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A new federal political party wants to be a centrist alternative to the Conservatives and Liberals, but doing so is easier said than done.

The Canadian Future Party is being created by the 18-month-old non-profit advocacy group Centre Ice Canadians, with the goal of bringing “politically homeless” Canadians together.

Six months of discussions with “Canadians from coast to coast” revealed support for “a new, radical, centrist political option based on evidence, civic nationalism, fiscal responsibility, and social liberalism,” according to Centre Ice founder Rick Peterson in a Sept. 20 statement announcing the new party. Peterson is a former investment banker who came 12th in the 2017 federal Conservative leadership race.

Now, Canadian Future will begin the registration process with Elections Canada — which includes a requirement to sign up 250 founding members — and “prepare to contest elections,” according to the press release.

Centre Ice Canadians was originally called Centre Ice Conservatives, the name change, presumably, an effort to bring disillusioned Liberals into the fold.

“We're not talking about sort of a mushy middle in between an old left and right… We're talking about being at the sharp end of the arrow, trying to push things ahead,” said Dominic Cardy, interim leader of Canadian Future, in a phone interview with Canada’s National Observer. He emphasized the need to move away from rage farming and social media-driven politics in favour of doing the hard work to come up with policy solutions.

Cardy is an independent New Brunswick MLA for Fredericton West-Hanwell. He was the leader of the New Brunswick New Democratic Party from 2011 to 2016 and was later elected as a Progressive Conservative in 2018. He spent four years in Premier Blaine Higgs’ cabinet as education and early childhood development minister before resigning in 2022 — caucus also voted to expel him — in 2022 and he has sat as an independent since then.

Centre Ice Canadians surveyed a couple thousand people on its mailing list to gauge interest in forming a new political party and the response was an overwhelming yes, said Cardy. By 6 p.m. on Sept. 20, more than 250 members had signed up, according to Canadian Future executive director Chisholm Pothier.

Last month, Centre Ice published a draft policy framework that covers everything from housing to climate change (an issue it explicitly states is real).

The Canadian Future Party is being created by the 18-month-old non-profit advocacy group Centre Ice Canadians, with the goal of bringing “politically homeless” Canadians together.

For now, there are lots of steps to get registered with Elections Canada as well as doing the more challenging — but very rewarding — work to “convince people that this is actually worth their time,” said Cardy.

Canadian Future will be headed by a national council with a representative from each province and territory and it intends to hold a founding convention in 2024. The Centre Ice Canadians sports a team webpage that includes former Conservative MP Peter Kent and former Conservative Senate leader Marjory LeBreton. Former B.C. premier Christy Clark was once listed on the organization’s advisory council but is no longer there and did not return a request for comment.

“I have a hard time believing that they're going to move the needle in the election in terms of votes,” said Alex Marland, a professor of Canadian politics at Acadia University. But, he said, “maybe their goal is to move the needle in terms of conversation.”

There is a subset of people who aren’t at home with either the Liberals or Conservatives. For example, “blue” Liberals think the government shouldn’t run a deficit and want to see more fiscal restraint but see the federal Conservatives as too right of centre. On the flip side, people ideologically aligned with the now-dissolved Progressive Conservative Party of Canada have been without a political home for two decades. The People’s Party of Canada (PPC) has also pulled the federal Conservatives “a bit to the right,” so this new group could try to tug it slightly towards the centre, said Marland.

The electoral system is usually designed to support parties that get a lot of support in particular areas of the country — a clear example being the Bloc Quebecois —– and it’s unclear at this point where the appetite for a new centrist party is on a regional basis, said Marland.

Maxime Bernier's PPC has managed to “essentially capture the ideological soul of the Conservative Party, and has had a huge impact on Canadian politics,” said Cardy, pointing to the prevalence of narratives around vaccines and the World Economic Forum in the mainstream political debate.

He said it’s “awful” but also “a testament to the power of even a small political party to be able to change the narrative.” If Canadian Future’s efforts to win elections get other parties to step up their game a bit, that’s all to the good, said Cardy, adding if other parties come up with ideas worth stealing, “we’ll do that, too.”

Cardy acknowledged the challenging nature of this endeavour, particularly going up against the existing political establishment.

It also takes a lot of resources to form a new party and get electoral district associations up and running and hold candidate nomination contests, if necessary.

