in Pope Francis’s words, it was parsed with a “very particular language that left out some very big things, especially the consideration for sexual abuse,” Natan Obed, the leader of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami – the political organization that represents 65,000 Inuit across Nunangat – told me. “I don’t recall him ever touching on the subject that has plagued this institution and the residential school system.”

Kristi Allain (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how, if hockey is our game, then its history of violence is also our legacy – one that Canada must reckon with: We are at a moment of shame, sadness and anger, but also possibility – where we can imagine both the nation and its game as something better. We must let go of a system and a group of people who cannot see this project to the end, and open the door to new voices and new ways of framing, building and overseeing our national sport.”

Daniel Drache and Marc D. Frose (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how Pierre Poilievre is the latest iteration in the long history of `Made in Canada’ populism: The Trudeau Liberals are edging toward the end of their governing life cycle and in politics timing is everything. A Poilievre Conservative majority government is no longer a long shot. Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Johnson, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and India’s Narendra Modi, he stands a good chance of winning. Our national system of centrist pragmatism and multicultural diversity isn’t an inoculation against extremism, and the sooner we realize that the better. After all, populists are popular because they confidently sell simple solutions to complex problems.”

Kirsty Duncan (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on why, as a former minister of sport, she has zero confidence in Hockey Canada’s leadership: “As an athlete, coach, and judge, I have devoted my life to protecting children involved in sports. I don’t want others to go through what I’ve gone through: As a child, I witnessed drunk, naked, gymnastics camp counsellors “partying” with adult coaches. I was frightened and shocked. It was so wrong. And I know personally what it feels like to be told to eat Jell-O, laxatives, toilet paper, and water pills to “make weight,” and to be repeatedly verbally abused by other coaches, judges, and parents. When I was asked to serve as Minister of Sport, I made it clear to officials from the outset that my priority was “safe sport” because organizations, coaches, judges, and others involved in the system had failed to protect young people.”

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Opposition to David Johnston's appointment shows how much politics has changed – The Globe and Mail



The strong opposition to David Johnston’s appointment as special rapporteur investigating Chinese interference in elections reveals how our times, and our politics, have changed.

In a previous column, I suggested that Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre should accept Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s choice of Mr. Johnston on the grounds that the former governor-general was appointed to that post by then-Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, and that he is one of this country’s most trusted, and trustworthy, figures.

Instead, Mr. Poilievre assailed the choice on the grounds that Mr. Johnston was a friend of the Trudeau family and a member of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, a charity.


“Justin Trudeau has named a ‘family friend,’ old neighbour from the cottage, and member of the Beijing-funded Trudeau foundation, to be the ‘independent’ rapporteur on Beijing’s interference,” he tweeted. “Get real. Trudeau must end his cover up. Call a public inquiry.”

Other Conservative MPs, including former leader Andrew Scheer and Thornhill MP Melissa Lantsman, also tweeted their objection. And many commentators, including my colleague Andrew Coyne and The Globe and Mail’s editorial board, cited Mr. Johnston’s friendship with the Trudeau family in criticizing the choice.

I believe that Mr. Johnston’s decades of service to this country, his unimpeachable integrity and his sound judgment more than compensate for any objections. This is an issue on which people of goodwill can simply disagree.

But other factors are also at work.

Much has been made of the toxicity of social media. But the decline of deference was under way long before that. In the main, it’s good that people are less willing than in the past to defer to authority, that they demand accountability from political and other leaders.

But an engrained cynicism has become an unwelcome byproduct of that process. The headline on John Ivison’s column in the National Post said it best: “David Johnston is a man of trust in a post-trust world.”

In this post-trust world, a new generation of conservatives is taking the stage. Many of them are fearsomely smart. Some of them are politically ruthless. All of them are contemptuous of the Laurentian political, academic and cultural elites who have traditionally run this country. Of course they would reject Mr. Johnston as rapporteur. He is as Laurentian as they come.

In Pierre Poilievre, they have found someone who speaks their language and shares their polarizing worldview. Mr. Poilievre was never a senior figure in Mr. Harper’s governments, arriving in cabinet late and spending most of that time in a minor portfolio. Mr. Harper distrusted the populist wing of the conservative base. It is why he left the Reform Party in the 1990s and why he kept most of the more populist MPs on the back bench. Mr. Poilievre courts populists with enthusiasm.

He must know that Mr. Harper likes and admires Mr. Johnston. But rather than respectfully expressing reservation about the appointment, the Conservative Leader tweets in derision. This isn’t Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party any more.

That said, Mr. Trudeau bears most of the blame for the hostility that greeted the announcement of Mr. Johnston as rapporteur. After more than seven years in office, polls show that most voters disapprove of his performance, and with good reason.

