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Momentum and uncertainty? The Conservative Party’s convention paradox

Conservative Party of Canada activists from across the country are poised to meet in Halifax this weekend to hash out the next year leading up to the 2019 federal election. While the party’s broader popularity has ebbed and flowed since the 2015 federal election, there seems to be renewed cause for cautious optimism among some Conservative activists.

Driven by both the Ontario election that saw Premier Doug Ford elected with a thumping majority and the recent by-election win in Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, Conservatives are feeling some momentum and the convention in Halifax is all but certainly supposed to be the next step in paving the way to victory in 2019.

While a festive atmosphere will certainly be present (it almost always is at conventions, regardless of party), the Conservative Party has some challenges to sort through in order to prove that it is ready to govern once again.

While the first instinct is to bring up MP Maxime Bernier and his decision to break up with the party, there are broader and more serious questions that will play a larger role in shaping the direction the Conservative Party takes in the lead up to the next election.

The main question the Conservative Party will have to grapple with is what they stand for as a party and which policies will become a priority (and eventually platform material) for the next election.

Political spectators and industry should pay some attention to the policy resolutions passed by the convention. While a lot of these policies will never become platform planks (and often are ways for the central party to give a voice to more fringe party elements), there will be broader hints at the direction the party’s leadership intends to take based on the debates.

Every indication so far is that we’re not likely to see any surprises in terms of policy and future platform come out of the convention in Halifax. The Leader of the Official Opposition Andrew Scheer is notoriously risk adverse, meaning that the convention itself is likely to be well-managed (Mr. Bernier excepted) and any eventual platform will be traditional Conservative fare.

Tax cuts, tax incentives, immigration, criminal sentencing reform are likely to appear as central themes alongside environment and energy plans that revert to a more traditional focus on carbon-based fuels. Convention watchers should keep an eye out for these themes to begin making a core appearance as the events in Halifax get underway.

And while time will tell exactly what a future Conservative Party platform will look like, it’s never too late for interested stakeholders to engage in discussions with Conservative Party officials and share ideas for Canada’s future. After all, the Conservative Party may form the Government of Canada in fourteen months.

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Written by Alexandre Boucher | Julie-Anne Vien | François Crête | Michel Rochette

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