Upbeat conservatives in Ottawa

Canada’s Conservatives are looking more and more as a competent, well-informed and prepared government-in-waiting. Pictured: Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre. Photo Credit: Pierre Poilievre/X. 

Over the last few days, this writer has spent the last few days at the Canada Strong and Free Network’s (CSFN) annual conference. The CSFN is the successor to the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, a political think tank and advocacy group that promoted conservative principles. This annual conference has been described as “Woodstock for conservatives” and always attracts an interesting array of speakers and attendees. 

Conservatives are understandably upbeat these days as Canadians seem to finally be tiring of the destructive policies of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The mood was buoyant at the conference. The opening session was a discussion of a number of dominant world issues between former UK Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson and former Australian Liberal Prime Minister Tony Abbott. In Australia, the most conservative-leaning political party is the Liberals. 

The three main issues discussed were the situation in Ukraine, climate policy that promotes Net Zero goals and the Israel-Hamas war. On the Russian attack on Ukraine, many citizens in developed countries are tiring of that war and the pressure on governments to withdraw support to Ukraine is growing as more see this conflict as not affecting them. Abbott noted how that was a key problem, and that to date most countries had merely been giving Ukraine enough weapons and other support to continue to wage the war, but not enough to win it. Both leaders agreed that if Ukraine does not win that war, it will embolden all of the tyrants, Islamists and other dangerous players around the world so it should be considered everyone’s business. They also noted that China would be encouraged to invade Taiwan if Russian prevailed in Ukraine. 

The two leaders’ views on the Middle East conflict were also similar, noting how disconcerting the massive global increase in anti-Semitism was and how disappointing it was that so many people were apparently unable to distinguish right from wrong.  Abbott commented on the fact Hamas had rejected the latest ceasefire offer from Israel, yet there was virtually no criticism of Hamas for doing so while Israel is constantly bombarded with demands for ceasefires. The net zero issue was the only one on which the two leaders disagreed. Johnson had robustly supported a number of green initiatives that hadn’t turned out too well, whereas Abbott was against the entire climate crisis concept from the get-go. Abbott good-naturedly criticized Johnson for having been conned into supporting the increasingly dubious climate change agenda, and Johnson did seem fairly sheepish for doing so. 

The real barnburner presentation at the conference so far belonged to Conservative Party of Canada leader Pierre Poilievre. I have heard Pierre speak many times and this was by far his best in my opinion. Although he did mention his four central slogans – Axe the Tax, Build the Homes, Fix the Budget, Stop the Crime – he didn’t belabour them as he has in some other speeches. Although slogans are always necessary in politics, they can be overdone. 

Although Poilievre did use his regular slogans, he did so sparingly. His main theme was to address the range of issues that are hindering the average, middle class Canadian that is being left out by Trudeau’s policies. Poilievre observed how Trudeau had not only broken with common sense, but with liberalism itself. Indeed, Poilievre noted how the problem was not that Trudeau was too liberal, but that he was not liberal at all. Traditional liberals believe in free speech, freedom of the individual and, as Pierre Trudeau famously said, that the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation. 

Instead, Poilievre stated that Trudeau wants to be in every room in your house, in control of every aspect of your life. He also took a shot at a statement Trudeau made Wednesday in his testimony before the inquiry into foreign interference in our elections. Trudeau stated that he may not have been totally up to date on intelligence briefings because he did not read most of them. Poilievre dined out on this statement, saying that as Trudeau doesn’t even bother to read his briefing notes, not only does he try to control our lives, but he does it very badly! Poilievre also stated that while most people read the book 1984 as a cautionary tale, Trudeau considers it an instruction manual. 

Poilievre also took a shot at former Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney, calling him Carbon Tax Carney. Poilievre rightly stated that while Carney opposes pipeline construction in Canada that could benefit Canadians plus improve the global environment by exporting clean natural gas to countries that currently use coal, boards that Carney sits on invest in pipelines in other countries, often countries that have far fewer environmental controls and much worse human rights records than Canada. 

On the energy issue, Poilievre said he would repeal Bill C-69 (the no more pipelines bill) to reduce approval times for new projects and promote clean, low-cost energy for Canadians and our allies around the world. He cited the very real problem of delays in federal approvals for projects as long as 16 to 20 years. With such ridiculous delays, it is not surprising that investors abandon Canada in favour of more efficient and predictable jurisdictions. 

Poilievre also discussed the key issues of housing and crime. On the housing issue, he noted that the state of our housing market with ridiculously inflated prices and shortages of supply was unique to Canada because of the bad policies of the Trudeau government, and how he would encourage more new home construction. On crime, he stated how crime had fallen under the more stringent approach of the Harper government, which Trudeau reversed to produce today’s surge in things like auto theft. 

On the issue of terrorism, Poilievre would classify the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization, something the Trudeau government has refused to do even though this group is clearly involved in terrorist activity. He also promised to eliminate foreign aid to dictators and organizations like the UNRWA, the UN agency proven to contain Hamas sympathizers, and devote the savings to restoring our own military. 

Poilievre closed his remarks by saying his vision was to have the average Canadian family be able to sit down to a good meal after a day of work, get the kids to bed, and then relax knowing they could afford their mortgage and a decent standard of living. It was an impressive and rousing speech from someone who sounds increasingly prime ministerial. 

This conference has one more day to go, with presenters such as Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, some First Nations representatives and sessions on foreign policy. A number of Conservative members of Parliament have attended, as have many other party supporters and staff. After the debacle of almost nine years of Trudeau, Canada’s Conservatives are looking more and more as a competent, well-informed and prepared government-in-waiting. They will have a major job to do to reverse Canada’s many serious problems, but it appears they will be very much up to the task.

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