If Poilievre wins the leadership but fails to pivot to the centre, Quebec Conservative MP Godin says he will ‘consider’ his own ‘political future’

The Conservative Party will elect a new leader on September 10, but already a Conservative MP from Quebec is warning that the results could cause him to reassess his future with the party.

The unity of the Conservative Party after the leadership election will largely depend on the direction the new leader decides to take, said Tasha Kheiriddin, co-chair of the Jean Charest Conservative leadership campaign. It will also affect whether three-term Conservative MP Joël Godin, who won his riding of Portneuf-Jacques-Cartier, Que., with 51% of the vote in the 2021 election, stays with the party.

Pierre Poilievre, left, is the frontrunner in the Conservative leadership election. In addition to Poilievre, four other candidates are vying for the party’s top job, including Leslyn Lewis, Jean Charest, Roman Baber and Scott Aitchison. Hill Times photographs by Andrew Meade, Sam Garcia and handouts

“I don’t like what I see about Pierre in this race,” said Godin, who is uncomfortable with frontrunner Pierre Poilievre (Carleton, Ont.)’s populist campaign style and focus. potential future of the party he represents, in an interview with hill time. If Poilievre takes the reins and leads the party down a populist path, Godin said he might consider switching parties or sitting down as an independent. “I am moderate. I am not a populist.

Godin, who supports former Quebec Premier Jean Charest’s leadership bid and describes himself as a progressive Conservative, said he wanted to stay in the party and would not automatically quit. the caucus if Poilievre won. The only reason for his potential departure, he said, would be if Poilievre wins and refuses to pivot to center. Godin argued that when a new party leader is elected whose ideological views and leadership style are different from some caucus members, it is a caucus member’s right to reconsider whether they want to remain in huddle. Poilievre won his riding of Carleton, Ont., with 50% of the vote in the 2021 election.

Three-term Tory MP Joel Godin said if Pierre Poilievre wins the leadership election and doesn’t pivot to the center, he will have to consider his options whether he wants to stay in caucus or not. Photograph from the Hill Times file

Godin said that if he decided to leave the Conservative caucus, he would have several options, including crossing the floor, sitting as an independent MP, resigning his seat or creating a more progressive Conservative party, perhaps with a few other preservatives. members.

Poilievre, who is waging a populist campaign with slogans such as “take back control of your life” and “make Canada the freest nation in the world,” is considered the frontrunner in the contest and has the majority of caucus endorsements.

Along with Poilievre and Charest, the other three leadership candidates are Conservative MPs Scott Aitchison (Parry Sound-Muskoka, Ont.) and Leslyn Lewis (Haldimand-Norfolk, Ont.), and former Independent MPP for Ontario Roman Baber.

Poilievre is a center-right candidate, while Charest and Aitchison are progressive conservatives. Lewis is a social conservative and Baber is a libertarian candidate.

Poilievre’s campaign focus on “freedom from the gatekeepers” — who he says control people’s lives, as well as his support for the controversial “Freedom Convoy” — alienates some moderate conservatives.

Some senior moderate Tories have gone so far as to suggest party unity is under threat and could fracture if Poilievre is elected leader and does not realign his ideological positions.

Two Tory MPs who support Poilievre recently said hill time that they are not sure if the MP from the Ottawa area would pivot to the center.

Tasha Kheiriddin is Jean Charest’s campaign co-chair. She recently wrote a book, The Right Way: How Conservatives Can Unite, Inspire and Move Canada Forward. Photo courtesy of André Forget

“Pierre is someone who doubles up, that’s who he is,” said a Tory MP, who officially backed Poilievre. hill time two weeks ago. “It’s the reality, and he can’t help it. I don’t think he knows any other way.

Poilievre may look more like Mike Harris than Donald Trump

A former senior Tory, who does not support Poilievre but knows him well and who did not want to be identified in order to be candid for this article, said if Poilievre won the leadership he would be more like the former premier. Ontario Minister Mike Harris than populist former US President Donald Trump. The source referred to the fact that former Stephen Harper-era cabinet minister John Baird is one of the co-chairs of the Poilievre campaign, who before entering federal politics was a caucus member and provincial government cabinet minister Harris. Prior to becoming a cabinet minister, Poilievre served as parliamentary secretary to Baird in the Harper cabinet. Poilievre’s other leadership campaign co-chairs are former Harper-ear cabinet minister Gail Shea, Conservative Sen. Leo Housakos (Quebec) and Conservative MP Tim Uppal (Edmonton Mill Woods, Alta.)

