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Canada’s conservatives gather in a moment of ideological turmoil

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Conservatives from across Canada are descending on Ottawa this weekend to network and take stock of a movement that is in political and ideological flux.

The Canada Strong and Free Network is set to host a three-day conference from Thursday to SaturdayThe 14th Canada Strong and Free Networking Conference will be back in the nation’s Capital May 5-7, 2022 at the Shaw Centre. that will kick off with a leadership debate between the contenders for the Conservative leadership on Thursday evening.

With panels on health care, the future of work, and the state of the federation, the conference could find conservatives in a mood for introspection.

Federally, the Conservative Party has been out of power for seven years and is in the process of deciding the third leader who will attempt to swim in the wake of former prime minister Stephen Harper. Provincially, the picture is a little brighter for conservatives, with centre-right governments in Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta, among others.

Take a closer look, though, and you’ll find those governments roiled by the COVID-19 pandemic and with various levels of discontent among the conservative base that anchors them. In Alberta, Premier Jason Kenney is in the midst of an extraordinary leadership review that threatens his government.Jason Kenney urges UCP to back him or risk election loss to Alberta NDP. https://globalnews.ca/news/8748659/ucp-leadership-review-jason-kenney/

On top of all that is a generational shift, accelerated and magnified by ire about pandemic restrictions,A recent Ipsos poll found that Canadian adults under 35 were most likely to sympathize with the trucker protests. https://thehub.ca/2022-03-14/truckers-barstool-conservatives-and-the-leave-us-alone-coalition-are-we-seeing-a-new-populist-wave-in-canada/ as millennials begin to reach middle-age and increasingly assert their ideas on the conservative movement.

Jamil Jivani, an author and former national radio show host, will be looking to tie together these loose threads as he steps into his new role as president of the Canada Strong and Free Network. Jivani officially takes over on June 1 but he is already highly involved in the organization and will deliver opening and closing remarks at the conference.

“When we say there’s a conservative movement, I hope that people hear that and think it’s a place that embraces heterodoxy and genuine dissent and disagreement. And I think that’s different from what we see from the other side of the political spectrum,” said Jivani, in a recent interview with The Hub.

Jivani will be debating Reason Magazine’s Robby Soave on Friday afternoon about regulating Big Tech,Soave’s recent book Tech Panic is an examination of recent calls to regulate Big Tech from both sides of the aisle. https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Tech-Panic/Robby-Soave/9781982159597 which is an indication of both Jivani’s desire to embrace debate and a manifestation of his unconventional political philosophy. Jivani has urged governments to pay close attention to the increasing cultural and technological power of global tech giants.

The Canada Strong and Free Network evolved from the Manning Centre and has traditionally been a home for a libertarian-infused, Prairie conservatism. Jivani said that will always be a major element of the movement, but that it’s also worth looking at the issues that animate young conservatives, like inequality in the economy and Canada’s housing crisis.

“I also think that conservatives of my generation are very sensitive to cultural power. It’s one of the reasons why Elon Musk gets all the love and attention that he does these days, because he’s become a bit of a symbol of being able to push back against cultural dominance that liberals have enjoyed in a lot of different institutions around our country,” said Jivani.

Although his ideological disposition will be different than anything the organization has seen before, Jivani said he doesn’t want to make it a vessel for his own policy preferences.

“The Canada Strong and Free Network should never reflect the politics of one particular person. And I think that even from the very beginning, Preston Manning made that a priority. And I certainly, inspired by him, would continue down that path,” said Jivani.

The changes at the Canada Strong and Free Network reflect a generational shift happening in the Conservative Party of Canada and broader society.

The Conservative leadership race is also playing host to an intragenerational contest between Jean Charest, who came to prominence in the 1980s, and Pierre Poilievre, who has reached out to younger voters by emphasizing issues like housing affordability and cryptocurrency.

Although Poilievre is two years too old to officially be a millennial, he has tried to tie a coalition together with the idea of increased freedom, which he says transcends generations, geography, and even the various factions within the conservative movement.

“Freedom is really the principle that unites us all as conservatives. Fiscal conservatives want economic freedom. Social conservatives want religious freedom. Libertarians want online and technological freedom. Rural and firearms conservatives want the right to own their own property without undue confiscation. Progressive conservatives want women and gays and minorities to have the freedoms to live their own lives without government interference and discrimination. Freedom binds us all together,” said Poilievre in an interview with The Post Millennial.

