Ottawa residents were understandably concerned about a Canada Day repeat of the anti-vaccine protests that gridlocked their city’s downtown at the start of this year. But while our nation’s capital managed to survive the festivities mostly unscathed, the so-called convoy’s creeping takeover of this country’s official Opposition continues apace.

Leadership race front-runner Pierre Poilievre made that abundantly clear last week when he decided to march with James Topp, the controversial far-right leader of the convoy’s latest iteration. Far from turning his back on the more extremist elements of that movement, Poilievre seems determined to hug them as close as possible.

If there was any remaining doubt about the CPC’s new status as the Convoy Party of Canada, it should have been dispelled Tuesday evening when the party decided to disqualify Patrick Brown from the leadership race. Writing in the Toronto Sun, former Liberal strategist (and Trudeau antagonist) Warren Kinsella concluded: “The Conservative Party of Canada has effectively been taken over by the convoy types. And who was the biggest critic of the ‘freedom’ convoy types? None other than Patrick Brown.”

As Kinsella noted in his column, a comparison between the recently released CPC membership list and the list of GiveSendGo donors who supported the convoy earlier this year revealed plenty of overlap. A not-so-grand total of 14,707 different members reportedly gave nearly $1.78 million to support the illegal occupation of Ottawa, with all of those donations coming in February, Kinsella wrote. It’s fair to assume many of those members will be casting their leadership ballots for Poilievre, especially after his recent walkabout.

Indeed, based on the convoy’s popularity among the current Conservative membership, Poilievre’s Canada Day stunt may not be as politically suicidal as it might seem from afar. As EKOS pollster Frank Graves noted, his data shows that while 68 per cent of Canadians oppose the convoy, that figure drops to 30 per cent among CPC voters, with nearly twice as many (55 per cent) supporting it. That ratio of support to opposition is only eclipsed by People’s Party of Canada voters, whom Poilievre is almost certainly targeting in both the leadership race and beyond.

But the convoy-tinged rot in the CPC goes much deeper than some of its members.

As CTV reported recently, former Saskatchewan premier and party heavyweight Brad Wall was in regular contact (some 26 texts, along with nearly 30 minutes of phone calls) with Chris Barber, a Saskatchewan truck driver and one of the original convoy’s chief organizers. Barber was subsequently charged alongside Tamara Lich with intimidation, obstruction of a peace officer and mischief, and has a history of racist statements and behaviour (including two Confederate flags hanging in his garage). But in February, he also had the ear of one of the Conservative Party of Canada’s leading lights.

When pressed by CTV to explain this relationship, Wall offered up a brief statement: “I know him from Swift Current. He’s connected to relatives and I’d like to keep that confidential and private.”

Stephen Carter, a former adviser to multiple premiers and mayors in Alberta, doesn’t think that’s nearly good enough. “This should be disqualifying,” he said on the latest episode of his podcast The Strategists. “You don’t reach out to someone and offer good advice to bad people.”

Wall and his fellow convoy-curious conservatives clearly don’t see them that way. They see the convoy’s fans as a valuable source of donations and political support, and they’re apparently willing to overlook the talk about overthrowing a democratically elected government and charging the prime minister with treason in order to get it.

Opinion: And the convoy-tinged rot in the Conservative Party of Canada goes much deeper than some of its members, writes columnist @maxfawcett. #CPC #Convoy

That relationship is only going to get cozier if Poilievre becomes the one in charge, an outcome that seems practically inevitable at this point.

If nothing else, this should put to rest once and for all the notion that there is a moderate version of the Conservative Party of Canada just waiting to emerge. Instead, a resounding victory by Poilievre would almost certainly mean a turn further to the right, towards the sort of Fox News-style, nonsense-on-steroids politics that defined the convoy and seems to intrigue its enablers.

Now, it’s up to Canadians to decide whether they want that from their government-in-waiting — and whether they’re willing to trust its leaders with the reins of power.

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You nailed it Max.

I don’t doubt for a minute, and have often said so, that the CPC is irredeemable as a conservative party. The problem is, of course, that a lot of conservative-minded voters don’t see it that way, some thinking—or, perhaps, hoping—that the CPC is indeed a conservative party while others recognize its drift away from traditional Toryism but think—or, perhaps, pray—that it can be moved back toward the centre enough to garner votes from a largely centrist electorate and win power. But I’ll wager that those Tories who prioritize constructively contributive policy proposals over power for its own sake have already abandoned either notion.

