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A primer on the policy proposals Conservative grassroots want Poilievre to champion in next election

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The Conservative party's upcoming convention in Quebec City is shaping up to become a hub for heated policy debates, as Conservative supporters will be discussing and voting on a series of proposals they'd like to see leader Pierre Poilievre champion in the next election.

Amid Poilievre's largely centralized focus around issues of affordability, grassroots Conservatives are pushing for party policy changes that would see the party take a stance on transgender Canadians' participation in sport and access to gender-affirming care, as well as on several other hot-button social issues such as vaccine mandates and drug decriminalization.

Also set for debate is the party's approach to climate change policy, tax and seniors' benefit reforms, housing affordability, and foreign interference.

In total, Conservative party members have selected 60 policy proposals advancing for discussion during the three-day party confab.

Deciding what would be brought to the floor at the convention was done through an electoral district association ranking process, and while these are the topics that have been identified as priorities, there's no guarantee they'll become party policy that Poilievre embraces.

The Liberals have a similar approach to policies raised at conventions, as recently pointed to amid efforts from the current government to distance itself from a contentious policy around disinformation and unnamed sources. 

Taking place Sept. 7-9, the convention is open to both current party members and everyday Canadians, and will include election training seminars and keynote addresses from high-profile speakers. So far, a pro-Brexit British lord and an anti-cancel-culture retired military general are on the roster.

With preparations well underway for what is the party's first gathering of this kind in years and likely the last before Canadians are sent back to the polls, CTVNews.ca has read through each pitch, and compiled a roundup of some of the policies the Conservatives will consider adding to their next campaign platform.

GENDER-AFFIRMING CARE, DRUG DECRIMINALIZATION

Under the framing of "protecting female sports, intimate spaces and women's rights," Conservative grassroots members want the party to take a stance on trans athletes participating in women's leagues, due to their "immutable and insurmountable competitive advantages."

Those championing this proposal are specifically pushing for the party to take the position that it "believes that women are entitled to the safety, dignity, and privacy of single-sex spaces (e.g., prisons, shelters, locker rooms, washrooms) and the benefits of women-only categories (e.g., sports, awards, grants, scholarships)". This resolution was presented by the Edmonton Strathcona electoral district association, a riding currently held by the NDP.

Conservative members also want the party to adopt a new opposition to gender-affirming care for minors, by voting on a proposal to vow a Conservative government would "protect children" by prohibiting access to medical interventions to treat gender dysphoria in anyone under the age of 18, echoing similar policies enacted in the U.S.

The rationale for this proposal cites the finality of "cutting off healthy body parts" but makes no mention of research indicating the value and potentially life-saving outcomes of transgender individuals receiving affirming care. 

A separate proposal framed as being about protecting children wants the party to advance stronger legislation to combat "predatory conduct to prepare a child or young person for sexual activity at a later time (‘grooming’)."

After previously saying that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should "butt out" of the contentious New Brunswick policy around pronouns in schools, the Conservative leader gunning to be Canada's next prime minister was asked to weigh in on his party's plans to advance these gender-centric proposals.

Poilievre said he hadn't yet studied all of the proposals coming forward at the convention but will look closely at each to decide whether it aligns with his eventual platform.

Though, in a recent video posted by Awaz Entertainment, an Urdu Hindi TV channel, Poilievre doubled down, saying he wants "every parent to have the freedom to raise their kids with their own values."

Another social issue Poilievre and members of his caucus have been speaking about—drug decriminalization—is also being brought to the convention.

Supporters want the party to vote on a new policy stating it supports drug abuse programs that provide mental, physical and social care to address the "underlying problems" of addictions, rather than offering a safe supply or decriminalizing drugs.

Conservatives are similarly calling for a Poilievre government to create a national treatment strategy to help those addicted to drugs that would see each province set up "evidence-based" treatment centres.

OPPOSING MANDATES, PROTECTING FREE SPEECH

While the massive "Freedom Convoy" protest and the COVID-19 pandemic seem increasingly in Canadians' rear-view, Conservatives want to ensure a future Poilievre-led government champions a policy of domestic vaccine production and to diversify the types of vaccines developed "including options for vaccines that do not violate religious beliefs or ethical values of Canadians."

The proposed modification to the party's existing stance on pharmaceuticals would see a line added noting the party affirms "Canadians have the freedom and right to refuse vaccines for moral, religious, medical or other reasons."

