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The Christmas season is usually a time for giving, warmth and cheer. But that message doesn’t seem to have gotten through to Canada’s leader of the official Opposition, who is doing his best imitation of the Grinch. Canada, according to Pierre Poilievre, is “broken” — and apparently only he can fix it.

Whether it’s inflation, rising gasoline prices (which have since plummeted) or Canada’s precarious housing market, Poilievre lays the blame entirely at the feet of Justin Trudeau. Never mind, for the moment, that these exact same pressures — rising energy and food costs and the impact of interest rate hikes by central banks — are being felt in the United States, the United Kingdom and all of western Europe; countries that aren’t governed by Trudeau’s Liberals. This year, as families gather for the holiday season, Poilievre wants people to remember one thing: it’s all Trudeau’s fault.

Canada, of course, is far from broken. Instead, like literally every other developed nation on Earth, it’s struggling with the challenges of the post-COVID world, which have been exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its impact on food and energy prices. For anyone with even a vague memory of the country’s recent past, these challenges are hardly the biggest we’ve ever faced. In my own lifetime, I’ve experienced two failed constitutional summits, a Quebec referendum that was nearly lost to the “yes” side, the free trade debate of 1988 and the Oka crisis — and that’s just in the last four decades. Meanwhile, Canada remains among the most desirable destinations on Earth, as well as one of the most highly ranked places to live.

That isn’t to suggest there aren’t problems in our country right now, or that the federal government hasn't dropped more than its share of balls lately. As the Globe and Mail’s Shannon Proudfoot wrote recently, the grinding backlogs in our airports, passport offices and immigration system raise questions of basic competence.

But once you set aside global realities like inflation and supply chain issues, it becomes clear that our most pressing problems right now actually fall under provincial jurisdiction. Health care? Provincial. Housing? Provincial (and municipal). Social supports? Provincial. In each of these cases, and especially when it comes to health care, the federal government can (and should) come to the table with the power of its purse. But when provincial governments are running surpluses — including the four biggest provinces in the country — why should the burden fall on Ottawa alone?

For all their talk about Canada being “broken,” the solutions proposed by Poilievre and his Conservative Party of Canada don’t seem particularly ambitious. Cancelling the carbon tax, which is their preferred remedy for almost everything, will do nothing to address the crisis in Canada’s hospitals or the catastrophe that is our housing market for anyone not securely stationed on the property ladder. It won’t even do that much to help with the cost of living, given it would also require the removal of the rebate, which leaves most families financially ahead and is most beneficial to the lowest-income quartiles.

And while the idea of producing more energy and food may sound good to his Prairie base, building more pipelines isn’t exactly a near-term solution to any of Canada’s problems — much less one that reckons with the reality of climate change and the energy transition.

Poilievre is welcome, of course, to keep telling Canadians their country is broken. But given how poorly that message was received in his first byelection as leader and how negatively Canadians already seem to feel about him, he might want to consider something less polarizing. “After three months as the leader of the Conservative Party,” a new report from the Angus Reid Institute noted, “Pierre Poilievre is viewed much more negatively than his predecessors at similar points in their tenure.” And remember: his predecessors weren’t exactly viewed with love and adoration by Canadians, either.

But sowing this sort of fear and loathing has become standard operating procedure for Canada’s Conservatives. Back in February, when the trucker convoy, which the party actively encouraged, was occupying Ottawa and sowing chaos around Parliament Hill, interim Conservative leader Candice Bergen told the House of Commons that Canada was “more divided than ever before.” In 2019, after he’d been handed a defeat in one of the most winnable elections for an Opposition leader in Canadian history, then-leader Andrew Scheer told the House: “Deep cracks are showing in Confederation and the prime minister has divided this country like it has never been before.”

Pierre Poilievre's mantra that 'Canada is broken' isn't playing well with the Canadian public. @maxfawcett writes for @NatObserver #cdnpoli #inflation #economy

Poilievre will have to decide if he wants to keep going down this same road, one that has dead-ended the last two leaders of his party and sent Bergen into the political equivalent of the witness protection program. He may not be able to match the prime minister’s “sunny ways” or campaign with the same sort of joyful optimism Trudeau can summon on behalf of his country. But one thing should be increasingly clear to Poilievre by now: constantly telling Canadians their country is broken doesn’t guarantee they’ll decide you’re the right person to fix it.

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I recall a fairy tale and a pop song about the Pied Piper. And even the dictionary defines it as" one that offers strong but delusive enticement. : a leader who makes irresponsible promises." That defines Pierre to a tee.
Conservatives like the Republicans in the USA have become an us vs them political party. Cooperation, compromise, discussion and a common good are now foreign to them. Pierre says follow me and I will solve all our problems! I call this delusions of grandeur! Hopefully my fellow Albertans and Canadians will see it is a con job.
Health Care is a good example as the feds pay 22%. So where does the responsibility lie? Our provinces have let us down. Unprepared for crisis. Unprepared for we baby boomers growing older, living longer, and leaving the workforce.
Here in the West, cries of no interference in our constitution responsibilities like health care, while also saying to Ottawa, it's your fault. Absolute nonsense.

The pandemic and what Putin is currently doing ARE unprecedented in ANY of our lifetimes though Max, not to mention climate change, and such "worldly" contexts have highlighted Canada as a country rather than the collection of provinces that typical, parochial conservatives prefer. It better suits their most avid modus operandi of dividing and conquering.
Boilievre is a classic boy in short pants who exemplifies the "Peter principle" in being way over his head, and clearly has no "big boy pants" in his closet. Many of us normally pleasant, and even parental people are watching this with great satisfaction, i.e. Trudeau with the help of the NDP whittling the cons down to this nub. I think it's been central to Trudeau's strategy, not only because he's been so systematically and successfully denigrated, but also because he does actually care about this country. Max makes a good point about his "joyful optimism" when it comes to that, which has very much been used against him when in fact it's a rare asset and vital to the important job he has. He's been perpetually presented, from the beginning, as too youthful and too boyish, but the guy's 50 odd for gods' sake, but in keeping with the usual petty and perverse conservative style, what they have accused HIM of is what THEY in fact are.

"Many of us ... are watching this with great satisfaction, i.e. Trudeau with the help of the NDP whittling the cons down to this nub. I think it's been central to Trudeau's strategy,"

Indeed. For some odd reason I keep thinking of a coil of rope.

However, not having a strong opponent -- by that I mean an opponent who actually has some depth and intellectual / policy substance and isn't just a cardboard cutout of a typical loudmouth angry male -- could make the Kid lazy. What I'd really like to see is more leadership from the NDP, which doesn't seem to fully grasp the fact that its MPs are actually governing the nation in a minority government and not just coasting along in the Lib's tailwind.

Laziness will not get the essential work done to do our full measure (not photo-op half measures) to save the planet and rebuild healthcare, perhaps as a 50% partner with the provinces, as the system was originally conceived.

I don't think you're giving enough credence to the complicating fact that 7 of the premiers ARE conservatives though, with all that entails, one being the likelihood that their preference is to privatize health care. And Duclos has said several times that the percentage is misleading, that all told it's more like 35%. You can see Trudeau's relictance to pour more money unconditionally into health care in Alberta for example when they're rolling in money already and have decided to mail cheques to people instead of investing in their public services of health care or education.

Canada is not, in software terms, broken. It's pretty buggy though. Poilievre would "fix" it by deciding he didn't like the names of some key supporting libraries and deleting them.