Tuesday June 14, 2022
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday June 14, 2022
It’s time for Pierre Poilievre to get serious
Does Pierre Poilievre believe in vaccinating kids against measles and mumps and chickenpox? How about polio?
The question may sound ridiculous. After all, mass vaccination, compulsory in some provinces as a condition of attending school, has succeeded in all but eliminating these and other childhood diseases.
But to read Poilievre’s recent comments is to come away wondering whether the Ottawa MP and front-runner for the Conservative leadership might well roll all that back if he had the power to do so.
He introduced a private members’ bill in the House of Commons this month that would prevent the federal government from imposing vaccine mandates on travellers and federal workers. But in his tweets he goes further, saying the point is to “scrap all vaccine mandates and ban any and all future vaccine mandates” in the name of upholding “medical freedom.”
So what about that polio vaccine? It’s a provincial medical matter, of course, but in principle does he find requiring parents to get their kids vaccinated before they go to school (as Ontario, New Brunswick and to a lesser extent Manitoba do) an outrage against his concept of “medical freedom?”
Who knows? It’s all rather vague and perhaps that’s the point. In his quest for the national Conservative leadership it seems there are no limits on what Poilievre is prepared to say to curry favour with the angry anti-vax constituency in his party, the same people prone to disappear down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories about globalist plots to run the world.
This matters more than ever now that Poilievre is heading to almost certain victory in the leadership race. His campaign says it’s signed up almost 312,000 new members — considerably more than the total enlisted by all candidates in the party’s last leadership contest two years ago.
Those new members have to actually vote, of course, and much depends on which ridings they come from. But it’s an enormous number and it means the leadership is now Poilievre’s to lose.
That would put him at the head of one of the country’s great national political parties. And with political pendulums swinging as they do, he’ll have a good shot at winning power once the public grows tired of the Liberals and Justin Trudeau. Anyone tempted to write Poilievre off because he sounds so extreme right now should think again.
Which is why his views on things like vaccine mandates and those conspiracy theories actually matter. How much of what he’s saying now is based on sincere belief, and how much is just a cynical bid for votes among the Conservatives’ furious fringe?
It’s hard to believe, for example, that he actually believes those conspiracy theories about how the World Economic Forum, the annual elite talk-shop in Davos, Switzerland, is actually ground zero for a quasi-socialist attempt to remake western economies.
In its wackier variations, conspiracists suggest Davos is behind a plot to invent COVID-19 just to sell vaccines, or even to use vaccinations as a way to inject 5G-enabled surveillance chips into unsuspecting citizens. Poilievre, we assume, sees this as the nonsense that it is. But he’s still happy to give the conspiracy-mongers political comfort.
The point is not that a Poilievre government would push all this on the public. But at the moment he is riding a tiger. It looks like it’s carrying him to the Conservative leadership, but he’s feeding forces that he may not be able to control down the road.
It’s time for Poilievre to get serious and make clear where he stands on all this. Becoming leader of one of the country’s national parties carries with it great responsibility. Fuelling fringe theories and casting doubt on whether he would fight a future pandemic fails that test spectacularly. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial)