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Handshake snubs and a defence of the truckers in an ill-tempered CPC debate

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Conservative members planning to vote in the party’s upcoming leadership election got their first chance to see the candidates in action on Thursday night.

The first debate of the campaign was an ill-tempered affair that saw the two front-runners battle it out while other candidates called for unity.

In this week’s roundup of the Conservative leadership race, we’re starting with Thursday night’s debate and we’re taking a look at how U.S. politics is once again creeping across the border.

Poilievre v. Charest, round one

The tone was set in Thursday night’s Conservative leadership debate when Ontario-area MP Pierre Poilievre strode onto the stage and, instead of a warm handshake from rival Jean Charest, he got the cold shoulder.

All the other candidates happily shook each other’s hands.

Charest might have sensed what was coming, because it took about 15 minutes before Poilievre launched his first assault on Charest, criticizing the former Quebec premier for his government’s fiscal record. Later in the debate, Poilievre raised questions about Charest’s recent employment by Chinese telecommunications Huawei.

“Mr. Charest needs to come clean with how much money he got from Huawei. We need to know the truth here. The Liberals are going to ask that. He’s never told us how much he got paid,” said Poilievre.

“This is a company whose software and hardware has been banned from the 5G networks of four of the Five Eye countries because of allegations, and many cases proven, that they have used it for espionage,” he said.

In his defence, Charest said that Huawei was welcomed into Canada by Stephen Harper’s government and that he was working from within the company to bring Canadian detainees Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig home from China.

The debate took place at Ottawa’s Shaw Conference Centre to mark the beginning of the Canada Strong and Free Network’s conference that brings Canadian conservatives together to network and attend workshops and speeches. The conference runs until Saturday.

Ontario MLA Roman Baber and Ontario MPs Scott Aitchison and Leslyn Lewis were the other participants, while Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown chose not to attend.

Baber frequently pointed to his record criticizing COVID-19 lockdowns and mandates, which got him kicked out of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party caucus, and said he would bring political courage to the federal party. Aitchison made several pleas for unity and complained that the tenor of the debate was hurting the party’s image, while Lewis touted her pro-life credentials.

The candidates agreed on a few things, such as their collective rejection of a consumer carbon tax and the shoddiness of the mainstream media, but the main event was the hour-long skirmish between Charest and Poilievre.

At one point Lewis knocked Poilievre off track by accusing him of not sufficiently supporting the “freedom convoy” that closed downtown Ottawa for several weeks and blocked two border crossings in the country. When Charest interjected to accuse the trucker protesters of criminal activity he was met with loud boos from the audience.

When the debate drew to a close, once again all the candidates shook hands while Charest and Poilievre conspicuously avoided each other. The next debate takes place on May 11 in Edmonton.

Roe v. Wade causes ripples in Canada

A draft decision overturning a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision on abortion leaked to the press this week and has predictably caused some ripples in Canadian politics.

In the Conservative leadership race, some politicians pro-actively released statements while others ducked for cover on the controversial issue.

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown issued a statement about the importance of “protecting women’s rights” and urged others to join him.

“Abortion in Canada should be safe, legal, and, in my personal opinion, rare. That’s why my government will support women and families with policies that encourage other options, such as adoption and increased parental supports,” Brown said. “This is why it’s important for us to be clear where we stand. A Conservative Party led by me will not change Canada’s abortion laws. Period.”

On Tuesday, Jean Charest tweeted that he is pro-choice and that a government with him at the helm “will not support legislation restricting reproductive rights.” Charest said that he would allow MPs to bring forward private member’s bills on “matters of conscience,” but that he would not vote to support them.

Roman Baber also pledged to allow MPs to bring forward legislation on the issue.

Although Leslyn Lewis refused to comment on the draft before it was officially unveiled by the court, she has released a number of anti-abortion policies, including a ban on sex-selective abortion.

Lewis, Scott Aitchison, and Pierre Poilievre are all sitting MPs and have been urged not to comment on the decision by interim leader Candice Bergen.

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.