Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre said he maintains a commitment to “parental rights” in schools, while making a play for disaffected NDP voters and laying out a different approach for limiting emissions, in an exclusive National Post video interview with columnist Rex Murphy.
The full video interview is scheduled to be released Tuesday on nationalpost.com, but a shortened podcast version, with Murphy serving as Full Comment guest host, was released Monday.
During a discussion about how political ideologies are influencing universities and public schools, Poilievre noted that he had supported two conservative premiers, in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, who had implemented provincial policies requiring principals and teachers to inform parents or get their consent if their children opt to change their pronouns or name while at school.
It’s one of the few areas where Poilievre, who has mostly stuck to pocketbook issues in his attacks on the government, has been willing to pick a fight on a cultural issue. The Conservative leader framed the issue inside his consistent overarching themes of freedom and getting rid of “gatekeepers,” saying that politicians should let parents raise their kids freely.
“If I were to create a political party from scratch, it would be called the ‘mind your own damn business party.’ People can make the decisions of who they marry, who they date, how they live their lives, but also how they raise their kids,” said Poilievre, who said that was roughly the Liberal party’s point of view 25 years ago.
Earlier this year, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs came out in favour of schools not concealing from parents when children ask to be addressed by a different name or gender identity at school. The position led to fighting within his own Progressive Conservative party in June, but he has rallied since then and has been recently fundraising on his support for parental rights. Polling conducted in the summer found that 57 per cent of Canadians agreed that schools should have to tell parents if their kids ask to change their pronouns or gender at school.
At the time, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attacked the New Brunswick policy and Poilievre told him to “butt out” of provincial politics.
“We have to respect parental rights and I stand for parental rights because I trust parents to make the right decision for their kids,” Poilievre told Murphy. “This is a key area where Justin Trudeau and I just disagree. He believes that he should be able to impose his radical ideology on other people’s kids, by demanding provinces implement his thinking and calling anyone who disagrees, whether they’re Muslim, or Jewish, or Christian parents, hateful. And so I think he should butt out and let parents raise kids.”
“That’s why my role as a prime minister, is not going to be to impose my values on other people. It’s to get out of their faces and run a competent government,” said Poilievre.
On climate change, Poilievre told Murphy he believes Canada needs to reduce emissions, but not with a solution that would “shut down the Canadian energy sector.”
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“My view is that we need to green light more green projects. Let’s speed up mining approvals, let’s accelerate nuclear energy production. Let’s allow Quebec to build its hydroelectric dams, with one approval rather than two and gumming it up in bureaucracy. In other words, let’s have an abundance of energy, rather than a poverty of energy that we’re seeing now,” said Poilievre.
Poilievre also argued that the demand for fossil fuels in the world should be supplied by Canada.
“There will be between 60 and 100 million barrels of oil consumed daily by the world over the next couple of decades, according to the International Energy Agency. So where do we want that oil to come from: Newfoundland, Alberta and Saskatchewan or Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, or other more polluting countries?” said Poilievre.
Poilievre also made a direct pitch to unionized workers who traditionally vote NDP, by arguing that NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is working against the interests of his own voters by teaming up with the Liberal government with a confidence and supply agreement in the House of Commons.
“Jagmeet Singh has forgotten who he works for because I can tell you the union workers in the lumber mills of Vancouver Island or in the mines of Northern Ontario that elected NDP members of Parliament did not send their MP to go and work for Justin Trudeau, yet that is what has happened,” said Poilievre.
The Conservative leader’s comments could be a sign that he is hoping for a continuing realignment of the voter base in the next election, with working class voters turning increasingly to the Conservative party rather than left-wing alternatives. A similar swing was recently seen in Ontario with Premier Doug Ford poaching some long-time NDP seats in the 2022 election.
Poilievre chalks it up to a matter of simple policy decisions.
“Good, hard-working union families that like to hunt and drive a truck and raise their families are now represented by an MP that supports a government that’s taking away hunting rifles, taxing people’s energy, and stripping away the very resource jobs that give paycheques to those people. So Jagmeet Singh and his NDP members are literally working against the people they represent in this coalition,” said Poilievre.
Full Comment is a weekly politics podcast from Postmedia, regularly hosted by Brian Lilley, and published every Monday on all podcast platforms.
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