Building off of this sentiment, a separate policy coming up at the convention under the banner of "protecting workers" would see the party vote to include new policy stating it "does not support forced political, cultural, or ideological training of any kind as pre-condition of employment or practice."

There are other similar—and very bread-and-butter Conservative— resolutions advancing around protecting free speech at post-secondary institutions, and protecting the "public square."

This includes one suggestion from Conservative MP John Nater’s Perth-Wellington, Ont. riding association that seems to be hitting on the Liberal government's current suite of online streaming, online news and online harms policy changes, by suggesting Conservatives would "safeguard Canadians' Rights to create and access content on the internet without government sanctioned censorship, and nullify unconstitutional restrictions."

CONSIDERING RENTERS' RECORDS, TAX-FREE CLIMATE POLICY

While housing is the central issue dominating headlines and holding the focus of federal leaders, the Conservative base has proposed just one housing-focused policy as part of the package making it to the convention floor.

The pitch is to amend the Conservatives' current housing position to include a pledge to encourage financial institutions "to develop a framework that allows for the consideration of a potential homeowner’s previous rental payment history when applying for a mortgage." The rationale is amid the current housing affordability crisis, being able to include positive rental history may make home ownership more attainable.

After a summer where wildfires ravaged communities across the country, the Conservatives' climate policies are once again going to be up for debate at the convention, after Poilievre's predecessors Erin O'Toole and Andrew Scheer both tried their own versions of a carbon-tax-free environmental plan. 

Seeking to modify the current anti-carbon-tax stance, one proposal from the NDP-held riding of North Island-Powell River, B.C. wants the party to put in writing that "significant emission reductions are achievable through development and application of new and/or improved technologies and wise policy."

Other energy resolutions advancing include encouraging innovation around renewables and non-carbon energy sources, prioritize getting Canadian resources to world markets and pursuing climate mitigation "through investments in technology, not taxation."

GETTING TOUGHER ON CHINA, ETHICS BREACHES

Tapping into topics the Conservatives have been pushing hard in the House of Commons—foreign interference and Trudeau ethical issues—the party base is seeking to further empower Canada's ethics commissioner.

Building on the Conservatives' existing stance that the office should be armed with more punitive options for repeat offenders, and citing the "sheer number" of recent Conflict of Interest Act violations, members want to see a "three strikes" rule implemented, proposing costly fines for violations and an eventual disqualification from lobbying for repeat offenders.

On the foreign interference front, a regional priority resolution proposes to make it party policy that the Conservatives "will uphold and defend Canada’s sovereignty and democracy by supporting robust measures to counter foreign interference in our elections, democratic institutions, and with Canadian Citizens."

And, Conservative MP Michael Chong's Wellington-Halton Hills, Ont. riding association has advanced a proposed update to the party's China policy, vowing the Conservatives would deny China's participation at sensitive research facilities in Canada, ban Chinese government-aligned entities from owning Canadian companies or purchasing sensitive technologies, and push for the country's removal from the World Trade Organization.

ADVANCING BAIL, TAX REFORM

A well-backed resolution coming to the convention proposes the party take the position that dangerous offenders should remain behind bars while awaiting trial by requiring a bail applicant's criminal history be revealed at bail hearings and reforming "the counterproductive 'catch and release' bail system."

This echoes a position Poilievre has taken amid the high-profile and highly controversial transfer of notorious serial rapist and killer Paul Bernardo from the maximum-security Millhaven Institution in Ontario to the medium-security La Macaza Institution in Quebec in late May. 

Several other reforms Conservatives want to see centre around Canada's tax policies. One proposal wants GST eliminated on essential maternity and newborn products, another wants tax fairness for retirees through allowing various forms of their income to be eligible for income splitting at an age earlier than 65.

A separate proposal stemming from a riding with one of the highest senior populations in the country—Peterborough Kawartha, Ont.—wants a future Conservative government to increase Old Age Security (OAS) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) benefits in line with federal public service cost-of-living increases and provide additional tax credits and financial assistance to help low-income seniors. 

On Tuesday, Poilievre told reporters that he won't be commenting on any of the resolutions until members have had a chance to vote on them.

"Because that would be an undue interference in their work," he said. "I respect the grassroots of the Conservative Party, and I know that they will do careful consideration of policy proposals and when they pass or reject those proposals, I'll give their decisions careful consideration in putting together my election platform."

This means it could be some time after the convention concludes that Poilievre reveals which policy ideas he plans to adopt. CTV News will be attending the convention and will bring you the latest from the floor.

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