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Pierre Poilievre and his wife Anaida celebrate after he is elected as the new leader of Canada's Conservative Party in Ottawa, on Sept. 10, 2022.PATRICK DOYLE/Reuters

Federal Conservatives are gathering in Quebec City this week for a policy convention that observers say presents as much political peril as opportunity.

The convention, which starts Thursday in a province where the Tories have often sought to make gains, comes as polls indicate the party has been gaining support, with leader Pierre Poilievre regularly attacking the government on affordability issues.

Still, the challenge will be to present a compelling image to both Quebeckers and the rest of Canada, all while managing fractious policy business that could undermine those gains in popularity.

“With the Conservatives, there are a lot of different constituencies within the party, and some of them are not in sync with the average voter,” said Daniel Béland, a political scientist at McGill University in Montreal, in an interview.

“They have to have an open debate about the issues that members care about, but at the same time I think it’s important for them to frame the party, during these three days, as a party where the focus is really on the economy,” said Prof. Béland, who is also the director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada.

The gathering will feature voting on policy proposals such as committing a Conservative government to “protect children” by prohibiting “life-altering” interventions on minors to treat gender dysphoria.

Delegates will also consider a proposal that says women are entitled to the safety, dignity and privacy of single-sex spaces and “women-only” categories in sports, awards, grants and scholarships.

They will also be presented with a “protecting workers” proposal that says the party does not support “forced political, cultural or ideological training of any kind as a precondition of employment or practice.”

Also on the convention agenda is a speech by Daniel Hannan, a member of the British House of Lords who campaigned for Brexit.

Writing in Britain’s Sunday Telegraph in July of last year, he praised Mr. Poilievre, who was then seeking the party leadership. “With his popularity, honesty and economic good sense, Canada’s Pierre Poilievre is exactly what Britain needs,” he wrote. “There’s a hint of geek chic about him. ‘Here,’ you say to yourself, ‘is a clever young person in glasses who understands economics.’ Not a bad look at the present.”

Other speakers with keynote positions at the convention are former federal cabinet minister Peter MacKay, and retired Canadian general J.O. Michel Maisonneuve, who garnered attention with a 2022 speech in Ottawa that was critical of Canadian Forces and government policy.

Quebecker Rudy Husny, a political analyst and former federal Conservative adviser, said Canadians are more and more interested in Mr. Poilievre, so he needs to use this week to highlight his messages on affordability and housing.

Mr. Husny said conventions are a “risky exercise” but an important opportunity for new leaders to gather the troops and boost morale.

“You have to proceed with caution,” he said in an interview. “I think that everything is geared for a good convention, but anything can happen in a convention.”

In 2021, then-leader Erin O’Toole was forced into endless explanations after delegates at a convention voted against expanding party policy on climate change to include the line “We recognize that climate change is real.”

Prof. Béland said a successful event in Quebec City could impress Quebeckers and other Canadians alike.

“So I think it’s important for them that they put on a good show without any mistakes, because things are going well in the polls,” he said.

There are 78 federal seats in Quebec. The Liberals have 35, and the Bloc Québécois has 32. The Conservatives have nine, down from the 10 they won in the 2021 election. There is one Independent and one New Democrat.

Pollster Nik Nanos said a Quebec-based convention sends a signal that the Conservatives are interested in the province, but the party needs to advance policies that are appealing to Quebeckers.

He said one key issue is climate change. “Concern about the environment is clearly the top issue of concern in the province and the highest in Canada. Going into Quebec and not speaking to the environment would be a political risk for Poilievre,” Mr. Nanos said in a statement.

Both Andrew Scheer and Erin O’Toole, two previous leaders of the federal Tories, were bullish about gains in Quebec, with Mr. O’Toole expressing hopes of winning 30 seats there in 2021. Both ended up winning just 10, largely in the area where the convention is being held.

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