“One of the big resource challenges they are gonna have, that I don't think that they appreciate, is candidate vetting,” said Marland. Social media makes it easy for political opponents and the public to “dig up all these crazy things these people have said at some point in their life” and leave their party to do damage control, he pointed out. Existing parties have the benefit of incumbent, already-vetted candidates, but Canadian Future will be starting from scratch.

If things go badly, this new party has the potential to damage public perception of the very views and policies they seek to encourage, said Marland. For example, a lack of support for their centrist party and policies would tell everybody else that nobody is interested, he pointed out.

The party will need a charismatic leader who is credible and can attract a lot of attention and capture the public imagination, said Marland. Without that, “I would say this is dead in the water.”

Cardy said the new party aims to run a slate of candidates whenever the next federal election rolls around, which, if the Liberal-NDP agreement survives, would be October 2025 at the latest.

Natasha Bulowski / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer

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Another new political party? Well it’s taken the Greens more than 35 years to manage to elect a whole 2 MP’S, and a not much of anything more, except constant infighting while they try to figure out who and what they are or stand for.
And how many other “new” parties are lying dead on the road to Parliament? At least 3 in my lifetime. Good luck, because I highly doubt they’ve make any headway!

Frankly, something between the current Liberals and any of the "Conservative" parties over the past few decades is still, historically speaking, far right.
More power to them in diluting the "blue" vote.
The problem I see with a new party is that it'll need the $$ for their war chest that the carbon fuel industries provide. Unless they have some wealthy donors lined up ... and that never bodes well, either.

This "NDP/Liberal coalition" is already centrist. While the NDP aligns with parties such as Labour in Britain, the federal Liberals are pro-business conservatives who needed to get creative. The Liberals are closer to the Conservatives than they are to the NDP.

"Centre Ice Canadians was originally called Centre Ice Conservatives, the name change, presumably, an effort to bring disillusioned Liberals into the fold."

Who knows, given that reports have my compatriots polling higher for M. Poilievre than the incumbent party.

I think, however, that, given the names mentioned on its board, and the apparent zigzag political parh of the one fellow from NB (who surely must have chronic whiplash), it has the fragrance of right-wing opportunism and is likely aimed at conservatives who can't figure another way of wresting their party from the tenacious Reformers. As it's described here, I can't see it even being a home for Red Tories who, themselves, must surely be tiring of wandering the desert.

But, who knows?

One point of concern -- looking briefly at the linked page of draft policy -- is the following phrase:

"...after all, our institutions are just the collective decisions made by the people who run them."

That view is very, very troubling; one only need look to our south for the result and the fact their vaunted American civic institutions barely survived the previous administration, and they're certainly not yet in the clear.

Our institutions -- in which I include the Constitution and the Charter -- ought to be impervious to the "decisions made by the people who run them" and, certainly, the whims of a parliamentary majority achieved with thirty some odd percentage of the total votes cast. Institutions are forever (until legitimately amended), a gov't is a temporary steward of our institutions.

Full stop.

PS : "Maxime Bernier's PPC has managed to “essentially capture the ideological soul of the Conservative Party, and has had a huge impact on Canadian politics,”

It may be good marketing for the new actor to say this (framing the CPC as "wildly" right, rather than merely far right) but I suggest the ideological locus (it doesn't have a soul, IMO) rests firmly with Stephen Harper's brand of conservatism.

Well said.

All I see here is an effort to recreate a slightly more rightist Progressive Conservative Party not quite as scorched by extremists as the current collection of conspiracy fantasists and religious nutbars. Nothing new, except an opportunity to skim votes from the Conservatives mainly, but possibly from the Liberals too, to an extent.

If Christy Clark shows up all smiley face in front of the cameras, run! As BC premier she brought vindictiveness, dishonesty and wilful ignorance about party corruption and sleaze (criminal money laundering at casinos, private access to the premier for huge payments to the party, approval of projects for donations (e.g. TMX and various developments ... it's all coincidental, right?)) in record volumes to the highest office in the province.

She also dissed Metro Vancouver mayors (she was, after all, firstly defeated by none other than current premier David Eby in Vancouver) and forced the Metro to hold a plebiscite on crucial transit expansion -- the only BC urban area mandated to do so, ever, let alone with a foot on its throat. You don't diss a big city without consequences. Predictably, she lost nine urban ridings in the Metro and in waltzed the John Horgan NDP.

Invite Christy Clark into a position of influence in a new federal party at your peril.