Canada’s Conservative Leadership Race Boils Down to Populism and Principles

Quebec MP Steven Blaney has entered the race (wikimedia).

By David Clement

Quebec MP Steven Blaney is one of the latest candidates to throw his hat into the ring for Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) leadership. Blaney was expected to shake up the race given that he is the second Québécois candidate. Blaney sure did change the field, but for reasons that have very little to do with French being his first language.

Blaney’s first policy announcement was to ban the Niqab in citizenship ceremonies, voting stations and for civil servants. When asked about the unconstitutionality of such a proposal, Blaney responded that he would use the notwithstanding clause to ensure the bill passes regardless of what the courts rule.

This call to populism is concerning for two reasons. First, Canadians overwhelming rejected the identity politics play in their ousting of Harper’s Conservatives in the last election. Second, using the notwithstanding clause without support from the public or the courts is a level of heavy-handedness that borders on totalitarianism. As if this wasn’t enough, Blaney has now called for a Royal Commission on Canadian Identity, as if the fabric of the national culture is so fragile that it warrants its own inquiry.

What is depressing about the prospect of the CPC is that Blaney’s push toward populism was not the CPC’s first dance with paranoia this leadership race. The path to making a policy like a niqab ban or a identity commission even remotely salient was paved with Leitch’s unworkable, unreasonable and uncomfortable proposal to screen immigrants for “Canadian Values.”

Leitch’s proposal is unworkable because her plan would cost taxpayers an incredible amount of money. Having face-to-face screenings for every incoming immigrant would exponentially inflate the Ministry of Immigration’s budget, which would be a fiscal disaster considering that the Liberals are set to add over $100 billion to the national debt over the course of their mandate. Her screening proposal is unreasonable because there is no evidence to suggest that it is even needed.

Immigrants already go through an extensive screening process that includes background checks for criminal behavior. Moreover, the acts of terror that have occurred on Canadian soil have be carried out by homegrown terrorists, not immigrants. Those facts demonstrate the uncomfortable nature of Leitch’s plan. It is uncomfortable because it is a clear and pathetic ploy to drum up nativist paranoia.

Luckily for CPC voters, there is a principled alternative to the rise of populist nonsense. Maxime Bernier, who is officially the frontrunner according to recent polls, represents a clear and consistent vision for a Conservative Party and a country that embodies fiscal responsibility and social tolerance. Bernier’s economic platform is bold and includes numerous policies that other politicians haven’t had the courage to touch. Ending supply management, revitalizing healthcare, lowering personal income taxes, establishing free trade between provinces, abolishing the capital gains tax and lowering corporate taxes to 10 percent represent Bernier’s conviction and his steadfast dedication to the principles of freedom, fairness and responsibility.

Come May 2017, the CPC and its members will have to make an important decision. They carry with them the responsibility to define what the CPC will look like in the post-Harper era. Will the party be the official opposition that plays identity politics while scapegoating minorities and immigrants? Or, will the party shake this populist curse and get back to focusing on the economy, job growth and ensuring prosperity for future generations?

David Clement is a freelance writer based in Oakville Ontario and the Director of North American Programs for the non-profit organization Students For Liberty.

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