Could Jean Charest be the leader the CPC needs?
“Charest has bipartisan likeability. That’s what is needed to beat the highly dislikable and divisive Liberal machine.”
Justin Trudeau’s political brand is so tarnished, it’s unlikely anything can bring back the shine. All that stands between Trudeau and a resumption of his previous career as a snowboard instructor is the useful idiocy of the NDP and the weakness of his opposition.
The question for federal Conservative Party members as they ponder the leadership material that currently presents itself, is: Do you want a leader who can tick off all the right policy boxes you personally care about or do you want a leader that can defeat the Liberal/NDP/media party?
If the Freedom Convoy and the government reaction to it made one thing crystal clear, Canada is a divided country along class lines. For the upper so-called ‘Knowledge class’, the pandemic has been a great inconvenience, but — safe at home — they Zoomed and carried on successfully. The ‘labour class’ comprises those who actually had to watch their small businesses and physical jobs wither and die, or, like the truckers, go to work so the Zoomocrats never ran short of arugula.
Enmity against the designated lower/labour class has been purposefully, systematically, and ruthlessly nurtured at the highest levels. The present leadership of our country — principally Justin Trudeau, but supported by his deputy, Chrystia Freeland, Justice Minister David Lametti, the worker-betraying NDP and Trudeau’s media helots — have made it clear there are Canadians with “acceptable” views and those whose views are so unacceptable that they should not be tolerated. These people are — in Globe and Mail pundit Andrew Coyne’s immortal words — “anti-social yobs with delusions of grandeur.” Never has the chasm been wider. Are we becoming a mini-America?
In the U.S., outsider Donald Trump — a newcomer to the Republican Party — promised he would clear the Washington swamp. Hillary represented that swamp. That alone was good enough for millions of Americans. In both 2016 and 2020, exit polls in the U.S. presidential elections showed that although 82 million Americans held a negative opinion of Donald Trump, a significant number of them voted for him anyway because they held an even more negative opinion of the alternative.
In both elections, emotion and gut feelings swayed independent voters more than policy. There’s a lesson here for us.
Canada experienced a very dark hour during two Quebec separatist crises. Emotions ran high because this was an issue that was going to be settled on emotional grounds, not by reason. In the 1980 referendum, Pierre Trudeau was the hero. We federalists didn’t care what his other policies were. It was a crisis of survival. He was a natural leader and he stared down the separatists. In the second, the 1995 referendum, Jean Charest played a major role in playing to Quebec federalists’ hearts, waving his passport and delivering endless passionate appeals in both official languages. Lucien Bouchard was a formidable opponent. Charest’s performance against him was crucial to the razor-thin victory for the federalist option.
Separatism comes in forms other than provincial breakaways. Trudeau is willing to abandon Canadians of the “unacceptable” kind and their allies completely in order to bind Canada further to a “post-national” globalist future. The battle to remain a nation is also going to be fought and, if won, won on emotional grounds. And the form of national separatism we are now engaged in is also going to be fought, and if won, won on emotional grounds. This is no time for internal squabbling and party disunity. This is no time for another breakaway party to form (looking at you, Mr. Sloan.) Recently, I wrote a column arguing closing the significant gap between the male and female vote could make the difference for the CPC. I still think that’s a good plan for any party leader. But the more important need now is for a leader that can expose Justin Trudeau and the other denizens of the Ottawa swamp for the post-nationalist, de haut en bas separatists they are.
As an open letter to Charest from Eastern Conservative MPs and senators eager to see him declare his candidacy stated: “The current leadership race for the Conservative Party of Canada boils down to one fundamental question: who is the best person to defeat the Federal Liberal Party and offer our country a leader who will revive our economy and govern with experience and determination under the Conservative banner?”
Charest has bipartisan likeability. That’s what is needed to beat the highly dislikable and divisive Liberal machine.
Barbara Kay is a senior columnist for the Western Standard.