My latest: what if I’m wrong about PPC Pierre?

So, Pierre Poilievre.

This space has been somewhat critical of him, you might say. Just a bit.

His peddling of World Economic Forum conspiracy theories. His pimping for Bitcoin, which is in a freefall. His unprecedented libels targeting his Conservative Party leadership opponents. His deranged winged monkey supporters, who are just as bad as the #TruAnon cult.

And, of course, his unholy alliance with anti-vax, anti-science convoy lawbreakers.

All of that rankles. All of that is maddening. Why? Because Justin Trudeau is the worst prime minister in a generation, that’s why. Because, if we are to be rid of the serial arrogance and the casual corruption of the Trudeau regime, only the Conservative Party can defeat him.

The New Democrats can’t, and won’t. They are in an Axis of Weasels (TM), coalition government with Trudeau. If anyone is going to do it, it is the Conservatives.

But the Conservative grassroots seems intent on electing Poilievre as their leader — a leader who, in a general election, seems unelectable. Who is against everything, and for nothing, and will arguably turn voters off in droves. Who is inarguably a bit of a jerk.

But. But, but, but. If I learned one thing in law school, it is always to ask one question: What if I’m wrong?

What if Poilievre can defy conventional wisdom, and win the country? What if his negatives can be transformed into positives?

Let’s look at the top five.

1. The economy. Poilievre has appalled official Ottawa — and bewildered Bay Street — with his attacks on the Bank of Canada, and his promotion of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. He’s been ridiculed for both. But what if Poilievre is onto something? What if the Bank of Canada’s rate hikes and fiscal policies push the country into a deep recession? That doesn’t seem impossible, now. If and when that happens, Poilievre will look like a prophet, not a kook.

2. Trump-style politics. This writer worked for Hillary Clinton in three different states in 2016. Along with everyone else on that campaign — along with everybody inside the beltway in Washington — I thought it was impossible that a foul-mouthed, perpetually angry adolescent like Donald Trump could be elected president. Um, no. Poilievre has adopted the same style of comms — always angry, always negative. A lot of us thought that approach would never work for Trump. (Well, it did.) When voters are angry, being an angry candidate is not such a bad idea.

3. Wacky policy. Take my word for it: The Liberal Party War Room has been positively salivating at the prospect of facing off against Poilievre, and forcing him to defend the assorted conspiracy theories with which he has become associated. That’s until Abacus Data, an extremely Liberal-friendly polling firm, came up with some survey results a few days ago that shocked everyone: “Millions believe in conspiracy theories in Canada.” Wrote Abacus: “44% (the equivalent of 13 million adults) believe ‘big events like wars, recessions and the outcomes of elections are controlled by small groups of people working in secret against us’…” And: “37% (or 11 million) think ‘there is a group of people in this country who are trying to replace native-born Canadians with immigrants who agree with their political views’…” That’s ugly stuff, and it’s crazy. But it would appear Poilievre — as cynical as it is — may know exactly what he’s doing.

4. A divided house. Patrick Brown, who has run an impressive and underestimated campaign, has said that he would not serve in a Poilievre-led caucus. Jean Charest is highly likely to do likewise. Poilievre’s my-way-or-the-doorway approach is unusual (and always self-defeating) in Canadian politics. But what if Poilievre is right — and Right? What if “Red Toryism” is finally an oxymoron, and a new Conservative Party is needed?

5. Governments defeat themselves. Justin Trudeau beat Stephen Harper in 2015. He beat Andrew Scheer in 2019. He beat Erin O’Toole in 2021. With each election, his share of the popular vote has grown ever-smaller. Trudeau is now more of a liability to the Liberal Party than an asset. And there is no obvious successor waiting in the wings. What if Poilievre simply needs to maintain a pulse, and let the Liberals finally defeat themselves? It’s not a crazy strategy.

There you go: Five reasons why Pierre Poilievre may be on the right track. Five so-called negatives that may in fact be positive.

