With all due respect to the “Bring it home” tagline that Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre really, really likes, a more accurate slogan for the policy convention that his party just wrapped up would be, simply, “Enough.”
Enough woke-ism, the gathering heard over and over in Quebec City. Enough spending like drunken sailors on shore leave. Enough scolding and preening and apologizing. Enough identity politics. Enough with the broken social contract and the cruel obliviousness they see in the current federal government.
This gathering in Quebec City was billed as “the common sense convention” by everyone from the keynote speakers to delegates who opined 30 seconds at a time during the policy debates. An appeal to common sense suggests that its opposite has been running amok, causing a collective leave of the senses that badly needs correcting, if only someone would stand up and yell about it.
And so here was Mr. Poilievre, alongside an eclectic roster of speakers and policy proposals, to do just that: Enough.
The keynote on the first night was delivered by Barbara and Michel Maisonneuve, the latter a retired lieutenant-general who achieved brief infamy last fall when he accepted a military award with a speech that mourned a vision of leadership and Canadian greatness now lost to childish fecklessness.
In Quebec City, he and his wife, working as a French-English tag team, recycled large passages of those remarks verbatim for the audience of Conservatives, who received it enthusiastically. What was remarkable about Mr. Maisonneuve’s harangue was less the sharpness of any one of its points than the totality of its vision – barely an area of modern life was spared indictment.
“The Liberal government has placed narrow special interests and an obsession with identity politics above our national security,” he said. “We are no longer taken seriously on the world stage. We are ignored or dismissed by our allies. We do not pay our way in international agreements or organizations. Under this government, we’ve become free riders.” Enough, enough, enough.
Daniel Hannan, a pro-Brexit British politician, delivered a keynote address later on whose main thrust was to reassure the assembled faithful that Canada does in fact exist as a nation. Lord Hannan is a repeat guest at Conservative conventions in recent years, so his transatlantic version of “enough” clearly resonates.
His speech was delivered with the grand, conspiratorial hyperbole of a nature film in which the host has spotted a rare species no one else has ever heard of. Lord Hannan extolled the virtues of Canada as demonstrated at Juno Beach, Vimy Ridge and in Kandahar, on his way to arguing that no one has to apologize for this country or its history.
“My friends, that’s the nation that your intellectual elites, that your entitled intellectuals, are erasing – and not just from your passports,” he said.
Later that same day, delegates debated a raft of policy resolutions. Here again, the ones that drew the most energy were those that hinged on a notion that things had gone too far. Delegates debated the party officially supporting drug treatment as an implicit rebuke to safe-supply programs (93 per cent voted in favour); opposing the expansion of medical assistance in dying (71 per cent); preserving women-only spaces and categories of competition (87 per cent); and banning pharmaceutical and surgical treatment for children with gender dysphoria (69 per cent).
A different sort of past-due exasperation surfaced in discussion of a policy on encouraging the development of a broad range of energy options, including renewables and non-carbon sources. A new riding president in British Columbia stepped to the microphone to speak in favour of the policy, conceding that he was young and new to politics, but he was already tired of Conservatives losing. “I hear every single time I go to a door that we need more environmental policies, we need to talk about it,” he said. “Please give me the tools I need to win, I don’t want a Liberal MP anymore.”
The resolution passed, with 95 per cent of delegates voting in favour.
Mr. Poilievre, of course, was the headline act of the weekend, and he has made himself the walking embodiment of “enough” over a summer in which a whole lot of Canadians seem to have arrived at the same conclusion. In his remarks on Saturday, he related one story after another of people who were being victimized by Justin Trudeau’s Canada.
At the emotional crescendo, there was the carpenter he’d met in Northern Ontario, who lives in a parking lot because he can’t afford anything else, though the man was so defeated that he wasn’t even angry about his circumstance. “But I was angry for him,” Mr. Poilievre thundered. “Because an economy where the people who build our homes cannot afford to live in them is fundamentally unjust and wrong.” The crowd around him roared in response.
“Enough” is powerful stuff. It’s a yell of lonely fury that turns out to be echoed by thousands of others. It can be a reset, a gut-check, a return to sanity and what’s right.
It’s the sound of a pendulum swinging from one way-out-there extreme back to some reasonable middle-ground – or it might be the whoosh of the pendulum swinging clear through the middle and far out the other side.
The thing about “Enough” is that it’s a limited-time-only proposition; only those who are on the outside have licence to lob it. You win power and stay there a while, and all of the problems and all of their failed and would-be solutions come to belong to you. Eventually, inevitably, someone has had enough of you, too.