Obviously there’s a substantial proportion of conservatives who believe in the possibility of CPC redemption: former leader Erin O’Toole’s plea was overtly moderate and, although he was subsequently booted from leadership, there seems little point in quibbling whether it was because of his moderate ethos or his failure to win power in last year’s general election, especially now that the battle for the heart and soul of the party by two increasingly contrasting factions, all of two years before the next scheduled election, is even more overtly about which way the CPC should go. General interest is growing, not least for dramatic antics like Poilievre’s, but likely also for what is the “known unknown.” Narratologically it’s called “suspense”—it keeps audiences’ attention because, as in this case, most of them do not know which way the party will break: toward the centre or the edge of the flat earth.

It’s immaterial, now, whether Poilievre thinks he’s got it in the bag: naturally he knows the value of gimmickry and suspense but, supposing he does become leader and this ingredient of suspense is resolved, he probably also knows that many—indeed, the large majority of observers who also do not vote conservative—will change the channel and unsuspend disbelief required to make narratological tension entertain.

Remind that this is a party, not a general contest. Plainly it has piqued enough general interest to increase the number of party memberships, but that could just as well be lapsed Tories rejoining the party in order to preclude a crisis like Poilievre becoming leader. Why didn’t they do it before? Probably because this question of direction, moderate or extreme, has become has only now become a crisis in the truest sense: O’Toole’s candidacy made the motion and Poilievre’s seconded it. This contest will settle it, once and for all: the CPC either struggles to turn toward the centre or plunges into populist demagoguery which moderate Canadians will likely reject.

Freedumbites are rallied by Poilievre, but they have every reason not to trust him—and a strongly cultivated distrust of the very institution which is the only employer he’s ever had. They’ve been “betrayed” before by leaders who stump extremism but, once elected leader, suddenly turn toward the little matter of winning general election from an electorate that consistently rejects federal conservative parties by about two-to-one. That’s the CPC’s quandary out of which only lying and cheating can get them elected—and the electorate has already had enough of that (anyway, everyone knows the HarperCon/MacKay FrankenParty was never loved and only won what it did by default when the Liberals disqualified themselves with a decade of infighting—and nobody has forgotten the repeated investigations, charges and convictions for all kinds of psephological cheating that, arguably, helped keep the CPC in power longer than voters would have liked). Bikers have the same problem when their most successful criminals start preferring Armani to Harley Davidson.

If this is the critical problem, then why do demagogues like Poilievre so openly court extremist factions that won’t help—in fact, will likely hurt—the party’s chance of winning a general contest? The answer is simply that such puzzling behaviour is the neo-right’s desperate charade to look more popular than it really is, probably obscured by the popularity of salacious entertainment-media dramatizations of gangsters and bikers, and is rather indicative of such general unpopularity that inviting the support of reprobates is a last resort all tatted up to look like a first choice—a “no-brainer,” as they say, without a trace of irony.

It has little if anything to do with cogent policy and everything to do with power. As such, the neo-right in its throes adheres closely to classical große Lüge principles: incessant attack of a single target like JT, blaming all problems on that target, regardless cher policies or even their relevance, and, finally repetition—the likes of which we’ve heard since Harper lost a two-front contest to the last-place starter.

Truth is immaterial—including whatever former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall has to do with the CPC (his advice to one of the Freedom Convoy’s principal organizers was to moderate their rhetoric and refrain from inconveniencing citizens of Ottawa, a position which does not condemn him but, instead, condemns the latter for not heeding it. And we don’t pronounce guilt by association: the organizer apparently knew Wall personally through family and solicited his advice—then didn’t take it).

Since the CPC was always—and always unsuccessfully —about power for its benefactors’ sakes, the party membership (now minus a significant number of erstwhile supporters) cannot conceive of taking a term or two off from rabid power-seeking in order to redeem itself. That’s why I don’t think the CPC is redeemable at all. The alternative, the creation of a new conservative party expressly of the centre-right and devoted to constructive contribution to policies needed to meet the many challenges ahead, would take at least one term and probably more to organize and be accepted by the electorate, but I’m confident (although not a conservative myself) it would eventually do quite well. Maybe call it the NCP of Canada or something. After all, there’ve been several organizational reiterations of the partisan right already (Con-Lib, Con, ProgCon, Socred, Union Nationale, Reform, Bloc Québécois, Alliance, CPC, PPC…) compared to a couple for the left and only one for the Liberals, so one more doesn’t rewrite—or even come close to “The End of History” for the right.
Perhaps most illustrative of the CPC’s irredeemability was the missed opportunity to let the half of the CPC membership which supported Maxime Bernier’s leadership bid hive off with him when he departed in the blue-flame of a libertarian snit: since the route to power was not as prospective as many CPC supporters could imagine, the party missed this chance to rid itself of reactionary fleas which two-thirds of the electorate don’t want (recall the story of the fox which slowly backs into the water holding a stick by its tip in its maw: as the fox submerges, its fleas scurry onto the stick which it then simply lets go and swims away, flealess).

