'What Are You Going to Do About It?'

Tom Finnerty10 May, 2024 4 Min Read
In Canada, Poilievre defies Trudeau, challenges business.

As regular readers have probably noticed, we at The Pipeline have been pleasantly surprised by the tenure of Conservative Party of Canada leader Pierre Poilievre. For years, first as a back bencher and then in cabinet towards the end of Stephen Harper's tenure as prime minister, this writer wasn't particularly impressed by Poilievre. He seemed, frankly, like a bit of a lightweight.

His stature improved somewhat in Opposition, where he served first as the Conservative Finance critic, memorably telling then-Finance Minister Bill Morneau that he had "lost the moral authority to hold [his] office" in the wake of the WE Charity scandal, and demanding that he resign, which he did shortly thereafter. But the real turnaround for Poilievre came when he chose to take the side of the truckers' Freedom Convoy at a time when doing so was extremely controversial. Then-Conservative leader Erin O'Toole was wishy washy on the subject, but Poilievre was unequivocal, a risky move which set him apart from the pack and made him first the front-runner and then the runaway winner of the leadership race which followed O'Toole's unceremonious ouster.

Since then he hasn't missed a beat, a fact borne out in recent polling which puts the Conservatives squarely in the lead.

Poilievre to Trudeau: you're a wacko.

Of course, some of that advantage is just a result of Trudeau fatigue, and consequently one could argue -- as I'm sure the political consultants are, behind the scenes -- that Poilievre should just play it safe, avoid taking real positions on anything. Has Poilievre followed that advice? He has not.

Two events this week bear that out. The first occurred in the House of Commons and amounted to a bit of sound and fury signifying, well, something, but not as much as the media is making out. In a the midst of a heated exchange in parliament -- which at one point saw Trudeau accuse Poilievre of "shamefully" flirting with far-right extremists -- Poilievre described the prime minister as a "wacko" for his government's drug-decriminalization policy. The speaker of the house -- Liberal MP Greg Fergus -- demanded that Poilievre retract that "unparliamentary term." Poilievre offered to replace "wacko" with “extremist.” When Fergus insisted that Poilievre "simply" withdraw both terms, and he refused, the Speaker expelled the Opposition Leader from the House.

Cue the pearl-clutching from the media, none of whom seem to recall the time when Trudeau himself, before he was leader, called a conservative MP a "piece of s--t." (Worth noting that he wasn't expelled from the House.) But importantly, Poilievre has refused to be cowed, reiterating his criticism of the policy, and his language, on Twitter later that day. Why? Because what he said was true.

More significant is a recent op-ed Poilievre published in the National Post in which he targets an unusual group for a conservative politician -- the country's business leaders. Entitled, "Memo to corporate Canada - fire your lobbyists. Ignore politicians. Go to the people," the piece makes one point very clear, which is that Canadian businesses can't just play both sides of the fence while quietly fretting about the Trudeau Liberals' assault on business and the country's economy. They need to stand up for themselves if they want the Conservative Party to stand up for them. Here's Poilievre:

The Trudeau government’s tax hike on capital gains has investors and business leaders blowing up my phone. They yelp: “What are you going to do about this?” My answer: “No. What are you going to do about it?” Most are stunned silent by the question. They had been planning to do nothing except complain and hope their useless and overpaid lobbyists meet Chrystia Freeland or Justin Trudeau to talk some sense into them while the opposition hounds the government to reverse course.

Sorry. That won’t cut it. Businesses and entrepreneurs are under attack again because Trudeau has learned that they won’t do anything about it. Why would Trudeau listen to business? He knows he has raised payroll and energy taxes on businesses, attacked the resource sector with unconstitutional laws, and faced no consequences from the business community.

Be more like the truckers.

He follows this with a list of charges against Canadian businesses that have chosen to publicly roll over and die rather than speak out against the Trudeaupian policies that are killing them. He specifically calls out the "gutless executives" at TransCanada and Teck Resources which not only let their massive new investments in Canadian infrastructure be quashed by the Liberals, but refuse to counter Trudeau's spurious claims that killing those projects was a massive win for the environment. He goes on to advise businesses on how to deal with the government when he is Prime Minister:

If you do have a policy proposal, don’t tell me about it. Convince Canadians that it’s good for them. Communicate your policy’s benefits directly to workers, consumers and retirees. When they start telling me about your ideas on the doorstep in Windsor, St. John’s, Trois-Rivières, and Port Alberni, then I’ll think about enacting it. To be clear, that will not happen because you testify at a Parliamentary committee, host a “Hill Day” to meet MPs and Senators, hold a luncheon 15 minutes from downtown Toronto/Ottawa, or do media no one sees. Your communications must reach truckers, waitresses, nurses, carpenters — all the people who are too productive to tune into the above-mentioned platforms.

What can you say except that this is exactly how a conservative should approach business, on both sides of the border. Giving Big Business whatever they want while executives cozy up to the Left has worked out terribly for conservative parties for a long time now. And as Trudeau's tax hikes have demonstrated, the business community's obsession with feeding the tiger in the hope that he eats them last has been nearly fatal for them as well.

Poilievre's message to them is essentially -- we won't kill you, but from here on out you're going to have to carry your own load. Don't expect us to bail you out. Which is the best approach. Let's hope that if he actually does get the big job, he sticks to it.

Tom Finnerty writes from New England and Ontario.


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One comment on “'What Are You Going to Do About It?'”

  1. Unfortunately, large segments of the Canadian “workers, consumers, and retirees” are, like the business community, also playing the same game of self-deception: hoping that the socialism tiger will eat them last. This trend is playing itself out all over the indebted West as everyone scrambles to keep their position at the trough and stick someone else—anyone else, even their grandchildren—with the bill. With apologies to the late Andy Williams, although Poilievre came out of nowhere like the sun up from the hills, it’s going to take more than a “weekend in Canada” to change the scene of a cold, cold wind ushering an economic Canadian sunset.

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