It’s hardly the first time some people got together in Canada and said, “Let’s not.” According to legend, the country itself was founded, in part, by opters-out. At the time they were called United Empire Loyalists. They found George Washington and his lot a bit rambunctious. Their influence persists.
On Thursday the Loyalists’ spiritual descendents gathered at a Delta hotel in downtown Edmonton for what was billed, a bit ominously if you ask me, as the “First Annual LET’S GROW, CANADA! Conference.” The gathering was organized by the Centre Ice Conservatives. That group in turn was created by Rick Peterson, an investment banker who lost to Andrew Scheer in the 2017 Conservative leadership race, pondered a run in 2020 and decided that this time he’d rather influence the party, and Canadian politics generally, from the outside.
“‘Woke’ voices on the edges of the left and ‘populist’ voices on the fringes of the right are sucking up all the oxygen in what passes for political debate in Canada,” Peterson wrote in a kind of manifesto in April. Lord knows it’s a popular sentiment. These days I hear a variation of this who’s-on-second lament in social conversations several times a week.