I still think he’s the wrong choice. I still think he’s wrong for the country.

But what if — just if — I’m wrong?

— Warren Kinsella ran Jean Chretien and Dalton McGuinty’s winning war rooms

My latest: rates up, everything else down

Interest rates: Going up.

Voter confidence: Going down.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Federal Reserve did something it hasn’t done in nearly three decades: It raised interest rates by three-quarters of a percentage point. That’s the biggest rate hike since 1994.

Anyone who thinks that the Bank of Canada won’t do likewise in July is dreaming in Technicolor. The only question is how much.

In recent months, the Bank of Canada has boosted its key interest rate by a half a point twice — moving the borrowing rate to 1.5%. For all of us who borrow — to purchase a home, or a car, or lines of credit, or credit cards, or student loans — those interest rate hikes have a meaningful and measurable effect on the bottom line.

Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises — who, tellingly, fled Europe to escape the advance of Nazism, and would go on to influence generations of economists — once said: “Public opinion always wants easy money, that is, low interest rates.”

But easy money is getting increasingly less easy to get.

Why raise rates, you ask? Well, the economy, as the experts say, was too hot. Inflation was higher than its been in decades.

Unleashed from the strictures of the pandemic, consumers started spending like the proverbial drunken sailors, pushing prices of just about everything up. Inflation — that is, a drop in the bang you get for your buck — was back, with a vengeance.

Inflation was made worse by factors that were myriad and multiple. Russia’s insane invasion of Ukraine. Supply-chain chaos. Labour and housing shortages. Rising prices. And fear of yet more rate hikes. As Joann Weiner, an economics expert at George Washington University, inexpertly observed: “It’s a pretty bad storm.”

Pretty bad indeed. And where there is bad news, nervous politicians can sometimes be observed, tip-toeing away from the danger zone, trying their utmost to go unnoticed. For example: Has anyone seen Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lately?

For many politicians, rising interest rates — and rising inflation — can be existential. In the late ’70s and ’80s, the oil crisis, government spending, and higher prices ended many political careers — President Jimmy Carter and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau among them. (Trudeau bounced back, but Carter never did.)

In Canada in the New Twenties, the dominant political issue is the cost of living. That issue, more than any other, is driving the political agenda, and causing no shortage of disingenuous finger-pointing.

In the U.K., rising fuel prices have prompted a cynical “windfall tax” on energy companies — and Spain and Italy are likely to follow suit. That sort of stunt won’t assist any consumers. (But reducing taxes on the price of gas, as Alberta recently did, will.)

Federally, the coming interest rate hikes will play an oversized role in the futures of Liberal and Conservative politicians. If the Bank of Canada overplays its hand, and pushes the country into recession, Conservative leadership frontrunner Pierre Poilievre — who has recklessly promoted InfoWars-style conspiracy theories about the central bank, and childishly called for its governor to be fired — will almost certainly benefit.

As Canadians grow angrier about the state of the economy, and as they feel more and more powerless about rising rates and inflation, Poilievre may reap the rewards.

Trudeau and his Liberals, however, will not. It’s been apparent for some time that the prime minister and his inner circle do not have the faintest clue what to do about an economy that is super-hot and looks like it could implode. As my Sun colleague Mark Bonokoski noted recently, the Trudeau government has insisted that inflation was “transitory.”

Well, it isn’t. And it’s getting worse.

The late, great Alberta political guru Rod Love once said to me: “When the water dries up, the animals all start to look at each other funny.”

The water, along with cheap borrowing, is drying up. So too consumer — and voter — confidence.

We human animals may be edging closer to an economic and political drought. Who will thrive? Who won’t survive?

Because, make no mistake: Politically, not everyone will.

June 15, 2004


Like some men, and as was the practice in some families, my brothers and I did not hug my father a lot. As we got older in places like Montreal, or Kingston, or Dallas or Calgary, we also did not tell him that we loved him as much as we did. With our artist Mom, there was always a lot of affection, to be sure; but in the case of my Dad, usually all that was exchanged with his four boys was a simple handshake, when it was time for hello or goodbye. It was just the way we did things.

