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Conservative Party of Canada leadership hopeful Pierre Poilievre takes part in a debate at the Canada Strong and Free Networking Conference in Ottawa on May 5.BLAIR GABLE/Reuters

The Conservative Party of Canada was taken over by its hardline Reform wing 20 years ago. The Reformers vanquished the old progressive Tories. Now, with leadership frontrunner Pierre Poilievre and with Trumpism as a backdrop, they’re doing it again, re-entrenching on the ideological hard side.

As for the old Tories, they’re boneyard-bound again. Even after Patrick Brown’s disqualification from the leadership race, moderate Jean Charest’s chances of winning are decidedly scant.

The fractious leadership fight, especially given the tumultuous expulsion of Mr. Brown, is damaging to the party brand and its unity. You won’t see Mr. Charest or Mr. Brown rushing to embrace Pierre the polarizer once he is crowned, but his support is strong enough in caucus and with the party base to keep the party from breaking up.

On the face of it, the Poilievre coronation is good news for the Liberals. Mr. Poilievre is outside the broad political middle, the mainstream that through history has served Canada well and is being abandoned with dire consequences in the United States. He is thus a much juicier target for the Grits than a leader such as the seasoned veteran Mr. Charest, with his greater eastern Canada appeal.

But the notion among many that the smug and demagogic populist can’t win the country – that the Conservatives have a death wish in choosing him – is fault-laden for a host of reasons.

The party is positioned to benefit from a convergence of trendlines that will smooth the path for anyone at the helm. For starters, there’s the 10-year tradition at play. That’s the electoral pattern that has been seen in several examples in history wherein, after a decade or so, the people tire of the party in power and opt for change. It’s only year seven for the Liberals, but voters are already getting fed up. Over another three years, the fatigue will very likely deepen.

Economic forecasts for these years are also grim. There could well be a repeat of the stagflation of the late 1970s. Those years saw the Liberals, headed by another Trudeau, defeated by the Tories, and south of the border, the Democrats of Jimmy Carter were thrashed by Ronald Reagan.

Meanwhile, Justin Trudeau is falling so far out of favour that the likes of a Poilievre could well be an alternative worth risking. Mr. Trudeau’s affected style increasingly grates. His wokeism is overbearing. He may well step down before the next election, but the Liberal caucus is without a luminous heir apparent.

Former central-bank governor Mark Carney could be a formidable leader. He is a man of stature. His pedigree makes the career-politician Mr. Poilievre look like a bellhop by comparison. But Mr. Carney passed up running for a seat in the last election, and his outsider status makes him a longshot should he decide to enter.

Piloted by the divisive Jenni Byrne, the Poilievre leadership campaign – with its voodoo economics touting cryptocurrencies and other goofy stuff – has been a turn-off to many Canadians. But it’s a good bet his campaign to win the country will be considerably more temperate. He’s too shrewd to allow himself to be painted by Liberal opponents in Trumpian colours.

Compared to previous leaders Erin O’Toole and Andrew Scheer, each of whom won the popular vote, Mr. Poilievre is a powerhouse. He’s more articulate, has a stronger organization and a more emotionally driven following.

While party unity could present a major problem for him, he has an advantage over previous leadership campaigns, which tore open wounds. This time, there’s three years until the next election – ample opportunity for healing.

The electoral map also favours the Conservatives. Their large prairie base is unassailable, while the Liberals – though strong in the Maritimes – are more vulnerable in Quebec, especially to the Bloc Québécois. The Conservatives need to move the dial in Ontario, and Mr. Poilievre is capable of that.

Having already won with a Reform brand of conservatism under Stephen Harper, it’s hardly a stretch to think that a Conservative Party under Mr. Poilievre, a former Harper cabinet member, could win again. Mr. Harper was able to avoid the extremist tag, and benefitted from a great run of fortune: the sponsorship scandal, the Jean Chrétien-Paul Martin split, the RCMP incredibly calling a mid-election criminal investigation into the Liberals’ finance minister’s office – which was similar to what the FBI did to Hillary Clinton in 2016 as she was campaigning against Donald Trump.

Throw in some breaks like that to the many trends already working in its favour, and a Poilievre-led Conservative Party could win the country handily.

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