Jivani will be attempting to pull off a similar feat with the Canada Strong and Free Network by injecting some youth into the organization but also encouraging dialogue along generational lines.

“The conservative movement, in order for it to have the impact that we’d like, needs to really be able to pass on wisdom from older generations to younger generations,” said Jivani.

Conservative leadership hopefuls reach a carbon tax consensus

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One of the most intriguing questions of the Conservative leadership race is whether any candidate would put their head above the parapet and support a carbon tax.

With news this week that Jean Charest plans to scrap the carbon tax and revert to Canada’s pre-2015 emissions targets, the answer appears to be a resounding no.

Today is the final day for candidates to secure a place on the final ballot, so in our Conservative leadership roundup, we’ll take a look at the state of play and dig into the candidates’ carbon tax positions.

Carbon tax opposition across the board

Jean Charest officially declared his opposition to the federal consumer carbon tax this week and promised to abide by emissions targets established by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, rather than the current targets promised by the current Liberal government.

Charest said he would respect the individual decisions made by provinces to battle climate change. The current policy functions as a backstop, imposing a tax on provinces that don’t meet the federal standard.

Charest told the Canadian Press on Monday that he didn’t want to go “down the route of a more complex consumer tax or consumer pricing.” That’s likely a reference to Erin O’Toole’s carbon tax proposal last year that would have deposited refunds onto “low carbon savings accounts” that could be used to make environmentally-friendly purchases.

Charest’s plan also promised tax credits for carbon capture and storage technology and would remove the federal portion of the HST on electric vehicles, high-efficiency windows, and Energy Star appliances. He is also pledging to roll out tax credits for carbon capture and storage technology and for carbon dioxide removal facilities.

Patrick Brown, who has previously supported a carbon tax, said in hindsight it was “not the right approach,”During his campaign launch speech, Brown told supporters that Conservatives care about lowering greenhouse gas emissions and the Conservative Party must be part of the solution to climate change. https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/carbon-tax-poilievre-charest-brown-1.6402881 and promised to consult the party members and caucus on his plan for the environment.

Poilievre, who has been consistently and loudly anti-carbon tax, has tried to paint Charest and Brown as supporters of the policy, referring to it as the “Trudeau-Charest-Brown” carbon tax. While both have flirted with the idea in the past, it seems like carbon taxes are officially a non-starter in the current leadership race.

Ontario MP Scott Aitchison has said that while the carbon tax is an effective policy, it is also an unfair one, and promised to scrap it.We need to work with municipalities and we need to help Canadians reduce their footprint, not punish them.” https://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/conservative-leadership-candidate-aitchison-calls-carbon-tax-effective-but-would-scrap-it-1.5862695

Charest’s plan aligns with recommendations from the advocacy group Conservatives for Clean Growth.“Canada has unprecedented economic and technological opportunities as the world moves to Net Zero.” https://conservativesforcleangrowth.ca/

Although the group doesn’t advocate for a retail carbon tax, its website says that “pricing industrial emissions” is one of the tools needed in an effective climate plan.

That’s a compromise many Canadians have seen before, with even fervent opponents of the carbon tax like Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney settling for a tax on heavy emitters.

The final candidate deadline is today

The deadline to get a spot on the final ballot of the leadership race is today and several candidates on the margins will have spent this week fundraising frantically to secure a spot.

So far, Leslyn Lewis, Jean Charest, Pierre Poilievre, Roman Baber, Patrick Brown and Scott Aitchison have been verified by the party.

The candidates must provide 500 signaturesThe signatures must span at least 30 Electoral Districts in 7 provinces. from party members and pay the remaining $150,000 registration fee and a $100,000 security deposit.

A recent poll by Ipsos for Global News shows the uphill climb for many candidates even to get recognized among Conservative voters.

Only Charest and Poilievre tallied less than 50 percent of respondents saying they “don’t know enough about them” to answer poll questions.

The poll also shows that Brown and Charest are the most polarizing candidates with Poilievre the most popular, with 49 percent favourability and 20 percent unfavourability.

“It suggests that any attempt by the Charest campaign to mount an anyone-but-Poilievre drive might have limited appeal. An anyone-but-Charest message could actually have more traction,” wrote polling expert Éric Grenier in The Writ, his newsletter providing analysis on Canadian elections.