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What do the policies Poilievre's party passed say about the Conservatives' future?

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Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has spent the summer speaking about housing affordability, a core focus that attendees at the party's Quebec City convention were quick to praise him for.

But the only proposal seeking to address that issue did not make it to the final plenary vote.

The resolution aimed to update the party's existing housing and homelessness policy to say the party would encourage banks to consider a potential homebuyer's past rental payment history when applying for a mortgage.

It was not the only policy idea aligned with messaging that Poilievre has been championing in recent months—bail reform, international credential recognition, and defunding the CBC— that was brought to the convention by party members.

But by the end of the weekend, delegates ultimately signalled these issues were not the priority, deciding during closed-door sessions not to bring these resolutions to the main stage.

Policies that did make it for a final vote and were passed with a majority included affirming the right to refuse vaccines or employment training for ideological reasons, tax breaks on maternity essentials, and a repositioning of the party's environmental principles.

DO TRANS POLICIES STAND AGAINST TORY VALUES?

But the pair of proposals that prompted the most political chatter in the lead-up to and during the convention may prove to be the first real test of the party's cohesion under Poilievre’s leadership.

One of the resolutions would see a Conservative government restrict gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth. Another opposes the inclusion of trans women in women's spaces such as on sports teams and in bathrooms.

They both passed with cheers and applause, and are now part of the party's policy playbook. And, even though the word on the lips of the party faithful this weekend was unity, the brief snippets of debate that occurred Saturday afternoon on these two resolutions indicated that they are issues Conservatives are divided on.

"It's not anti-anything, it is pro-women, please vote yes," said Alberta delegate Linda Blade backing the push to block trans women from accessing certain spaces.

"This proposal is dangerous," shot back a fellow Alberta delegate against the resolution.

Another from Montreal implored her fellow Conservatives to vote “no” because "the Liberals would love nothing more than to throw this issue onto the table… Let's get Poilievre in, let's not leave ourselves divided, let's join and get ourselves elected, please."

During the exchange on gender-affirming care, those in favour of it spoke of how dysphoria is a "mental disorder," while those against implored their fellow Tories to realize wading into this space "stands against the values of our party to embrace freedom and bodily autonomy."

The Conservative Party's first openly transgender candidate and former Erin O'Toole policy adviser Hannah Hodson, who left the party after Poilievre took the helm, reacted to the news with disappointment.

She told CTV News that she was ashamed to see that the party decided to focus on attacking some of the most vulnerable people in Canada, "when there are so many important things to deal with as a country." Her concern now is how this will play out, with the Liberals and NDP likely to pounce on these policies as a "culture war" wedge issue.

Consecutive elections saw social conservative issues plague Poilievre's predecessors and the long time federal politician now has a delicate balancing act ahead of him.

He will need to reconcile his party’s apparent desire to push contentious social topics, while also appealing to as many Canadians as possible.

On the eve of the votes, his deputy leader Melissa Lantsman was asked by CTV News' Chief Political Correspondent Vassy Kapelos how she squares the debate that played out over the weekend with a previous op-ed where she wrote that in order for the Conservative movement to grow, support for LGBTQ2S+ people "cannot be up for debate."

"What I will say is the Conservative Party believes in the dignity of every single Canadian no matter where you came from," Lantsman said, adding that there's "nothing" Poilievre has said to make her question that.

As the conversation around gender identity and pronouns in schools spreads across the provinces, a recent poll suggests there may be some traction among Canadians around the desire for parents to be informed. 

Poilievre is not required to make these policies part of his next election platform, but until he takes a position on these newly-etched elements of his party's policy book, journalists are likely to keep asking Poilievre to comment.

If his absence from Pride events this summer and his office's refusal to comment on why is any indication of how this will play out, his stance on these subjects could remain opaque for some time.

'MAKING THE CASE…CHANGE IS NEEDED'

As his Friday night rally-style hour-long convention address made clear, Poilievre is already thinking about how to shape his messaging in a way that hits both true blue notes and strikes a chord with everyday Canadians.

While warning of a "dystopian future" under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's continued leadership, Poilievre painted an idyllic picture of how the country would look with him in charge.

"As the daylight fades to night, kids are heard pleading for 10 more minutes of street hockey before bed. And then, quiet. And a young couple sits on their front porch soaking in the summer warmth, a Canadian flag hanging gently but proudly from the front of their house… they look into each other's eyes in a way that can only say the hard work paid off… because finally, we're home," he said while closing out his speech.

Some of the Conservative leader's points stand up to a fact check, such as how it takes 25 years to save up for a house down payment in Toronto, according to one affordability study. 

Though, Poilievre also has a tendency to ignore complexity to enhance his punchy political rhetoric.

In his speech, he blamed the carbon tax for forcing "1.5 million people to food banks," despite the governor of the Bank of Canada saying the price on pollution only accounts for 0.15 percentage points of the inflation rate.

Poilievre also promised to stop funding the "Beijing-controlled Asian Infrastructure Bank," though Ottawa has already suspended its relationship.

Commenting on the speech on Friday night, Conservative strategists told CTV News they think their current leader is doing a fine job of walking that tightrope.

"He was… really making the case to Canadians that change is needed," said Conservative commentator and past party leadership hopeful Rudy Husny during CTV News' special live coverage.

But a year into his tenure and potentially still two years until his first federal election at the helm, time will tell if Poilievre can keep it up.

Because, as Toronto Sun editor-in-chief Adrienne Batra put it during a Saturday morning chat on CTV News Channel, "anything can change that momentum, it could be one issue… that switches the entire direction, or the narrative of the next election, in the drop of a hat."

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