Policy and Pierre Poilievre
This article is to serve as a manifesto on all the information we have on the policies of Canada’s new Conservative leader, Pierre Poilievre. However much hype there is for the new leader, bringing things to the ground level and objectively considering his policies helps Canadians determine whether he’s a credible leader or if he’s simply a populist politician, as many critics are arguing.
Although Poilievre may seem attractive, who critiques the current Liberal government establishment where it hurts, it suffices to say that many political analysts are becoming increasingly weary of his rhetoric and actions as a leader. To begin with, many are questioning whether he would even be a competent Prime Minister. Questions have also been raised on the viability of his policies, and whether he would be an electable leader due to his polarizing nature. Nevertheless, I’m here to digress all that and am simply here to list and discuss the policies he has espoused since becoming a leader.
Economic Policy and Inflation
At the heart of Poilievre's jump to power is hammering the Liberal Party on Canada’s inflationary crisis. As with much of the world, inflation in Canada is at historic highs, with recording breaking inflation not seen in the past 40 years. Although the overall month-by-month inflation rate has started to dwindle (mainly due to a reduction in oil prices), Canadians feel a tight squeeze in their wallets on how much they can spend and how much more expensive life has become.
As the official opposition, criticizing the government in power during an inflationary crisis is wildly effective rhetoric. An increase in prices leads to all matters of life becoming more difficult to afford. As a result, it hits home to many people when the government in power is rightfully criticized for its inflationary response, forcing them to act.
In response to the inflationary crisis, the Liberals have introduced dental rebates for children, provided a one-time payment to low-income renters, and temporarily doubled the GST credit payments for six months for the 2022-2023 period. This will give a couple extra hundred dollars directly to 11 million Canadian costing the taxpayer approximately 2.6 billion. The Liberals have also started to phase in a dental care program that will help cover the cost of dental services in Canada for low-income Canadians, starting with children in 2022 and full coverage across the country by 2026.
Although the legislation is attributable to the Liberals, it is good to see that the Conservatives are putting effective pressure to force meaningful legislation.
But it's not all roses and flowers; Poilievre has advocated for the use of bitcoin as a way for Canadians to “opt-out of inflation” and seeks to make Canada the “blockchain capital of the world.” Poilievre may be well-intentioned about bitcoin, but considering bitcoin as a method to avoid inflation is simply inadequate economic knowledge. No economist would want widespread usage of an online, non-traceable currency subject to massive fluctuations in value. Bitcoin would provide the opposite of the stability that Canadians need right now, and it certainly will not be a solution to Canada’s inflationary crisis.
Furthermore, Poilievre has also championed the idea of a ‘pay-as-you-go’ law for federal spending. He argues that in order to make sure federal spending measures don’t contribute to inflation, any new federal spending must be met with equivalent cuts in spending in something else. This would essentially cap federal spending and would force legislators to work within existing budgets for any new spending they want to rein in.
On the surface, this seems like a good idea to keep the federal government fiscally responsible. But in reality, this is a policy that is going to be highly criticized among economists who fear that capping federal spending would lead to cuts in healthcare, social development, infrastructure, green-technology investments, education, and any other government administration that requires a steady flow of funds. For example, it would be really hard to convince anybody to give up infrastructure funds for more spending on healthcare. It would be a zero-sum game, everyone loses because everyone relies on all government services one way or another.
On immigration, Poilievre supports the current levels of immigration to sustain Canada’s growing economic demands. However, Poilievre said that he would incentivize provinces and territories to approve foreign licensing for immigrants by requiring “occupational licensing bodies to decide whether to grant an immigrant a license to work in their trade or profession within 60 days of getting the application.” According to Poilievre, this should allow immigrants to fill in the labour shortages in healthcare, education, and construction.
Housing and Infrastructure
Another core issue for Poilievre and his Conservative Party is Canada’s housing crisis. It is not a surprise to anyone that housing is a big issue for young people, especially those looking to own a home. Poilievre’s Conservatives is the first iteration of the Conservative Party that has hit a home run on Canada’s housing crisis. Although his policy playbook on housing plays a bit short on what’s required, he effectively gets his message through.
Regarding his policies, he claims that “only carrots and sticks will get results”. Poilievre says his government will threaten federal infrastructure funding if severely unaffordable housing markets (like Toronto and Vancouver) don’t increase their housing capacity by at least 15%. Poilievre says that he will also speed up building permits and processing times for housing construction using the same method of withholding critical funds. He also says that he will compensate $10,000 to other cities with more affordable markets for every extra home built.
Poilievre has also pledged to require housing construction to be high-density and concentrated around transit hubs. Arguing that people living in high-dense housing around transit hubs would reduce the need for cars and refocus transportation around transit. At the same time, his commitment to continuing Trudeau’s permanent transit fund has yet to be confirmed. Indeed, building housing around “transit hubs” would require long-term transit funding and construction in the years ahead.
In addition, Poilievre has stated that he would promote high density in low-density neighbourhoods. This would put lower prices on low-dense single-family housing and would allow more people to live in an otherwise very inefficient housing method.
Other tidbits of housing policy include penalties for big city governments that host cases of NIMBYism (neighbourhoods that seek to limit housing construction to preserve culture). Moreover, Poilievre also will sell off 15% of underutilized government buildings for affordable housing units. However, the extent to which he will enforce those affordable units to stay affordable is yet to be confirmed.