The source said that when the media mentions that the Conservative Party was formed by the merger of the Progressive Conservative and Alliance parties in 2003, they overlook the Progressive Conservatives of Harris in Ontario, who were not part of the team of negotiating the merger, but had a significant presence in the federal Conservative caucus and its senior staff when the party came to power in 2006. This includes Baird, Jim Flaherty, Tony Clement, Paul Calandra and a significant number of members of the ministerial cabinet and members of the staff of the deputies who were in the same number, if not more than the federal PC deputies and the members of the personnel. These ministers and staff at Queen’s Park have held leadership positions in the Harper government and played a significant role in guiding the government.

The source said that for years Poilievre’s primary focus has been on tax issues and winning, and it will remain the same going forward. They said that, strategically speaking, Poilievre wants to eliminate Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada, which was one of the main reasons he publicly supported the “truckers’ protest.” By one estimate, the PPC denied the Conservatives’ victory in 20 constituencies across the country.

“Something that could hurt her [Poilievre] in general [election], he won’t accept something like that,” the source said. “He will go and he will find something else to reach out to People’s Party voters. So in that sense there may be a slight pivot.

Meanwhile, according to a poll by Nanos Research for Bloomberg released last week, Poilievre was 17% of Canadians’ choice for prime minister, while 24% said they would prefer Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ( Papineau, Que.) and 13 percent would choose Charest. The poll also suggested Poilievre leads Trudeau among men, non-graduates and Canadians who cannot work remotely from home. To win the next election, according to the poll, Poilievre will need to broaden his base of support by winning over the moderate conservatives who currently support Charest. According to this poll, the combined total vote of Charest and Poilievre would beat Trudeau in all demographic groups except women. The phone and online survey of 1,038 Canadians was conducted between July 29 and August 2 and had a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Charest campaign co-chair Tasha Kheiriddin said party unity depends on who the new leader becomes and how he engages with caucus members, rival leadership candidates, party members and the direction they choose for the party. If the new leader fails to bring the party together, it would be an uphill battle for the Tories to win the next election. She argued that instead of engaging in populist politics, the new leader should talk about conservative principles like equal opportunity, personal responsibility and community involvement.

“I don’t believe populism will be the direction the party should take and push for the next elections,” said Kheiriddin, who recently wrote a new book titled The Right Way: How Conservatives Can Unite, Inspire and Move Canada Forward. “I think we need to address populist concerns, which are valid, things like being denied opportunities, feeling like you can’t move forward. Populism takes root when people feel stuck and can’t even move forward. if they do everything right.

Conservative MP Michael Cooper is the co-caucus liaison for Pierre Poilievre’s leadership campaign. Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

Conservative MP Michael Cooper (St. Albert-Edmonton, Alta.), who serves as the caucus liaison for Poilievre’s leadership campaign, said Poilievre’s campaign takes nothing for granted and is focused on the getting the vote. Cooper declined to specifically discuss which direction Poilievre would take the party in as the contest is still ongoing. He argued that all party members should support whoever wins the leadership election.

“It is the leader’s prerogative to put together a team that he can work with and that he feels is best placed to fulfill the important role that we, as a parliamentary caucus, have as the official opposition.” , Cooper said in an interview with hill time two weeks ago. “When a leadership race is over, the leadership race is over. And the chef puts together a team, and then we move on.

But Kheiriddin said it would be a mistake if Poilievre did not make a sincere effort to bring the party together by welcoming rival candidates and their supporters into the shadow cabinet, or including rival campaign staffers in the leader’s office. the official opposition. She said Erin O’Toole (Whitby, Ont.) made that mistake and didn’t last long as party leader. O’Toole was elected leader of the party in the 2020 leadership election and was voted out of the party after the 2021 election.

“A lot of bridges would have to be bridged to repair a lot of feelings and negative feelings towards him, like those expressed by Mr. Godin,” Kheiriddin said. “So that would be really at that time, it would be up to him [Poilievre] if he was a leader, to reach out to people, and I think to some extent to change the focus of his message, because part of that message turns off center-right voters.

More than 675,000 eligible members of the Conservative Party are currently voting for their favorite candidates.

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