With Pierre Poilievre the newly anointed leader of the CPC, Canadians can take a step back and breathe a sight of relief - the masquerade is over.
Ever since its formation in 2003, the CPC has been a hardline right wing ideologue party that cloaked itself in the moderate nature of the old PCs. They called themselves Tories, and under Harper’s leadership, they were more or less able to maintain the appearance of not being quite as radical as many said they were behind the scenes.
Then they won a majority in 2011. No longer fearing losing power by way of a confidence motion in parliament, Harper allowed the party to begin implementing its more aggressive policies - although there was some restraint because Harper still believed he could be re-elected.
Major project impact assessment processes were gutted, agencies stripped of their power to make rulings on substantive matters, laws related to citizenship were modified, making many Canadians’ citizenship conditional, and they tried enacting what amounts to a voter suppression law (guess who wrote that little stinker? - Oh right - they party just picked him as their leader).
Then there was the 2015 election. Some very high priced advisors came in and the CPC introduced a series of policies that to be kind, most Canadians found appallingly racist at their core.
That was just the party dropping the veil. Way back in 2013, I wrote a piece on here comparing Harper’s governing style to the traits associated with modern day fascism (not Hitler’s fascism, but rather that fascists have become since the end of WWII). I was surprised then by the number of boxes on that list that Harper ticked off. It wasn’t just a few. No, it was a lot.
Having watched the Reform party emerge from Alberta politics, I had always been suspicious of how easily that movement could slide into authoritarianism, if not into overt fascism. There was an ugly underside to Reform that few outside of the “Alberta Bubble” seemed to recognize. “Oh, they aren’t really that bad”, or “Once in power, the normal constraints on power will moderate their behaviour” were common refrains. Then there was the reality of it - the radicalism, and fervent belief that they had the “Right of the Matter” in all things to do with government meant that they chafed at those restraints. The 2015 election was merely where the party dropped any pretence of being “nice”.
In selecting Poilievre, the CPC has signalled that the takeover is complete. What remained of the old PCs is dead, done and buried. It was notable that on Poilievre’s “coronation night”, Peter MacKay declined to speak. Even the last leader of the PCs couldn’t bring himself to say anything.
The CPC may attempt to cloak itself in “reasonableness”, but that seems unlikely with a man like Poilievre being the public face of the party. He isn’t a man known for being reasonable to begin with.
Since the departure of Stephen Harper in 2015, the party has changed - the factions that Harper was able to hold in check through sheer force of will are no longer so easily tamed - they’ve seen how they can take a bigger slice of the pie - the MAGA movement in the US, and the Kenney-led UCP have shown them what they can do by being more overt.
Poilievre has shown us through his run at this leadership that in fact he is perfectly willing to let the extremes off leash, and they have heard that message loud and clear. Expect the next policy convention to be a sharp turn even further right. Topics that had been off the table under Harper will be on the table now - and it’s going to be ugly.