The Conservative policy convention has come and gone amid a hail of plaudits, photo-ops, and favourable polls. Leader Pierre Poilievre has managed to unite the party faithful and win over Canadian voters, by tapping into their economic angst and fatigue with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is increasingly seen as out of touch, and out of time.
But the convention also opened a new political fault line: the culture wars. Delegates voted that children should be prohibited from gender-related “life-altering medicinal or surgical interventions,” upheld women’s rights to single-sex spaces and sports, and rejected mandatory diversity, equity, and inclusion training and race-based hiring practices. A majority also supported allowing Canadians to refuse vaccines on the grounds of “bodily autonomy.”
Pushback was swift. A former Conservative candidate who is trans said a vote against gender-affirming care could cause some children to commit suicide. A local riding president warned against reopening the vaccine debate. But most of the criticism came from the media and analysts who say the culture wars are a distraction that will hurt the Tories at the polls, like the “barbaric practices” tip line did in the 2015 election. Poilievre has a huge lead, based mostly on economic issues: why blow it? People only care about the rent and the grocery bill; these other concerns will not inform their political choices.