He dismissed the initial reports from The Globe and Global News of Chinese interference in federal elections. He blamed the whistle-blowers. He accused his critics of racism. MPs on a committee investigating the allegations filibustered. Finally, with the crisis escalating and all sides calling for a public inquiry, he promised to appoint a rapporteur to make recommendations on next steps.

The next step should have been to convene that public inquiry. There is a growing body of evidence that the Chinese government has attempted to manipulate elections in Canada, including the mayor’s race in Vancouver and the federal elections of 2019 and 2021. This interference, along with what the Prime Minister knew about it and what he did about it, must be thoroughly investigated.

In appointing a rapporteur to examine the files and make recommendations, Mr. Trudeau is delaying the inevitable. It’s a damn shame that the reputation of someone as honourable as David Johnston should be brought into question through the Prime Minister’s efforts to avoid responsibility.

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Opinion: What a Justice's leave of absence reveals about politics and the Supreme Court – The Globe and Mail



Allan C. Hutchinson is a distinguished research professor at Osgoode Hall Law School and the author of The Companies We Keep: Corporate Governance for a Democratic Society.

The controversy surrounding Justice Russell Brown’s leave from the Supreme Court, which began in February and is under investigation by the Canadian Judicial Council, has many different dimensions and implications. Apart from the question of whether he will or should return to the court following a confidential complaint from a member of the public, one issue occupying observers’ minds is what this means for the handling of cases presently before the court.

There are differences of opinion on whether the court should sit as a group of eight (and allow for the possibility of a tied vote) or seven (and face the dilemma of whom to leave out). This is a pressing issue, especially in regard to an important case to be heard this week on federalism and environmental legislation.


However, within and behind this debate is a much more fundamental matter – the relationship between constitutional law and politics. In particular, whether sensitive and contested issues of federalism are being decided in line with the dictates of constitutional law or by reliance on partial political stands and values.

The central bone of contention seems to be that the Albertan Justice Brown is considered to be a strong proponent of provincial rights and was almost certain to rule against the constitutionality of the federal government’s wide-ranging legislation to tackle pollution problems. So, if there is to be a bench of seven, the identity and federalism leanings of the justice who sits out the case must be treated as a matter of some delicacy and importance.

The premise on which this debate is based is troubling for those who maintain that constitutional law should and must trump constitutional politics. Traditionally, it is usually insisted that the legitimacy of the Supreme Court rests on its capacity to transcend political contestation by acting with measured, rational and non-ideological level-headedness. Judges deal in principles, not politics.

The received wisdom is that, while there are underlying and sharp ideological differences between different governments about climate change and the best response to be made, there exists a deeper and more unifying commitment to the idea that the Canadian Constitution stands apart from prosaic politics. While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his provincial colleagues play politics and get their hands dirty, Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Wagner and his puisne associates are expected to keep their hands clean of any political dirt.

But the general acceptance that Justice Brown is pre-disposed to be pro-provincial and that some of his colleagues, including Chief Justice Wagner, are more than likely to be pro-federal, has massive ramifications. Any notion that these judges are somehow neutral and impartial goes out the window. They are involved in the same ideological game as their political counterparts.

The fact is that, while courts may well be impartial to the competing claims of the present federal and provincial governments in terms of party politics, they are not and cannot be impartial between competing visions and versions of federalism. Although viewed as being more technical than political, federalism disputes involve deep-seated and contested accounts of governmental arrangements, social values, institutional power and democratic accountability.

So, while courts and legislatures may have different discourses, different styles and different legitimacies when talking about a fair allocation of powers between the federal and provincial governments, they are no less political for that. In other words, judges can hide their views, but they cannot avoid making political choices.

The whole debacle over Justice Brown’s absence draws attention to this state of affairs. Perhaps inadvertently, but still revealingly, the ensuing debate has demonstrated that judges do have politics and that, more significantly, they do rely on them to animate their decisions and reasonings. Otherwise, why would it matter who sits and who doesn’t?

Both judicial sides of the federalism debate can claim support for their positions; the doctrines of constitutional law are so capacious, so inconsistent and so accommodating in their reach and substance that they can confer a necessary baseline of legal validity on either a pro-provincial or pro-federal approach. Understood this way, the rule of law becomes little more than the rule of five: the stand that garners the support of five judges wins.

None of this is to suggest that the judges act in bad faith or are decidedly manipulative in fulfilling their judicial duties. It is that there is no way to engage with and resolve federalism issues in a way that can claim to be acting in the neutral and detached way that the judges and their traditional allies suppose. Constitutional law is politics. And Canadians need to appreciate that.

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Algorithms are moulding and shaping our politics. Here’s how to avoid being gamed



In 2016, evidence began to mount that then-South African president Jacob Zuma and a family of Indian-born businessmen, the Guptas, were responsible for widespread “state capture”. It was alleged that the Gupta family influenced Zuma’s political appointments and benefited unfairly from lucrative tenders.