There was, however, much to love about our father, and love him we did. He was, and remains, a giant in our lives – and he was a significant presence, too, for many of the patients whose lives he saved or bettered over the course a half-century of healing. We still cannot believe he is gone, with so little warning.

Thomas Douglas Kinsella was born on February, 15, 1932 in Montreal. His mother was a tiny but formidable force of nature named Mary; his father, a Northern Electric employee named Jimmy, was a stoic man whose parents came over from County Wexford, in Ireland. In their bustling homes, in and around Montreal’s Outremont, our father’s family comprised a younger sister, Juanita, and an older brother, Howard. Also there were assorted uncles – and foster siblings Bea, Ernie, Ellen and Jimmy.

When he was very young, Douglas was beset by rheumatic fever. Through his mother’s ministrations, Douglas beat back the potentially-crippling disease. But he was left with a burning desire to be a doctor.

Following a Jesuitical education at his beloved Loyola High School in Montreal, Douglas enrolled at Loyola College, and also joined the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps. It was around that time he met Lorna Emma Cleary, at a Montreal Legion dance in April 1950. She was 17 – a dark-haired, radiant beauty from the North End. He was 18 – and a handsome, aspiring medical student, destined for an officer’s rank and great things.

It was a love like you hear about, sometimes, but which you rarely see. Their love affair was to endure for 55 years – without an abatement in mutual love and respect.

On a hot, sunny day in June 1955, mid-way through his medical studies at McGill, Douglas and Lorna wed at Loyola Chapel. Then, three years after Douglas’ graduation from McGill with an MD, first son Warren was born.

In 1963, second son Kevin came along, while Douglas was a clinical fellow in rheumatism at the Royal Vic. Finally, son Lorne arrived in 1965, a few months before the young family moved to Dallas, Texas, to pursue a research fellowship. In the United States, Douglas’ belief in a liberal, publicly-funded health care system was greatly enhanced. So too his love of a tolerant, diverse Canada.

In 1968, Douglas and his family returned to Canada and an Assistant Professorship in Medicine at Queen’s University in Kingston. More than 35 years later, it was at Kingston General Hospital – in the very place where Douglas saved so many lives – that his own life would come to a painless end in the early hours of June 15, 2004, felled by a fast-moving lung cancer.

Kingston was followed in 1973 by a brief return to Montreal and a professorship at McGill. But an unstable political environment – and the promise of better research in prosperous Alberta – persuaded the family to journey West, to Calgary.

There Lorna and Douglas would happily remain for 25 years, raising three sons – and providing legal guardianship to grandson Troy, who was born in 1982. At the University of Calgary, and at Foothills Hospital, Douglas would achieve distinction for his work in rheumatology, immunology and – later – medical bioethics.

He raised his boys with one rule, which all remember, but none observed as closely as he did: “Love people, and be honest.” His commitment to ethics, and healing – and his love and honesty, perhaps – resulted in him being named a Member of the Order of Canada in 1995.

On the day that the letter arrived, bearing Governor-General Romeo LeBlanc’s vice-regal seal, Douglas came home from work early – an unprecedented occurence – to tell Lorna. It was the first time I can remember seeing him cry.

As I write this, I am in a chair beside my father’s bed in a tiny hospital room in Kingston, Ont.,where he and my mother returned in 2001 to retire. It is night, and he has finally fallen asleep.

My father will die in the next day or so, here in the very place where he saved lives. He has firmly but politely declined offers of special treatment – or even a room with a nicer view of Lake Ontario.

Before he fell asleep, tonight, I asked him if he was ready. “I am ready,” he said. “I am ready.”

When I leave him, tonight, this is what I will say to him, quietly: “We all love you, Daddy. We all love you forever.”

[Warren Kinsella is Douglas Kinsella’s eldest son. His father died two nights later.]

[From Globe’s Lives Lived, June 15, 2004.]