Then came the O’Toole test—which wasn’t needed to convince me that the CPC is terminally stuck with itself as a radical, far-right—or “convoy”—party.

And, as the UCP showed its own creator Jason Kenney, factionalism on the edge of electoral viability is ruthless. Imagine feeling relieved if Jean Charest—for all we know, a moderate Tory— won the leadership: me, I can’t see him surviving the extreme faction sitting on the backbench: our nation is facing some serious problems that need concerted cooperation, and reactionaries have consistently shown they can’t be relied on to help, only to caterwaul about their supposed rights and freedoms.

As I’ve said for years, now: the CPC is a zombie party in Tory disguise, controlled by stateless corporatists of the globalizing neoliberal ilk, out to undermine our democratic sovereignty. It is irredeemable by anyone but Pierre Poilievre’s just the guy to help it sail off the edge of the earth where it belongs.

All Hail PP!!

Excellent analysis! Considering the history and formation of the current CCP out of the ashes of Reform and Alliance, it is considered by many to be an Alberta rump party, not a federal party at all.

Apologies - CCP should read CPC.

Good analysis but you missed the best iteration of them all: "CRAP" i.e. Conservative Reform Alliance Party.

It's going to be an interesting autumn.

Should Poilievre win the leadership on the first ballot, then the party is doomed to gather cobwebs on the opposition benches forever. If it is discovered that Poilievre won only as the result of the political equivalent of gerrymandering and illegally pulling the rug out from under his leadership opponents, the party is doomed. If Poilievre wins after several rounds where opponents landed several damaging punches, the party is doomed as moderates leave en masse. If Poilievre pulls an O'Toole and changes his tune to a more moderate one (very, very unlikely) once his leadership has been secured, the party is doomed for electing a two-faced leader.

I am looking forward to a Poilievre win in the CPC leadership contest for, if anything, the entertainment and schadenfreude value. However, if by some astronomically remote chance we get a convoy whisperer in the PMO, Canada will never be the same, and the Liberals, NDP, Greens and Bloc will look seriously at amalgamating into a coalition to bring down the Conspiracy Party before it allows 12-year olds to own automatic assault weapons and force child-bearing age women to stay pregnant, attend prayer meetings five times a day, and to wear red Canadian niqabs with white bonnets to obscure their individual faces.

Excellent Alex, and exactly right. Boris Johnson has run out of rope too, maybe we're finally going to get somewhere.....

Perhaps Pierre Poilievre is the CPC's equivalent of St. Jude - the Patron Saint of Lost Causes!

So they win and everybody loses access to abortion and birth control, the economy is totally unmanaged and crashes, and all the dummies who voted for them have 20 kids and no house be like, "Wait, what?"

I really hate Conservatism. And, sure, I hate the current proto-fascist variant even more than I hate normal conservatism. But I try to be realistic. Some of the comments here are talking like the Conservatives are doomed. That is not realistic.

Let's not forget that in the last couple of federal elections, the Conservatives actually got more votes than the Liberals. Not as many as the Liberals + NDP combined, but it's a first-past-the-post system. All they need is a somewhat more efficient vote, a solid bump in Ontario (where, lest we forget, the Conservatives just won a solid victory provincially with a leader who is a total asshole idiot) and they could indeed form government. And they have the indispensable tools they need to do it: A right-leaning media, and lots and lots of money.

We cannot take these bastards lightly. They must be crushed, opposed, mocked at every opportunity.

It's true that the CPC won slightly more popular votes that the LPC, but let's not forget the role of strategic voters who have kept the CPC from power in many key competitive ridings, even with O'Toole mimicking Trudeau Lite.

Let's not forget that the centre-left (aka progressives) encompasses three party affiliations and over 60% of the vote, but the centre-right is currently wrapped up in one party. There are moderate Conservative MPs who are not likely to countenance a hard turn to the extreme right, and it's possible that a couple of them could cross over to become Blue Libs. Which is to say, the CPC is in fact a coalition of fiscal conservatives and social conservatives, the former barely tolerating the latter only because the latter have been suppressed, even by Harper until he released them from their cages during his last campaign and lost exactly for that reason.

Enter Mr. Milquetoast and climate wishy washiness.