Poilievre has made no commitments to providing federal funding for social housing or co-op housing. The latter and former are effective ways to build permanently affordable homes for marginalized communities.
From my estimate, much of Poilievre’s housing policy is indeed sound and palatable. The only question is whether he is willing to implement these policies if he were to come into power and whether or not he has the guts to face the ruthless real estate lobby. Poilievre and his wife own several rental properties and are reaping the benefits of equity due to price increases, so his reputation as an outsider looking to solve the crisis has come into question.
Poilievre's staple policy on the environment is to axe the carbon tax first introduced by Trudeau’s Liberal government to put a price on pollution and incentivize businesses to utilize low-emitting technologies. Poilievre’s primary contention with the carbon tax is that it puts an extra expense on fuel costs, production costs, consumptions, and virtually all facets of products and services.
Poilievre’s primary method of fighting climate change is through technology. His government would invest in carbon capture technology and rely on companies using innovative technologies to reduce emissions rather than through taxation. He also says he would promote the mining of critical minerals required for the manufacturing of electric vehicles. Although he hasn’t advocated for a ban on gas-powered vehicles as the Liberals have pledged by 2035, he nonetheless is on board with electric vehicles.
At the same time, Poilievre has massively focused on building more oil pipelines across the country: “We're going to clear the way for pipelines. I am going to support pipelines south, north, east, and west. We will build Canadian pipelines,” Poilievre says at one of his rallies.
Logically, more pipelines mean more extraction of oil, which naturally means more emissions for producing and consuming that oil. For any climate activist, building more pipelines is a rugged ‘no’ to any viable climate policy.
Furthermore, Poilievre says that he would ban imported foreign oil and would replace that lost oil with domestic production from oil extraction projects across the country. Poilievre has also stated that he would repeal the Liberal's climate assessment legislation which gives powers to the federal government to assess natural resources projects and their impact on the environment and climate change.
On the climate front, climate activists and climate experts have been critical of Poilievre’s commitment to reducing emissions and his policy response to climate change.
Poilievre’s primary motto for social improvement in Canada is ‘freedom.’ He has repeatedly attacked the Liberals on various measures like mandatory vaccination, covid restrictions, the use of the Emergencies Act, and regulations on Canadian content. Poilievre has stated that he wants Canada to be the “freest country” on the planet.
To uphold this freedom, Poilievre has stated that he would administer “free speech guardians” on university campuses and punish universities that do not support Canada’s freedom of speech laws by withholding grant funding.
Poilievre has supported the Freedom Convoy with videos, pictures, and statements that show his friendliness with the group. Poilievre says he is “proud of the truckers” and supports any group of people that peacefully protest but condemns the extremists that were involved.
However, Canadian news media has widely criticized Poilievre for his alignment with the Freedom Convoy to politically gain by cozying up to far-right ideologues.
More recently, a report from Global News has revealed that Poilievre’s recent youtube videos included hidden misogynistic tags to cater to online discriminatory groups. Poilievre has been attacked from all angles in light of this news as proof that he’s catering to far-right hateful, misogynistic groups to gain support politically.
On more general social policy, Poilievre is pro-choice. Yet previously, Poilievre has voted for pro-life positions that would have criminalized abortion in 2010 and probed an investigation into when a fetus should be considered a human. More recently, especially after the reversal of Roe v. Wade in the US, he has doubled down on being pro-choice with numerous press statements that he is a pro-choice conservative and would never pass restrictive abortion laws if he were to form a government.
Poilievre has also changed his opinion on same-sex marriage. In 2005, he supported a notion that would have changed the definition of marriage only to consider opposite genders and gave a speech on marriage being an opposite-sex union. Now, he supports same-sex marriage, stating that he’s “learned a lot” from his decisions in the past.
Healthcare has always been an ongoing issue for Canadians. Recent polls show that healthcare is among Canadians' top issues, tied with the economy, inflation, and the environment. Unfortunately, Poilievre has not provided any policy solution to the growing crisis in healthcare in Canada outside of continuing to sustain the current funding model and alleviating labour shortages by providing faster licensing for immigrant healthcare professionals (as mentioned previously).
On vaccinations, Poilievre has vowed to end all federal covid-19 vaccination requirements and has openly been on the side of ‘freedom of choice’ when it comes to vaccination, arguing that vaccinations are a choice and ought not to be enforced.
Poilievre’s Electoral Prospects and Trudeau
Poilievre has been widely criticized for his polarizing rhetoric and his alignment with misogynistic and hateful far-right figures. He is a populist at heart, but that does not mean his policies are necessarily good for Canada. He has a lot to be criticized on issues such as climate change, healthcare, economic policy, and social issues. But his stances on housing and inflation have been quite effective in bringing up these crises as a serious conversation in parliament. His solution for housing, in particular, is palpable as well, considering the meager response by the Liberals.
Poilievre is an effective leader, but his rhetoric is likely a double-edged sword that could either kill him or Trudeau. Nevertheless, whether or not he wins the next election is all up to how external factors affect Trudeau’s government and whether Poilievre is able to capitalize on that effectively. However, if Trudeau feels his reign is in a tough spot next election, he will have no trouble bringing in the big guns to leverage support by providing funding and change for healthcare, climate change, housing, and inflation. It’s all in Poilievre’s hands now, he either goes big or home to Ottawa.
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