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Crypto controversy and carbon taxes are heating up the Conservative leadership race

News

The big controversy this week in the Conservative leadership race happened when Ottawa-area MP Pierre Poilievre bought a sandwich at a shawarma shop in London, Ontario.

Tahini’s restaurant isn’t quite the Watergate Hotel, but it kept political commentators busy on Tuesday when Poilievre paid for his lunch using cryptocurrency.

In our weekly round-up of the Conservative leadership race, we’ll take a look at some new polling, explain the recent crypto controversy, and look at what the candidates are saying about the carbon tax.

Charest gets good news from Nanos poll

Jean Charest is the candidate most Canadians believe has the best chance of winning a general election, according to a new poll by Nanos commissioned for the Globe and Mail.

The poll found that 30 percent of Canadians think Charest has the best chance to win an election, while 22 percent think Poilievre is the most electable.“Nanos conducted a random survey of
1,000 Canadians between March 18th and 20th, 2022. The margin of error for this survey is ±3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.” https://nanos.co/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/2022-2115-Globe-March-Conservative-Leadership-Populated-Report-with-Tabs.pdf

The survey also found that 19 percent of Canadians said none of the candidates has the best chance, while 24 percent are unsure. Patrick Brown got the support of 3 percent of Canadians, while Leslyn Lewis came in with 2 percent support.

The poll doesn’t do much to tell us about how the leadership race is shaping up, because it surveyed all Canadians rather than just the Conservative Party members who will be choosing the new leader. It may be a good data point for party members looking for a leader who will be broadly appealing in a general election.

Last week’s Angus Reid Institute poll, which surveyed past Conservative voters, found that Poilievre was favoured over Charest by 54 percent to 15 percent respectively.

Crypto controversy

Pierre Poilievre caused a minor controversy on Tuesday when he bought a shawarma sandwich with Bitcoin.

Poilievre’s enthusiastic embrace of Bitcoin has been both a way to show he is a fan of innovation and technology, and also a cudgel against the government, which he blames for rising inflation. The owner of the shawarma shop has said that he used Bitcoin as a hedge against rising prices.

The event kicked up a day-long debate about whether candidates should be embracing the polarizing and unregulated cryptocurrencies.

Even The Hub is polarized on the topic. Frequent Hub contributor Matt Spoke lauded Poilievre’s embrace of cryptocurrency, while our executive director Rudyard Griffiths called it “embarrassing” for someone running for prime minister to embrace the technology.

The crypto controversy is part of a broader trend we’ll be keeping an eye on at The Hub. Although most observers are viewing the race through an ideological lens, there is a significant age gap between former Quebec Premier Jean Charest and his frontrunner rivals. Poilievre and Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown are older millennials and Conservative MP Leslyn Lewis is part of Generation X, roughly in the middle of the pack.

“This age gap — what one might describe as a battle between the late boomers and geriatric millennials — is fundamental to understanding the ensuing Conservative leadership race. The generational divide manifests itself in both obvious and subtle ways,” wrote The Hub‘s editor-at-large Sean Speer, at the National Post recently.“It’s fair to say that Poilievre is among the most effective politicians in Canada at using social media to communicate directly to his audience. His videos on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube regularly run up thousands and thousands of views. Charest, by contrast, didn’t have a Twitter account until his campaign launch earlier this month.” https://nationalpost.com/opinion/sean-speer-charest-against-poilievre-is-a-proxy-for-boomers-against-millennials

“The subtle expressions, however, are more important for understanding the race dynamics. That’s because these generational insights transcend individual candidates and reflect deeper trends within Conservative politics.”

With younger conservatives focusing on issues like housing affordability and generally being more enthusiastic about cryptocurrencies, it’s becoming clear that Poilievre is targeting his fellow millennials.

The first carbon tax conflagration

It’s likely to be the first of many, but the first news cycle about the carbon tax kicked off Thursday night in suburban Ottawa.

Pierre Poilievre held an “Axe the Carbon Tax” rally at a local convention centre and railed against the increased levy on carbon emissions. Right now, there is all-candidate consensus that hiking the carbon tax another $10 per tonne, which goes into effect Friday, is the wrong move.Conservative leadership candidates jockey for position on the carbon tax. https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/carbon-tax-poilievre-charest-brown-1.6402881

While Poilievre can campaign against the tax with zeal, Charest and Brown have a political history that complicates things. In his brief tenure as leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, Brown supported a carbon tax, although he now says it was a mistake. Charest brought in a cap-and-trade system in Quebec when he was premier.

All the frontrunner candidates have been clear they don’t believe a carbon tax on consumers is the right way to tackle climate change. Charest has floated the idea of an industrial carbon tax on heavy emitters, which is a plan that has been politically viable even in Ontario and Alberta, where provincial premiers have campaigned against the federal carbon tax.Feds OK Alberta’s carbon tax on big industrial emitters https://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/feds-ok-alberta-s-carbon-tax-on-big-industrial-emitters-1.4718423

Polling shows Poilievre has the edge in early stages of Conservative leadership campaign

News

The number of participants in the Conservative leadership race grew to double digits this week as the first deadline for candidates to submit a hefty security deposit looms less than a month away.

