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.”
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
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.
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.