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If the Canada Strong and Free unofficial debate last night is any sampling of the mood of conservatives in this country Pierre Poilievre is their man.

And why not?

If you closed your eyes and tried to conjure up a conservative from scratch, your imagination would probably carve out the baby-faced, be-spectacled Poilievre in his dark blue suit.

He is Calgary-born.

He lives and breathes low taxes, small government, is pro-pipeline anti-carbon tax and bends libertarian.

"If the Canada Strong and Free unofficial debate last night is any sampling of the mood of conservatives in this country Pierre Poilievre is their man." @karyn_pugliese writes for @natobserver #CPCdebate #cdnpoli

First elected to represent Nepean—Carleton in 2004 at age 24, Poilievre picked his team and committed at an age where most youth are only becoming politically aware.

Canada Strong and Free Network, formerly the Manning Centre, is where conservatives come to share ideas about public policy. This is conservative ground zero. Where Adam Smith, the free market and family values rule. If you want to know what’s on the minds of conservative Canada, last night’s first, but unofficial, conservative leadership debate hosted by Canada Strong and Free Network, was the place to be.

What’s on their mind these days is inflation, free expression, natural gas exploration, and health care.

But mostly: Who can win?

Moderators Candice Malcolm, founder of the conservative digital media platform True North, and Jamil Jivani, a conservative media personality, lawyer and incoming president of Canada Strong and Free, focused more on strategy than policy in their questions, bluntly asking: Why do Conservatives keep losing? How will a pro-life stance play in the ‘liberal’ media? Can you prevent Western alienation and keep the party from splitting again?

But at the heart perhaps was this question, Jivani directed to moderate candidate Scott Aitchison:

“The previous leader Erin O’Toole ran as a quintessential Ontario moderate and we were promised by the ivory tower commentaries that approach would win seats in the Toronto area, it did not work. Why should we believe a conservative party led by you would bear different fruit?”

If the room is any measure of the mood across the country, conservatives want to leave ‘big tent’ parties at the circus. They just want someone who represents their authentic selves and core values. If that’s true, Poillievre is a stand out.


“I am a true conservative. I stood for the same things all my life,” said Poilievre taking a jab at the man who many see as his closest competitor, Jean Charest, for his record on taxes, shale gas exploration, and the long gun registry he added, “I am not just putting on a blue shirt to cover up a red shirt, temporarily, in order to take over the party.”

“How do we reach out to all Canadians? With a clear consistent conservative message,” he added later in the debate.

Poilievre is running on a promise to just be himself, conservative to the core.

And that is the way the conservative base likes him.

A long-time party volunteer and a member of the Young Conservatives, 27-year old Jesse Furber listened raptly to the debate, resting his Poilievre sign on his knee. He loves Pollievre’s energy, and his consistency.

The one thing we can all kind of agree on is small government, more freedom, right? I think his campaign is really tip-of-the-torch. He ran with that and is the freedom candidate. He’s proud of it, he’d been loud about it, and he’s unapologetic,” said Furber, who is not related to the campaign.

“I think he is probably the most consistent conservative we’ve seen,” said Matthew Kelman, also a Young Conservative who came out to hear the debate, “The last two races – they have just been garbage. (Erin) O’Toole was a total dud. (Andrew) Scheer was a total dud. I think he’s got a lot of energy - so go Pierre.”

While Charest won applause at times throughout the night, there was one moment when he was openly jeered. It was when he took a jab at Poilievre’s support for protestors at the controversial trucker’s convoy which shut down Ottawa’s for weeks last Spring. “You cannot make laws, then break laws…” said Charest, the end of the sentence drowned out by boos.

As for Poilievre, he stood by his decision.

“The truckers after being called heroes for two years for delivering products and services across the border, without a vaccine, suddenly became villains or lawbreakers…” he said, careful to make a distinction between those who protested peacefully, and those who broke laws.

Nuances seldom win points in politics, but that answer played well to the room, and to Furber.

“As soon as they came at him with the truckers, he was like ''No I’m not going to disown the truckers, I’ll disown some individuals,” said Furber. “And that is so important for a leader to be able to do that, to make that distinction.”

“As far as Pierre is concerned he hit the nail on the head every single time. It’s refreshing, I am super happy that he’s running and I can’t wait for him to be Prime Minister,” added Furber.

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What utter nonsense.

It's clearly true that Poilievre has a no-apologies style, but he's only "conservative" in the sense, like Donald Trump, that he's the face of what modern "conservative" parties have become, rather than what they traditionally represented.

Old School Conservatives:
- Law and Order, full stop
- the economy, above all else

Poilievre:
- vocal support of a group that explicitly declared they intended to overthrow the government, blocked traffic at a major thoroughfare in the downtown of a major city, and blocked major border crossings, causing half a billion dollars a day in economic damage

And no, I'm not buying his bad-apples argument. The people organizing the Ottawa Occupation were the "bad-apples." His argument isn't nuance; it's just an excuse.

