A Party Adrift: The slow collapse of the Conservative Party

Emmitt Wilson ’22

Politics Editor

Since the 2015 federal election, Justin Trudeau has remained the leader of the Liberal Party. The New Democratic Party changed their leader once, from Tom Mulcair to Jagmeet Singh in 2017. However, after the resignation of the defeated Stephen Harper, the Conservative Party has seen a myriad of leadership changes.

The Conservatives have seen two elected leaders and three interim leaders. Now, they are yet again in the midst of another leadership election.

The constant change in leadership has not been kind to the party. The first leadership election after 2015 saw a schism. Andrew Sheer would win in the end, but only by a handful of votes. Maxime Bernier, the loser of that election, was not content with failing by such a tiny margin and left the Conservative Party for good. His newly founded People’s Party of Canada (PPC) has yet to win any seats. Still, it has undoubtedly peeled off support from the Conservatives by appealing to the party’s more conspiratorial, far-right elements.

Conservative MPs are caught between appealing to an increasingly extreme base without scaring away the coveted moderate voters they need to win an election.

The existence of the PPC has put the Conservatives in a similar position as the liberals, attempting to portray an image of a moderate, sensible option to avoid bleeding out voters to a less moderate alternative.

Maxime Bernier

These problems seemingly came to a head early this year, manifested by the trucker convoys and protests. These ostensibly anti-vaccine rallies became a tricky spot for the party. A large section of the Conservative base participated in or supported the protests.

Further, various fascist symbols and language made it hard for the Conservatives to declare support for the demonstrations without causing further scandal. Their response was ultimately non-committal, neither denouncing nor supporting the protests. Predictably, it angered both the third hardcore base and the moderate voters they seek.

Former Party leader Erin O’Toole resigned over the scandal, leaving the Conservatives in this most recent round of leadership elections.

Pierre Poilievre

Pierre Poilievre currently leads the polls for the leadership election. Although it does not take place until September, his lead has shown no sign of softening. His campaign is eerily similar to the one that nearly won Maxime Bernier the leadership seat in 2017.

He has leaned heavily on a perceived “outsider” status, pushing populist anti-vaccine ideas alongside the usual fiscal conservatism. If Poilievre wins the leadership election, he will likely take the Conservative Party in a new direction, but only if he manages to hold onto the position.

Editor’s Note: This will be the last article I write or edit for The Crusader News while as a student at St. Paul’s. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this position and I hope that readers of the Crusader News appreciated my work. – Emmitt Wilson, Politics Editor 2020-2022.

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