Expanding the potential support base of the Conservative Party can be done without sacrificing core principles.
In a well-produced and crafted video, CPC leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre shared a new message:
“The left-right spectrum exists nowhere in the real world.”
Here’s the full video below:
“The left-right spectrum exists nowhere in the real world.
You know what does?
The cost of gas, groceries and homes.”
This is an effective message, largely because it has the benefit of being true.
While those of us who follow politics closely often talk about left & right, that is rarely the concern of most people in the country.
And understandably so.
People have lives to live and can’t spend all their time focused on where exactly a political party claims to line up on the political spectrum.
Especially in today’s world, with surging inflation and global instability, people are looking to see who will propose real, concrete ideas that will make their lives better.
Left & Right solutions to problems
When pundits talk about the CPC ‘expanding their base,’ they generally mean the CPC should pick someone like Jean Charest who won’t deviate much from what the Liberals are doing.
This is often referred to as ‘electability.’
Yet, recent history shows that hasn’t worked out well for the Conservatives.
There is another way to be electable however, and it doesn’t require the abandonment of core principles.
Instead, it recognizes that what matters most is accurately discovering the roots of the problems we face in this country, and then offering solutions to those problems.
This is where ideology still matters, as a Liberal, Conservative, New Democrat, etc… will likely offer different solutions, even as they identify the same problems.
But in the CPC leadership race so far – and even preceding it – Poilievre was talking about things few others were.
He tracked problems back to their real cause, such as the connection between housing prices and central bank money printing. Then, he proposes conservative solutions, such as sound money and limiting the role of government.
Trump, or Reagan?
Predictably, Pierre Poilievre is already being compared to Donald Trump by some in the establishment media.
For example, the Toronto Star had this to say:
Canada’s Conservative party is changing. The question is whether it goes down a right-wing populist path — as Republicans south of the border have with Donald Trump — or whether it takes a centrist approach to appeal to a wider audience. In many ways, that question reveals the cracks in the nearly 20-year-old marriage of convenience between the Progressive Conservatives and the Canadian Alliance, one that risks ending up in a nasty divorce.
The only declared candidate, Carleton MP Pierre Poilievre, is a polarizing figure with a “take no prisoners” attitude. He recently called Europe’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine shockingly “weak,” embraced the so-called “Freedom Convoy,” and called COVID-19 public health measures a purposeful attempt by governments “to try and take away our freedom and give themselves more power.”
This kind of binary thinking (it’s either ‘Trump’ or ‘centrism’), misses the truth.
And, while it is tiresome that politics in this country is constantly compared to the United States, if those comparisons are being made incorrectly it is important to correct them.
When looking at Poilievre’s message and communication style, it is much closer to that of former US President Ronald Reagan than it is to Donald Trump.
It is often forgotten now, but Reagan was long-seen as a divisive figure, and was regularly criticized by the media for being ‘extreme’ and ‘dangerous.’
Of course, Reagan ended up being one of the more popular Presidents in US history, and is fondly regarded in much of Europe for his strength and moral courage in opposition to the Soviet Union.
Unlike Trump – who had no big problem running up large deficits – Reagan spent much of his political career talking about the importance of sound money and reducing the size of government, though due to the need to make compromises with Democrats in the House of Representatives during his tenure the deficit surged.
Especially early on in his first term, when interest rates surged to contain runaway inflation, Reagan would often speak in depth about economic policy and the impact it would have on people:
Reagan talks about how money has lost value, and how this creates a disincentive to save, similar to what we see today. He linked complex issues to the day-to-day experience of regular people.
As you can see watching Reagan speak, it’s a more nuanced, intellectual style akin to Poilievre, rather than being comparable to Trump.
The criticism Reagan faced was similar to the attacks lobbed at Poilievre, including that he was too ‘right-wing,’ and that he was too ‘aggressive’ in how he communicated.
By the end of course, Reagan was dubbed ‘The Great Communicator.’
“Not, left, not right, but forward”
To further cement the Reagan connection, consider this excerpt from Reagan’s famous “A Time For Choosing” speech on October 27, 1964:
“You and I are told increasingly we have to choose between a left or right. Well I’d like to suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There’s only an up or down – [up] man’s old-aged dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. And regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course.”
This Reagan-Poilievre comparison also holds relevance for Canada’s foreign policy.
Reagan was initially considered a ‘lightweight’ in regards to foreign policy, and his insistence on heavily criticizing the Soviet Union (even calling them an “Evil Empire” at one point was seen as too ‘provocative’ and ‘escalatory.’
Yet, the combination of his strong belief in freedom and his communication abilities helped him make an effective argument against the Soviet Union and built support for confronting and weakening Communism. It also gave him the ability to negotiate on a human level with Soviet leaders, moving beyond his early ‘evil empire’ rhetoric to find some limited common ground in the interest of avoiding nuclear war.
Similarly, with Canada facing a world in which the Chinese Communist Party seeks to expand their influence, and in which Vladimir Putin is attempting to reconstruct the Soviet Union, having leaders who believe in limited government and the power of freedom, and who are able to communicate that message effectively is deeply important.
If Pierre Poilievre continues on this course, on moving beyond the narratives that have restrained political debate and discussion in the past few elections, the Conservative Party could broaden their support without abandoning their principles, and – most importantly – Canadians could see real solutions about the serious problems facing our nation.
Photo – YouTube