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Pierre Poilievre and Canada’s Conservatives recruit Brexit supporter and ‘canceled’ ex-general to boost base

The former MEP even argued last summer that Poilievre would be the perfect candidate to replace Boris Johnson as leader of Britain’s Tories.

Hannan made the cheeky endorsement in a July 2022 Daily Telegraph column, praising Poilievre as a ‘shameless tax cut’ who ‘doesn’t hide from culture wars’ and swooning over his ‘social media mastery’ to quickly broaden the party’s base – exactly the type of figure Britain’s Tories needed.

“It’s absolute no-brainer,” he wrote.

Poilievre, who was elected leader of the party a year ago, climbs the polls as he hammers elites and the Liberal government while praising ‘ordinary people’, ordinary Canadian workers struggling with high interest rates, inflation and a real estate market that many families have fallen victim to. the price is priceless – at a time when the global economy is still plagued by disruption from pandemic decision-making and crises like the war in Ukraine.

Unlike American political conventions, Canadian events are superficial grassroots conferences where behind-the-scenes chatter between key players and organizers is more important to the party than what is widely publicized on the ground – at exception of blowouts on controversial policies, like this one. that seeks to limit gender-affirming care.

The list of speakers at the biennial conference has already turned heads, with a speech by the former politician who was instrumental in pushing for Brexit and another by a retired Canadian general who made waves with culture war comments controversial enough to force his resignation. of the board of directors of a research organization.

Hannan, an outspoken critic of pandemic lockdowns and head of a free market think tank called the Institute for Free Trade, is back on demand. He was a hit at the 2018 Conservative convention in Nova Scotia, poking fun at Trudeau as a “substitute teacher bimbo with a cute smile.”

He also made some arguments for a trade policy update: “What about a trade deal between the UK and Canada that just says whatever is legal in your country is automatically legal in ours and vice versa? This applies to services. This applies to professional qualifications,” he said at the time. “And if we do such an agreement between the UK and Canada, it becomes very difficult not to extend this same agreement to the United States. »

Another speaker, the retired lieutenant general. Michel Maisonneuve will address the convention when it opens Thursday evening.

His last major public speech earned him an O grade from senior Canadian military officers, followed by dismissal from the board of directors of a chronic pain research organization for his comments criticizing the policies on climate change and canceling culture. He touched on a series of issues related to Canada’s culture war, such as the removal of historic statues and apologies by leaders to various groups. Maisonneuve protested against its “cancellation”.

The speech, quoted in the Ottawa Citizen newspaper, took aim at divisive political leaders, but did not name anyone in particular: “Can you imagine a military leader calling half his command deplorable, fringe radicals and less than that they fight as one?

Stephen Saideman, Director of the Canadian Defense and Security Network at Carleton University, was present at this speech. He wrote a warning in the Globe and Mail newspaper that Maisonneuve’s appearance could be a troubling sign. Canada could follow in the footsteps of the United States with the growing politicization of civil-military relations, via a political party giving a platform to Maisonneuve’s claims that the military has become too woke.

Not that the Liberals didn’t also mix military and politics. In 2015, Trudeau appointed the former lieutenant colonel. Harjit Sajjan as Minister of Defense – an unusual move in Canadian politics to appoint a former military officer to the helm.

The Tories have also reserved a speaking spot for former Defense Minister Peter MacKay, a party statesman figure with a Stephen Harper-era heritage who ran for party leadership in 2020 with a more centrist appeal and who has already campaigned for Canada to meet its goals. NATO spending target.

There is a balance to be played in managing all the theatrical and messaging aspects.

“For the Conservative Party of Canada to succeed, it still needs to buy into the big party ethos,” said JP Lewis, a professor of political science at the University of New Brunswick and an expert on the Canadian conservative movement.

It even speaks to the mix of characters in play – more polemical characters and old-guard speakers like MacKay.

“Perhaps just to contrast with the Republican Party, for our right-wing party, there’s still an attempt to maintain that balance, … to maintain that coalition of center-right voters — and politicians, for that matter.”

The main event will be the speech of Poilievre, who took over the leadership a year ago and established himself in Canadian politics as the “clear frontrunner” based on his strong polls, due to “fatigue towards the Trudeau government, notes Lewis. – although it could still be a year or two before the next election is called.

During the Liberal convention in May, Justin Trudeau took campaign photos against Poilievre, calling his rival a caricature: “His slogans and buzzwords are not serious solutions to the serious challenges we face.”

Poilievre, who has struck a chord of collective anxiety over tight household finances, shot back at Trudeau when interest rates rose in June: “You and your spending, your out of control debt and your tax system are driving us into a head-on situation. large-scale financial crisis. And I won’t let you.

The Tory leader takes the stage on Friday in prime time, having worked to soften his tone over the summer, shedding his old image as an aggressive politician to appear more approachable.

He will have everyone’s attention.