Conrad Black: Poilievre has a real chance to break the Liberal status quo and that has his enemies trembling – National Post

Posted: May 25, 2022 at 3:55 am

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To the extent that Poilievre threatens some change to the comfortable Liberal status quo built on durable advantages in Quebec and urban Ontario, Poilievre renders the political establishment uneasy

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There is naturally increasing pressure on Pierre Poilievre as the apparent front-runner in the federal Conservative leadership race, and as has been mentioned here before, the drearily predictable method of attempting to derail the leading candidate is the malicious insinuation of a harsh and Darwinian character, embellished by innuendos of racial biases. Some of the discussion about Poilievres declared intent to fire the governor of the Bank of Canada has essentially been cited as evidence of Poilievres supposedly callous disregard for normal human civility.

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Allegations of racism, however subtle, against almost any current prominent federal politician in any party are nonsense. Last week I received a form letter from an unverifiable sender, likely sent to a wide range of addressees, claiming that Poilievres alleged non-renunciation of the white replacement theory constituted evidence that he is a white supremacist. This is standard in these campaigns, but it is accentuated by the fact that Poilievre is approximately as conservative in policy terms as Stephen Harper and to the right of all other federal Conservative leaders since George Drew, who retired as party leader in 1956.

The frenzied hostility of much of the media to Poilievre has nothing to do with any humanitarian shortcomings they may profess to perceive; it reflects the fact that he is, if elected party leader, quite likely to move both his party and the country appreciably towards the centre of the political spectrum, or even slightly to the right of centre. The political establishment of Canada has been thoroughly addicted to a gelatinous soft-leftishness that permeates the political media, most public policy discussion, the entire public service and most conventional political wisdom in the country, to the point where it is, to say the least, monotonous. Poilievres professed respect for, and pursuit of, liberty frustrates them, as no one can attack liberty as a concept, and Poilievre is both sincere and agile in his defence of it.

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To the extent that Poilievre threatens some change to the comfortable Liberal status quo built on durable advantages in Quebec and urban Ontario, Poilievre renders the political establishment uneasy. And they respond in the only way they know by slinging muck at him, attempting to paint him as an extremist and an uncaring person. This is very tiresome and it is also somewhat imitative of the extraordinary decline in the quality of public discourse in the United States, where a horrifyingly incompetent administration is watching helplessly and with mounting terror over the likelihood, which is increasing every week, of a return to office by Donald Trump and his scores of millions of angry followers. We have reached no such extremity in this country, but we have swallowed wokeness whole, to the extent that almost anything short of white ethnic self-hatred is decried as racial intolerance.

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Because Poilievre could sell sensible conservatism and could win, he presents a plausible alternative to the Liberals and is thus anathema to those addicted to the present national political diet of soft left pablum. The changes in monetary policy that Poilievre seeks could be implemented without replacing the governor of the central bank. The desire to dismiss him does sound somewhat vindictive, as Canada has had a central bank for over 87 years and only one previous governor was forced out: James E. Coyne, who publicly criticized the Diefenbaker governments fiscal policy, and was falsely accused by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker of helping himself to an excessive pension ($25,000 annually). In this case, the problem is exclusively policy questions, and Poilievre is absolutely right that the money supply should not have been expanded as recklessly as it has been to facilitate the Trudeau governments profligate extravagance, but what he is really claiming is that he will fire Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem for failing to resign in protest at the Liberals fiscal and monetary policies. He could achieve just as much simply by ordering a change in policy, which, if elected, he will do anyway.

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Poilievre is right on policy Canadas economic performance is a disgrace. Former Conservative leader Erin OToole lost a great opportunity and failed in an important duty when he passively agreed with the entire catastrophic COVID shutdown program; it was a grievous self-inflicted economic wound and a prolonged and damaging interruption of the education of most of the countrys schoolchildren. During Prime Minister Justin Trudeaus time in office, average per capita GDP growth has been less than half the average of the Brian Mulroney, Jean Chrtien, Paul Martin and Stephen Harper years; and in the Justin Trudeau years, Canadian investment in foreign countries has exceeded foreign investment in Canada by about $400 billion. We are propelling ourselves over a cliff to second-rate status among the worlds nations.

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I want to use this opportunity to get off my chest a long-held fiscal bugbear. As we have embarked on yet another cycle of rising interest rates to fight inflation, we should only slightly raise interest rates and temporarily increase goods and services taxes on non-essential spending and abolish taxation on income and capital gains from savings and investments that are not short-term speculation. This would spare the vulnerable, especially those living in homes financed by floating-rate mortgages, from the ravages of high interest rates, but would incentivize a parallel reduction in demand and resulting relief of inflationary pressure. Almost all of the worlds important central bankers are afflicted by conformist group-think and an absence of imagination in addressing inflation-reduction and recession-avoidance.

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The Conservatives have quite a good group of leadership candidates and the exchanges between them have been reasonably dignified. Poilievres attack on Jean Charest as a liberal is fair comment, as Charest, over his long career (he was appointed interim leader of the Progressive Conservative party 27 years ago), has been at the radical centre between moderate conservatives and moderate liberals. It is unjust to hold against Jean Charest that he was the Liberal premier of Quebec for three terms, however. The Quebec Liberal Party, like the British Columbia Liberals, has effectively been a coalition between Liberals and Conservatives since the separatist Parti Qubecois surpassed the nationalist but anti-separatist Union Nationale in 1973. Federalism itself is in the midst of a trial: if the federal governments horrendous environmental assessment legislation, Bill C-69, is upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada, it will devalue the constitutional standing of the provinces within the federation and fully match the Government of Quebecs outrageous attempt, with federal compliance, in Bill 96, virtually to exterminate the English language in the province. If these two measures go fully into effect, Confederation will, in large measure, be a sham. The candidates should be focusing a good deal more upon this, and not side-shows about the central bank governor and red herrings about falsely imputed lapses of racially egalitarian zeal.

National Post

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Conrad Black: Poilievre has a real chance to break the Liberal status quo and that has his enemies trembling - National Post

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