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Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre waves as he enters a caucus meeting, prior to the Conservative convention, in Quebec City, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023.Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

As hundreds of federal Conservatives gathered in the Quebec capital for a policy convention, party leader Pierre Poilievre made an appeal for support from Quebeckers, urging them to rally around his party which has been surging in the polls.

Speaking to the party’s national caucus, Mr. Poilievre ridiculed Yves-François Blanchet, Leader of the Bloc Québécois, for attending a conference in Barcelona on political self-determination. In particular, he said Mr. Blanchet had consumed fuel by flying to Spain while asking Quebeckers to support a federal carbon tax, which has been a key target for the Conservatives.

Mr. Poilievre, in French, said only the Conservative Party works in the interests of Quebeckers, especially outside large urban areas, and will eliminate the carbon tax, and deficits that the Tories link to inflation. He also criticized the Bloc for supporting the Liberals on justice policies.

Mr. Poilievre used his remarks Thursday to criticize the governing Liberals on familiar issues, such as affordability, but also went after the Bloc, which has more seats in Quebec than the Tories.

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

In Ottawa, Bloc House Leader Alain Therrien shrugged off the Conservative criticism.

“I think we’re trying to always be above the fray when we’re talking about, or speaking for Quebeckers,” Mr. Therrien told journalists on Thursday, adding that Quebeckers expect that of the sovereigntist party.

“There are negative comments made about us, but we don’t really want to respond. The fact that right now, in polls, they are in a favourable position means that they are possibly trying to attack us for all kinds of things that don’t really reflect what we do in the House.”

The party policy convention began Thursday and runs through to Saturday. Mr. Poilievre will address the gathering on Friday afternoon.

The roster of keynote speakers includes retired Canadian general Michel Maisonneuve, who garnered attention with a 2022 speech in Ottawa that was critical of Canadian Forces and government policy, as well as his wife, Barbara, a retired major. The pair were scheduled to speak on Thursday evening.

On Friday, former federal cabinet minister Peter MacKay will speak to the convention. Saturday’s keynote slot has been assigned to Daniel Hannan, a member of the British House of Lords who campaigned for Brexit, and has praised Mr. Poilievre.

No prominent Quebeckers are scheduled to give keynote speeches.

During the proceedings, delegates will vote on scores of policy resolutions. They include committing a Conservative government to “protect children” by prohibiting “life-altering” interventions on minors to treat gender dysphoria, and 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.

Mr. Poilievre has declined to comment, in detail, on any of the resolutions, saying he wants to leave party members space to have their debates on issues. He has also said, as leader, he is not necessarily bound by the policy ideas advanced by grassroots members.

New polls are showing increasing support for the Conservatives.

The Angus Reid Institute said its research shows 39 per cent of voters would choose the Conservatives if an election were held today, a 12-point advantage over the governing Liberals at 27 per cent. The NDP runs third at 19 per cent.

According to Angus Reid, the federal Liberals do not lead in vote intent in any region of Canada. Quebec is the only province, says the institute, where the Liberals have an advantage over the Tories. They are second to the Bloc.

The research is based on an online survey from Aug. 31 to Sept. 6, among a representative randomized sample of 3,400 Canadian adults who are members of an Angus Reid forum. The results are considered accurate within plus-or-minus 1.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Shachi Kurl, president of Angus Reid, said Thursday the Conservatives are on a bit of a roll, but this is as much due to fatigue and disaffection with the Trudeau government as anything.

“Outside the Conservative universe, there remains a strong ‘fear factor’ regarding a Conservative victory,” she said in a statement. “So they have to be careful not to have too many moments that would further stoke that fear factor in a way that is damaging, long term.”

Also Thursday, Abacus Data said its new research shows the Conservatives have opened up their largest lead over the Liberals since the 2015 election.

Were an election held now, Abacus said, 40 per cent of committed voters would vote for the Conservatives, 26 per cent for the Liberals, and 19 per cent for the NDP. The Greens are at 4 per cent. In Quebec, the Bloc is at 30 per cent.

The Abacus research is based on a national survey of 3,595 adults conducted between Aug. 29 and Sept. 4. The margin of error is plus or minus 1.7 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

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