Old School Conservatives:
- the Constitutional division of powers is a bedrock principle

Poilievre:
- climate change policy is setting targets for the provinces to achieve
- housing policy is setting targets for the municipalities to achieve

Then there is his pandering the the crypto-currency crowd, and slagging the Bank of Canada. While there are ways to spin this as at least not directly opposing traditional conservative values, it still sounds weird coming from someone calling themselves a "true-blue" conservative.

Regarding this claim: "If you closed your eyes and tried to conjure up a conservative from scratch, your imagination would probably carve out the baby-faced, be-spectacled Poilievre in his dark blue suit."

For those old enough to remember that World History actually does predate the day Stephen Harper took control of the neo-Conservative Party of Canada, the name Edmund Burke is who was for decades, across the English-speaking world, held up as representing the quintessential conservative thinker.

Poilievre is absolutely not an "Burkian" conservative.

There is a lot to be said about what makes Poilievre so popular; this does at least include his no-apologies style. Ironically, I would argue that at least part of his popularity is also due to his willingness to ditch certain traditional conservative talking points, where convenient.

Having said all that, I will agree with Andrew Tumilty's recent opinion piece in the Toronto Star that the Liberals (and the NDP, I'll add) need to understand Mr. Poilievre's popularity. I further hope there is serious thought (and not just groupthink) going into this matter going on in both parties. This piece, by Karyn Pugliese, can be safely ignored as just a pro-Poilievre fluff piece.

I agree with Mark and I am ignoring this piece by Karyn Pugliese. Everyone has a right to an opinion but I must confess I expect better from a National Observer article. This is clearly a pro-Poilievre fluff piece, using Marks words and I am disappointed with it not because I disagree with it but because I think that this kind of propaganda already exists in considerable volume in the extreme controlled right wing media. I do not think that we should be helping promote someone who I am sorry to say, is an idiot and someone that could become as dangerous to Canada as Trump was to the US or even worse Bolsonaro is to Brazil.
I do not have a problem with people being fans of Conservative ideology but we have to be clear that Poilievre is not a Conservative, he is a fascist and we can live very happily without promoting that kind of people.
These days they are very hardly trying to make themselves part of the mainstream but one has to be on drugs to think that this man can in any way be mainstream or even someone worth have a debate with just because he seems to be open to insult anyone for whatever reason. We in Alberta have one of his cousins running this province and it is pretty obvious what it is like to have an idiot trying to impress those that like him believe the world is their asylum. I am sorry to say but I really do not welcome this kind of bad article in a publication that I support. If that continues to be the case I will seriously reconsider reading something else, we already have enough of this garbage supported by the rich business class these days.

Thank you

While I think it's true that there have been some significant shifts between "old" conservatism and modern, particularly "alt-right" conservatism, I think we should bear in mind that there is one key element of continuity: Conservatism is and has always been about making the rich, richer and the poor, poorer and those in between fewer. Everything else they do or say is about finding anything they can to fool non-rich people into supporting an ideology that is fundamentally out to get them. They don't ultimately care what the additional flim-flam is, although there are patterns--it's usually emotive, it's usually about fear or hate, it's usually (no matter how much they talk about "freedom", which isn't a new thing for conservatism) about control. If you're lucky, it's just about tradition, but look a little closer and it often turns out that "tradition" is a veiled excuse for someone powerless getting it in the neck.

So let's not romanticize old school conservatism--it was never a good thing.

lets get it right he is far right and our rights would be his rights as he sees fit and not ours
Read this person correctly he is far right and he is hiding it to get votes

"Where Adam Smith, the free market and family values rule."

Today's conservatives believe in neither the free market nor small government.
They support massive subsidies for their pet industry: oil and gas.

Alberta's oil industry is branded as the icon of free-market capitalism.
Jason Kenney: "We are the beating heart of free enterprise values in the Canadian political culture. We are the heart of Canada's enormous energy industry."
"A free market is one where voluntary exchange and the laws of supply and demand provide the sole basis for the economic system, without government intervention." (Investopedia)

Is any govt more interventionist? Is any industry more dependent on subsidies, visible and invisible?
The list of fossil fuel subsidies in Canada runs decades long and billions of dollars deep. Alberta's petro-economy is the giveaway party that never ends.
Both provincial and federal govts are deeply entrenched in the oil business -- and no conservative wants to change that.
When it comes to oil & gas, conservatives are corporate welfare kings.

The idea that fossil fuel producers and consumers should pay the full environmental, climate, and health costs is anathema to conservatives. Just the opposite of libertarianism.
Conservatives, Liberals, and provincial NDP parties are all proponents of neoliberalism. Liberals and Conservatives are two wings of the same party representing Corporate Canada, the Big Banks, and the O&G industry.

Neoliberalism prescribes radical intervention to support markets. An extreme form of capitalism wherein "government pursues policies for the benefit of markets not people". Neoliberalism puts government at the service of the market. Under neoliberalism, the main purpose of govt is to enable markets. Neoliberalism compels govts to support the market at all costs. Hands off corporate power — except when the financial wizards fall victim to their own corruption and the market fails.
"Its essence is captured in former U.S. President Ronald Reagan's famous maxim: 'Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.'"
Not what they say, of course, when the market goes south. In 2008 and 2020, industry and big corporations vociferously demanded government support.
For neoliberals, government for the people is the problem. Government for corporations is the solution.