Although the field is growing crowded, new polling this week shows a clear division between the handful of candidates who will likely be commanding first-ballot votes and the rest of the field.

In our first weekly roundup of the battle to lead Canada’s Conservative Party, we’ll sort through the polling, look at some high-profile endorsements and get a sense of the landscape of the race.

Polling battles

A new Angus Reid Institute pollPoilievre rallies Conservative, PPC base, Charest has more room to grow across the centre. https://angusreid.org/cpc-leadership-charest-poilievre/ helped illuminate the race this week, with Ottawa-area MP Pierre Poilievre continuing to enjoy the support of current Conservatives and Charest showing some cross-party appeal.

Poilievre is the most appealing candidate to the general public, with 25 percent support compared to Charest’s 20 percent support. Poilievre is also the most appealing candidate to past Conservative voters, with 54 percent support compared to Charest’s 15 percent support.

Poilievre’s team took the media coverage of the poll as proof that the Canadian media has lazily fixed a false narrative to the race. Most stories paint Poilievre as the “spiritual leader” of the conservative movement and Jean Charest as the candidate who can attract swing voters.

It’s true that the media likes a simple and tidy narrative, but it also shows the sheer number of potential headlines that can come out of a single poll. Here’s a sampling:

CTV: Poilievre most liked among CPC, PPC voters, Charest drawing support from centre: survey

CBC: Charest has the edge in Ontario over Conservative leadership rival Poilievre, poll suggests

Western Standard: Poll shows CPC leadership race lies between Poilievre and Charest

It’s clear from the poll that Charest’s path to victory lies in signing up new members who describe themselves as “moderate.” Among past Liberal voters, Charest is dominant with 32 percent support compared to Poilievre’s four percent support. CBC also managed to find good newsCharest has the edge in Ontario over Conservative leadership rival Poilievre, poll suggests. https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/angus-reid-poll-conservative-leadership-race-1.6392674 in the polling data for Charest in Ontario, where 46 percent of respondents would consider voting for him, compared to 41 percent for Poilievre.

The Angus Reid Institute poll suggests an uphill climb for Conservative MP Leslyn Lewis and Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, who are polling at 15 percent and six percent respectively. The poll was conducted between March 10 and 15, which likely gave an advantage to early entrants into the race.

It’s endorsement season

Brown’s campaign likely won’t be too concerned about the Angus Reid Institute poll that went into the field before he’d officially announced his candidacy and they’ll be pointing to a high-profile new supporter as evidence of the candidate’s momentum.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner announced her position as Brown’s national campaign co-chair on Saturday, describing him as “someone who can win a general election.”

Poilievre spent a portion of the week campaigning in Quebec, attracting the endorsement of Yves Lévesque, the former mayor of Trois-Rivières. It’s not the most high-profile endorsement, but it was accompanied by a Trois-Rivières event that drew 200 supporters and raised some eyebrows. Lévesque will serve as Poilievre’s campaign co-chair in Quebec, along with Senator Claude Carignan.

In his column for CTV News, former NDP leader Tom Mulcair speculated that Charest will be hoping for the endorsement of former prime minister Brian Mulroney, although he writes that the relationship has “not always been an easy one.” Mulcair identified the other big endorsements yet to happen as former prime minister Stephen Harper and former cabinet minister and leadership candidate Peter MacKay.Mulcair also wrote that the race “is shaping up to be a lot more fun than the previous races that produced Scheer and O’Toole as cannon fodder for Trudeau’s Liberals.” https://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/tom-mulcair-why-pierre-poilievre-has-a-double-advantage-1.5832687

How the race stands

A few more candidates joined the race this week, so it’s worth taking a step back and surveying the landscape.

We have front-runners in Poilievre, Charest, Lewis, and Brown. The remaining candidates are rural Ontario MP Scott Aitchison, B.C. MP Marc Dalton, Ontario MPP Roman Baber, former Conservative candidate Bobby Singh, and a Saskatchewan businessman named Joseph Bourgault.

And the race may be up to ten candidates. Global News spotted on Thursday that former Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill MP Leona Alleslev has launched a website touting her candidacy for leader, although she hasn’t officially joined the race.

It’s likely that some of these candidates will fall out of the race, as the party imposes strict requirements for participation. Each candidate has to provide a $50,000 deposit by April 19 to continue in the race and, by April 29, they have to provide 500 signatures from party members The signatures must span at least 30 Electoral Districts in 7 provinces. and pay the remaining $150,000 registration and a $100,000 security deposit. Eight candidates failed to qualify at some point in the 2020 Conservative leadership race that saw Erin O’Toole become leader of the party.