Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre rises during Question Period on Mar. 21, in Ottawa. So far, Poilievre has coasted on rhetoric. To excite Conservatives, he needs a solid and sellable plan.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

There are all sorts of reasons to question Pierre Poilievre’s proposed Blue Seal program, which would federally certify doctors and nurses who did not study in Canada. Would we accept doctors who performed their residency in another country? How would Ottawa convince provincial licensing bodies to recognize their qualifications?

But that’s not what matters. What matters is that the Conservative Leader has proposed an innovative solution to the worsening shortage of health care professionals. We need more such proposals from Mr. Poilievre. In fact, we need a Poilievre version of the Common Sense Revolution.

The CSR, as people called it, was one of the most successful political manifestos ever created. While in opposition, Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Mike Harris assembled a team of talented political operatives and instructed them to come up with a plan based on tax and spending cuts.

Tom Long, Leslie Noble, Alister Campbell, Tony Clement, Deb Hutton and a few others crafted a manifesto that the party published as a 21-page document with large type and bold promises to cut personal income taxes, cut social spending and balance the budget.

“Government isn’t working any more,” the document stated in its opening paragraph. “The system is broken.” Heard that before?

The team released the CSR platform a year before an election was expected because they wanted to imprint on the minds of voters that only Mike Harris was serious about cutting taxes and downsizing government. In the 1995 provincial election, the Common Sense Revolution took the Progressive Conservatives from third place to government.

As Ipsos pollster Darrell Bricker has observed, Canadian politics has been in statis since 2019, with the federal Liberals and Conservatives each commanding the support of about a third of the electorate, the NDP lagging well behind and the Bloc Québécois strong in Quebec.

Mr. Poilievre has generated considerable energy among Conservative enthusiasts with his videos and town halls and incendiary rhetoric. (”Beijing-funded Trudeau foundation.” Really?) But thus far, he has failed to move the Conservatives measurably and sustainably ahead of the Liberals.

This despite the fact that, a year and a half into his third term, Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is struggling with high inflation, high interest rates and allegations that he ignored evidence of Chinese election interference.

Mr. Poilievre has been an effective critic of Liberal missteps. But he has also consorted with weird things on the fringe: cryptocurrencies, World Economic Forum conspiracies, anti-vaxxers.

And while he promises to make Canada “the freest nation on Earth,” whatever that means, he thus far has put forward no credible plan for government.

Some will say that he should wait until the next election campaign before releasing a platform. But the architects of the Common Sense Revolution chose not to wait. They chose to own their agenda.

Some younger conservatives are putting forth thoughtful critiques on contemporary issues, people such as Howard Anglin, who was principal secretary to then-Alberta premier Jason Kenney; Sean Speer, a co-founder of The Hub, which offers insightful conservative commentary; and Jenni Byrne, who was the brains behind Mr. Poilievre’s leadership campaign. All were advisers to then-prime minister Stephen Harper.

If Mr. Poilievre were to ask them and a few others to craft a platform based on the key values of smaller government, lower taxes and balanced budgets, what might they come up with?

They might come up with something like this:

  • Reduce the size of the federal public service to where it was in 2015, while terminating swaths of consultants.
  • Cut the carbon tax and build gas pipelines. But also invest heavily in nuclear energy and reduce carbon emissions through regulations.
  • Bring forward a credible plan to balance the budget in five years.
  • Fund health care by transferring tax points to the provinces.
  • Bring defence spending up to 2 per cent of GDP, while freezing or cutting spending in other departments. Buy a new fleet of submarines.
  • Sign trade and security agreements with Taiwan, strengthen ties to NATO, invest heavily in NORAD detection technology.

The final platform might have all or none of these initiatives, and include ones not mentioned. What matters is putting a Conservative plan for government before Canadians.

Don’t wait until the election. Do it now. It’s time Pierre Poilievre laid out his agenda and owned it.