"Neoliberalism: Free Market Fundamentalism or Corporate Power?"
https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/01/11/neoliberalism-free-market-fundam...

Exactly right - what else can be said? The idea that anyone defending this kind of system to me is abhorrent but apparently still very appealing to late opportunists like Poilievre that only wants power to then implement what has failed everywhere else - privatize, privatize and cut government.
Most of the world is already moving on after 30 years of this failure but we as usual have the late idiots that cannot pass the opportunity of enriching on the backs of whatever is left of the middle class.

To me calling this Conservatism is an insult and that is why I do not agree with this article. Poilievre is not a conservative - I repeat he is not a Conservative - he is an opportunist just like Jason Kenney and his gang of ministers, half of them being investigated by police for one reason or another including the minister of Justice - Brilliant

Just imagine what would happen if any minister in the government of Rachel Notley was under investigation? We would have Jason Kenney calling the military because there was a communist criminal in the government. As it is he has not even been removed never mind fired. Such is the Conservative dominated world.

Danny Williams' appeal was simple. ~ABC- Anybody But Conservative~

There's an older fellow in our local paper in Lethbridge who comments under the name "Fedup Conservative" and his constant refrain is that none of these guys are "true conservatives." Even when you point out that conservatism is basically a philosophy based on a set of ideas that evolves over time, so what you see right now with the right wing the world over
is what you get, i.e. your party may have left YOU as it were, he STILL holds onto his notion like some religious person with their doctrine.
I would suggest there is some quibbling in a similar way here.
And it's more than just a quibble to attack the author of this article as being "pro-conservative" when she is simply describing the threat Poilievre presents in the current context, not endorsing him.

Maybe a basic book on Canadian political history and a dictionary could have saved the article before it was written.
In the first, check the index entries for "Conservative" and "libertarian."
In the second, do the same.
Should be 'nuff said.

I'm beyond delighted to see the feedback below, which is far more clear and well-stated than mine would have been.

To confirm: he is NOT a Conservative. I know Conservatives. One of my best friends was a Red Tory; he stopped supporting the party, both electorally, and financially--very significant cessation re the $, when Harper got in full steam.

Poilievre is a Reformer, in Conservative clothing. Any examination of his past record illustrates that. Let us never forget the push he put behind the "Fair Elections Act" when he was one of Harper's minions.

To the day I die, I will damn Peter McKay for his lying and treacherous sell-out of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, leaving us with this reactionary, UN-conservative bunch, who demonstrate and advocate for the worst in Canada's heart and spirit.

Sorry but this is what your precious conservatives have "devolved" into; they're now rightly called "cons." As upsetting as that may be, I must point out that overly tribal loyalty to any political party (or any doctrine, period) is unique to the right wing that seems to regard politics as a game above all else. But at what point does one reconsider, or indeed CONSIDER, their affiliations? More open-mindedness and more fluidity is essential when so many people's lives are affected the way they are.

I'm a little late to this party but this article is NOT a puff piece. I actually think it's excellent journalism. I did not think for one second that the author is in favour of what PP is and what he is doing but, rather, it's a very good accounting of what he is all about and how it is playing with his followers. I don't disagree with what most people have it in here in the sense that pee pee is not what used to being alone as a conservative. As this progresses if I really hope someone will call him out on the trucker thing because it's actually very cynical. Polly Ever Knows these people are gullible nitwits and very riled up. He sees an opportunity to use that negative energy to his own advantage. This is where populism becomes the opposite of leadership. I think the root of these people's problems are the neoliberal measures that we are all suffering from. Ppc's an opportunity to use this but he is not going to help those people because he is neoliberalism anybody else. I hope there's someone, maybe in the CBC or, if quality when's the leadership some opponent can call him on his manipulative, cynical b. F.

Oops! This board could really use an edit function. I meant to turn off my microphone but I hit "post" so there's some real interesting voice-to-text things there. Sorry.

The last bit should read:
PP sees an opportunity to use this but he is not going to help those people because he is as neoliberal as anybody else. I hope there's someone, maybe in the CPC or, if Poilievre wins the leadership, some opponent from another party who can call him on his manipulative, cynical BS.

It should be fish in a barrel to call this creep out, and the fact that it isn't is the most alarming thing of all. Charest sums it up well to say that the people responsible for making the laws can't also be the ones breaking them, duh, but apparently this drew much booing from the thug crowd supporting Boilievre. For them he's "da man" going rogue, their "guy" criteria for "leadership." Idiots.

I also want to hear what these candidates have to say about Trump and how they plan to deal with a failed democracy on our border.

You nailed it. @JB. That is exactly what I was thinking as I wrote it.

I like your subtle tone here. If the same piece appeared in a right-wing publication I might have thought differently.

How about one on the "Conservative Movement"? The conservatives talk about it all the time but very few other people seem to have heard of it let alone know what it is. My quick research indicates it was started by William F Buckley with the intention of repealing the New Deal. If it's true that it's funded largely by the Koch Network it would explain how conservative politicians in Canada seem to put the wishes of Big Oil ahead of the interests of the actual people they represent. Just a thought.