Patrick Doyle The Canadian Press In terms of political slogans, the entry into Pierre Poilievre's scene at the head of the Conservative Party coincided with the appearance of great successes repeated over the past year.
Quebec conservative elected officials launched the parliamentary session in Ottawa by doubling down on hostilities towards the Bloc Québécois, with the help of witticisms meticulously crafted behind the scenes to associate this party with the rising cost of living.
A “coalition for radical Liberal-Bloc tax increases” that would “inflate the cost of food”: “It’s expensive to vote Bloc! »
In French, the first week of the parliamentary session of the Conservative Party of Canada (PCC) was devoted to lifting the veil on an alleged alliance between the party of Yves-François Blanchet and the Liberals of Justin Trudeau on environmental matters. This so-called “coalition” would be responsible for the prices of gasoline and groceries.
Even if the main function of the question period in the Commons is to hold the government to account, no less than 14 interventions conservatives were instead targeting the second opposition party, according to a compilation from Devoir.
Conservative strategists agree that the party is refining its impactful messages to get people talking about it in Quebec, in accordance with their political marketing manual. The PCC wishes to be considered by voters dissatisfied with Justin Trudeau.
A slogan leader
“Debates in the House, and politics, are is rendered from the clipof five seconds. It's really about having a short sentence of a few seconds that will capture the argument, capture the attention,” says Matthew Conway, Quebec conservative strategist and advisor at Sherpa.
In terms of political slogans , the entry on the scene of Pierre Poilievre at the head of the Conservative Party coincided with the appearance of great successes repeated over the past year, such as “JustInflation”, “gros sens” or even “tripler-tripler-tripler” le prix carbon.
Some formulas come from the chef's imagination, while others are the result of collective brainstorming, explains Mr. Conway on the phone. “A play on words makes everyone smile. Want, don't want, it's the kind of thing we want that stays in people's heads. »
This is “the basis of political marketing,” explains Rodolphe Husny, former Conservative political advisor under the Harper government and contributor to Devoir. “Speak badly of it, speak of it well, but speak of it,” he illustrates.
“If the Bloc reacts, indirectly it makes the news, and you win. Normally, in politics, you want to define your opponent before he can define himself. You stick the label on, and it’s up to them to peel off the label. »
If the Block reacts, indirectly it makes the news, and you win. Normally, in politics, you want to define your opponent before he can define himself. You stick the label on, and it’s up to them to peel off the label.
— Rodolphe Husny
A tax that is not one
The Conservative Congress in Quebec, in September, saw the appearance of this new offensive against the Bloc Québécois. Since then, Chief Pierre Poilievre has regularly recalled the words of Bloc MP Denis Trudel, who affirmed in February 2023 that “the carbon tax is a very good measure. However, it must be increased much more radically […].”
The PCC is trying to blame the “supposedly sovereignist” party for this support for federal carbon pricing, which does not currently apply to Quebec. A clean fuels regulation, which the Bloc failed to denounce when the opportunity arose, is lumped in with “a second Liberal-Bloc carbon tax.”
An analysis by the Parliamentary Budget Officer calculated in the spring that the environmental measure, established by the government and not by Parliament, could add up to 17 cents per liter of gasoline in 2030. However, gasoline sold in Quebec must already comply with similar environmental standards in force since the beginning of the year.
The member for Bellechasse-Les Etchemins-Lévis, Dominique Vien, went so far as to stand up in the House with an energy bill to prove that this “tax” applies to Quebec farmers. MP Pierre Paul-Hus made a similar stunt in February. After verifications of Duty, the Quebec Consumer Protection Office then warned consumers against misleading fees.
« This is something true: the Bloc is clearly on the side of the carbon tax,” defends Matthew Conway.
Rodolphe Husny recalls that in 2008, a conservative campaign criticizing the “cost of the Bloc” was perceived as if the opposition represented a waste, which was recovered by the political opponent. Fifteen years later, conservative attacks avoid this trap, he says.
“It’s about bringing the facts back to the population,” believes the former mayor and conservative candidate in Trois-Rivières, Yves Lévesque, beaten by less than 100 votes by the Bloc Québécois in 2021. “We see it in the polls, people are having a hard time arriving. […] We must focus on the subject of the cost of living. »
Given the format of the question period, it was elected officials from the Liberal government who had to respond in the House to the attacks directed against the second opposition.
“Obviously, I am not a member of the Bloc Québécois,” recalled Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland. “Mr. President, we have just heard a bunch of nonsense in one shot,” also said the Quebec lieutenant of the Liberal Party, Pablo Rodriguez.
In the entourage of the Bloc leader, the watchword is not to respond to the attacks. “On the ground, we have no echo of that. It's a parliamentary bubble”, maintains a close advisor to Yves-François Blanchet.
Targeted by the official opposition, the elected representatives of the Bloc had the strategy of asking questions in the House on files affecting Quebec City, a stronghold of the CCP in the province. The member for Beauport-Limoilou, Julie Vignola, followed the government this week on the state of the Quebec bridge, on the lockout at the Port of Quebec and on the financing of the Davie construction site in Lévis.