New Brunswick Conservatives welcome new federal leader

·5 min read
Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre addresses the Conservative caucus for the first time as leader during a meeting in Ottawa on Monday. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press - image credit)
Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre addresses the Conservative caucus for the first time as leader during a meeting in Ottawa on Monday. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press - image credit)

New Brunswick Conservatives are expressing support for their new federal party leader.

Pierre Poilievre was chosen this weekend with almost 70 per cent of the vote on the first ballot.

"After his speech I was really impressed," said Jason Purdy, president of the Fredericton Conservative Electoral District Association.

"I thought, this is our next Prime Minister."

"It was pretty electric," said convention delegate and former Fredericton MLA Brian Macdonald.

"There's a lot of optimism in the party now," he said.

CBC
CBC

Conservatives haven't been this united in "a long time," said former Fredericton-area two-time candidate Andrea Johnson.

Poilievre has broad appeal across age and language groups, said Miramichi-Grand Lake MP Jake Stewart, who chaired his campaign in the province.

At the start, the federal party had around 2,600 active members in New Brunswick, he said. Now, there are more than 11,600, and more than 7,400 of them signed on through Poilievre's personal online portal.

Poilievre's New Brunswick events drew crowds of between 500 and 700 people, said Stewart, including a younger demographic and more francophones than usual.

At the end of each night, there were people lined up to get their picture taken with Poilievre, he said.

Poilievre garnered support from centrists who think the Liberal Party has become "too far left," said Stewart, as well as Conservatives who "like being on the right."

He's "obviously a fiscal conservative," said Stewart, and "fairly libertarian," in terms of favouring less government involvement in the lives of citizens.

Twitter.com
Twitter.com

Poilievre's platform to make Canada "the freest country on earth" appeals to many, he said.

"Over the last seven years, Canadians have been taught to feel shame in their country," said Stewart, noting the cancellation of Canada Day celebrations last year, (which happened in the wake of the discovery of the remains of hundreds of Indigenous children in unmarked graves at a former residential school).

He said many felt that a lot of their rights were taken away during COVID mandates, and many are also worried about "censorship."

"There's a lot of attempts by the federal government to really control what Canadians are doing on the Internet."

The new Conservative leader has proposed appointing a former judge as a free speech guardian on university campuses and repealing new internet regulations, which are not officially in effect yet and still being reviewed in the Senate.

Bill C-11 would require streaming platforms to follow Canadian content rules. Platforms including YouTube, TikTok and Spotify have raised concerns about how it will affect them and user-generated content.

Poilievre on money matters

Meanwhile, Macdonald likes Poilievre's stance on money matters, which is where he sees threats to freedom.

According to debtclock.ca, Canada's national debt is currently about $1.2 trillion, up from $721 billion, as recorded by the government, at the end of the 2018-19 fiscal year.

"As Canadians we ultimately are going to pay for that," he said. "That's impinging on our ability to pursue what we want to do."

Double-digit inflation is also "breathing down our neck," said Macdonald, "impeding the ability of Canadians to live their lives in relative happiness."

Poilievre's monetary platform includes firing the governor of the Bank of Canada, making Canada the blockchain and crypto currency capital of the world, promoting the oil industry, and getting rid of the carbon tax.

Macdonald described Poilievre as both "a progressive guy who is embracing new ideas," and "consistent for 20 years," on key messages such as "the dangers posed by inflation," "mismanagement," and inaction due to bureaucracy.

Purdy said Poilievre also struck a chord with him on the role of government when he said it should be less involved in managing people's lives, and better able to manage passport offices.

Jake Stewart/Twitter
Jake Stewart/Twitter

He also liked what he heard from Poilievre about immigration, such as making it possible for foreign-trained doctors to be certified in Canada within 60 days and reducing the wait for immigrants to receive work permits.

And Purdy said he was optimistic Poilievre would bring "progressive" changes to health care.

Early in the campaign, some "small things," put out by the Poilievre campaign, "to try to rally the base," didn't "sit well" with Purdy. He declined to be more specific.

"But now his message and tone has changed," he said. "He seems to be more encouraging, encompassing."

Johnson, too, said she hasn't always agreed with "some of the ways that [Poilievre] gets his message out."

When asked to give an example she referred to Poilievre's decision to meet with trucker convoy protesters last winter in Ottawa.

Jacques Poitras/CBC
Jacques Poitras/CBC

But Johnson was reluctant to criticize.

"It's not my place," she said. "It's working. It's resonating."

She ultimately said she thought the meeting was the right thing to do.

"Something may make me uncomfortable or I don't like it, I don't understand it. It doesn't mean that I still don't have a voice or that that person doesn't have a right to say what they want to say or have a right to be heard."

Poilievre will have a big job unifying the country from divisions, said Johnson, which she sees as being caused by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

"People are tired of the hate and they're tired of the noise."