The Hamilton Spectator

Poilievre moving to the centre


Pierre Poilievre is quietly doing what he excoriated his predecesso­r as Conservati­ve leader, Erin O’Toole, for attempting in the 2021 election — to nudge their right-wing party toward the political centre.

The change of direction and tactic came under the radar in two separate, but linked, steps in the House of Commons last week.

Step 1 was taken on Monday, the first day back for MPs following their Christmas-New Year’s recess, when the Liberal government called for second reading (approval in principle) of Bill C-35.

It’s the Canada Early Learning and Child Care Act, which writes into the statute books the landmark agreement that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau negotiated with the 13 provincial and territoria­l premiers last March to create a national program of $10-a-day daycare.

This takes a bit of explanatio­n. The federal funding of $30 billion (over five years) is being voted on a year-to-year basis by means of a spending item in the annual budget. That works for now.

However, if a restraint-minded party took office, or if the Liberals fell into the hands of a fiscal conservati­ve (say, a William Morneau), daycare’s billions would be an easy saving — just drop the funding from the budget.

This, if memory serves, was how Poilievre’s mentor, Stephen Harper, got rid of his predecesso­r Paul Martin’s fledgling daycare program when he was elected in 2006.

During his run for the Tory leadership last year, Poilievre declared that he would abolish Trudeau’s daycare program; he repeated the commitment after he won.

Once C-35 becomes law, as it is sure to, it would take an Act of Parliament to undo it. And it would take an uncommonly brave or ideologica­lly driven government to take away what Canadian families would have come to regard as an essential “right.”

It was clear in Monday’s debate that Poilievre had been spreading a new message and his caucus had heard it. The Conservati­ve Party of Canada is no longer interested in abolishing national daycare — perish the thought!

It stands with the Liberals, New Democrats, Bloquistes and Greens in support of C-35. Two days later, on Wednesday, when the bill was put to a formal vote, all five party leaders were in their seats.

The second-reading approval was unanimous: Yeas, 323; Nays, 0.

Step 2 came the same day. It was a move by Poilievre to dissociate himself from his previous support of the worst elements of the so-called “Freedom Convoy” that occupied Ottawa a year ago, ostensibly to protest vaccine mandates. He had been in no hurry to recant.

Last June, he introduced Bill C-278, a private member’s bill that sought to make it illegal for the federal government to require public servants to be vaccinated or to impose vaccine mandates for any sort of travel or for employment in federally regulated industries.

Someone must have advised him to give his head a shake and told him that his anti-vax bill served only to remind everyone of his foolhardy behaviour last February.

Through a slick bit of parliament­ary sleight of hand, Bill C-278 disappeare­d on Wednesday. Commons rules permit MPs to transfer sponsorshi­p of a measure from their name to another member’s, and Poilievre used that rule to transfer C-278 to the Conservati­ve MP for Niagara West, Dean Allison, who collapsed it into a private member’s bill of his own. Of Poilievre’s bill no trace remains.

The Liberals, of course, have videos of Poilievre and his convey buddies, ready to be deployed when expedient.

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