The Guptas began to look for a way to divert attention away from them. They enlisted the help of British public relations firm Bell Pottinger, which drew on the country’s existing racial and economic tensions to develop a social media campaign centred on the role of “white monopoly capital” in continuing “economic apartheid”.

The campaign was driven by the power of algorithms. The company created over 100 fake Twitter bots or automated Twitter accounts that run on bot software – computer programs designed to perform tasks and actions, ranging from rather simple ones to quite complex ones; in this case, to simulate human responses for liking and retweeting tweets.

This weaponisation of communications is not limited to South Africa. Examples from elsewhere in Africa abound, including Russia currying favour in Burkina Faso via Facebook and coordinated Twitter campaigns by factions representing opposing Kenyan politicians. It’s seen beyond the continent, too – in March 2023, researchers identified a network of thousands of fake Twitter accounts created to support former US president Donald Trump.


Legal scholar Antoinette Rouvroy calls this “algorithmic governmentality”. It’s the reduction of government to algorithmic processes as if society is a problem of big data sets rather than one of how collective life is (or should be) arranged and managed by the individuals in that society.

In a recent paper, I coined the term “algopopulism”: algorithmically aided politics. The political content in our personal feeds not only represents the world and politics to us. It creates new, sometimes “alternative”, realities. It changes how we encounter and understand politics and even how we understand reality itself.

One reason algopopulism spreads so effectively is that it’s very difficult to know exactly how our perceptions are being shaped. This is deliberate. Algorithms are designed in a sophisticated way to override human reasoning.

So, what can you do to protect yourself from being “gamed” by algorithmic processes? The answers, I suggest, lie in understanding a bit more about the digital shift that’s brought us to this point and the ideas of a British statistician, Thomas Bayes, who lived more than 300 years ago.

How the shift happened

Five recent developments in the technology space have led to algorithmic governmentality: considerable improvements in hardware; generous, flexible storage via the cloud; the explosion of data and data accumulation; the development of deep convoluted networks and sophisticated algorithms to sort through the extracted data; and the development of fast, cheap networks to transfer data.

Together, these developments have transformed data science into something more than a mere technological tool. It has become a method for using data not only to predict how you engage with digital media, but to preempt your actions and thoughts.

This is not to say that all digital technology is harmful. Rather, I want to point out one of its greatest risks: we are all susceptible to having our thoughts shaped by algorithms, sometimes in ways that can have real-world effects, such as when they affect democratic elections.

Bayesian statistics

That’s where Thomas Bayes comes in. Bayes was an English statistician; Bayesian statistics, the dominant paradigm in machine learning, is named after him.

Before Bayes, computational processes relied on frequentist statistics. Most people have encountered this method in one way or another, as in the case of how probable it is that a coin will land heads-up and tails-down. This approach starts from the assumption that the coin is fair and hasn’t been tampered with. This is called a null hypothesis.

Bayesian statistics does not require a null hypothesis; it changes the kinds of questions asked about probability entirely. Instead of assuming a coin is fair and measuring the probability of heads or tails, it asks us instead to consider whether the system for measuring probability is fair. Instead of assuming the truth of a null hypothesis, Bayesian inference starts with a measure of subjective belief which it updates as more evidence – or data – is gathered in real time.

How does this play out via algorithms? Let’s say you heard a rumour that the world is flat and you do a Google search for articles that affirm this view. Based on this search, the measure of subjective belief the algorithms have to work with is “the world is flat”. Gradually, the algorithms will curate your feed to show you articles that confirm this belief unless you have purposefully searched for opposing views too.

That’s because Bayesian approaches use prior distributions, knowledge or beliefs as a starting point of probability. Unless you change your prior distributions, the algorithm will continue providing evidence to confirm your initial measure of subjective belief.

But how can you know to change your priors if your priors are being confirmed by your search results all the time? This is the dilemma of algopopulism: Bayesian probability allows algorithms to create sophisticated filter bubbles that are difficult to discount because all your search results are based on your previous searches.

So, there is no longer a uniform version of reality presented to a specific population, like there was when TV news was broadcast to everyone in a nation at the same time. Instead, we each have a version of reality. Some of this overlaps with what others see and hear and some doesn’t.

Engaging differently online

Understanding this can change how you search online and engage with knowledge.

To avoid filter bubbles, always search for opposing views. If you haven’t done this from the start, do a search on a private browser and compare the results you get. More importantly, check your personal investment. What do you get out of taking a specific stance on a subject? For example, does it make you feel part of something meaningful because you lack real-life social bonds? Finally, endeavour to choose reliable sources. Be aware of a source’s bias from the start and avoid anonymously published content.

In these ways we can all be custodians of our individual and collective behaviour.


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