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Conservative Party candidate Jamil Jivani won the by-election in the Durham riding previously held by former party leader Erin O'Toole on Monday night. Mr. Jivani is pictured in Oshawa, Ont., on July 15, 2020.Carlos Osorio/The Globe and Mail

Monday’s by-election in Durham signalled a final coda for what used to be the Erin O’Toole Conservative Party and further affirmation that the party is now triumphantly in the hands of Pierre Poilievre.

As expected, conservative activist and commentator Jamil Jivani took Mr. O’Toole’s old riding handily. He had won more than 50 per cent of the vote when your correspondent called it a night, twice that of his Liberal opponent. The NDP was far back in third.

Mr. O’Toole usually took better than four-in-10 votes in Durham. In that sense, Mr. Jivani’s result is particularly impressive, and reflects the Tory surge nationally.

During his run for the Conservative leadership in 2020, Mr. O’Toole described himself as a “true blue Conservative.” But after defeating the more centrist former cabinet minister, Peter MacKay, Mr. O’Toole pivoted, embracing a form of carbon pricing and releasing an election campaign platform that included, among other things, increased health care spending and supports for low-income workers. The Erin O’Toole Conservative Party was pragmatic, centrist, even progressive on some issues.

The Conservatives won the popular vote in the 2021 election, but failed to take enough seats in the 905, the belt of ridings surrounding Toronto named after its area code that included Mr. O’Toole’s riding of Durham. The Liberals squeaked in with a minority government, and Mr. O’Toole faced the wrath of a party that felt he had betrayed their principles in his quest for power. On Feb. 2, 2022, as the truckers honked at anti-vax protests in downtown Ottawa, Mr. O’Toole was voted out as leader by his own caucus. He resigned his seat last year.

Stephen Harper was a true-blue conservative leader who never pivoted. The 22nd prime minister was determined to reduce the size of government and he did; he was determined to end federal interference in areas of provincial jurisdiction and he did; he was determined to lower taxes and he did; he was determined to diversify trade and he did.

But he did most of it slowly, incrementally, over the course of a decade. And he wasn’t afraid to reverse himself when circumstances demanded, such at the financial emergency of 2008-09, which led to several years of deficits. Had he become prime minister, Mr. O’Toole would probably have governed incrementally as well.

Mr. Poilievre is a very different kettle of fish. He claims Canada is broken and he aims to fix it. What would fixing it look like?

It would mean eliminating the carbon tax and easing back on efforts to fight climate change. It would mean strict new controls on federal spending. It would mean dismantling the English side of the CBC. It would mean firing the governor of the Bank of Canada. It would mean tougher bail, parole and sentencing provisions, and ending support for the safer supply of drugs to addicts.

Mr. Poilievre wants to allow jet aircraft to use Toronto’s downtown airport. He would withhold federal funding from municipalities that don’t build enough homes, and from universities that he considers too woke. He would speed up the accreditation for health professionals trained abroad.

And more.

Mr. Jivani will fit right in with the activist, populist conservatism of Mr. Poilievre. A Yale law grad and former head of the conservative Canada Strong and Free Network (formerly the Manning Centre), he sued Bell Media after he was fired from a radio program he hosted. Mr. Jivani maintained Bell wanted a token Black man who espoused progressive attitudes toward racial issues, which Mr. Jivani refused to do. Bell Media strongly denies the claim, saying Mr. Jivani was combative and unco-operative.

He would be perfect to lead the, um, restructuring process at the CBC. One way or another, expect Mr. Poilievre to give Mr. Jivani a prominent seat on the Conservative front bench.

If the Conservatives win the next election, no one is going to write a story about their retreat into incremental centrism. Things will be wild. There will be one tough-on-crime bill after another, spending cuts, sharp reductions in the budget deficit, even as the military receives more funding. It will be a fiery time that will delight conservatives and appall progressives.

And Jamil Jivani will be in the thick of it.

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