Last week I heard Roman Baber speak. You are forgiven for saying “who?”
It was a political meeting, a chance to meet one of the candidates running to become leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and probably our next Prime minister. Baber is one of the candidates perceived to have an almost zero chance of winning.
I’d never heard of him before. That may be because he was elected to the provincial legislature while I was living in Germany, and hasn’t made a name for himself federally. Having heard him speak, I would probably rate his chances of winning at less than zero.
It wasn’t so much his ideas. I found myself agreeing with what he was saying in his prepared remarks. As the child of immigrant parents, Baber believes all you need to get ahead in Canada is to work hard and treat others well. Emotionally I agree with him. Intellectually I know it isn’t that simple, and there are many barriers to success that require a little, sometimes a lot, more to overcome.
There were about 125 people jammed into a room that comfortably holds 50, mostly passionate supporters. As Ottawa is seeing record numbers of COVID-19 cases, I was surprised that only one person beside myself was wearing a mask. Yes, many were young, but there were a fair number of senior citizens I would have thought would be more careful.
Baber’s message is one of freedom: free speech and no pandemic mandates are his mantra. (I gather he was turfed from the provicial government caucus becasue of his vocal opposition to government pandemic policy.) That is what the crowd wanted to hear, so I guess it is no surprised they were unmasked. I agree much of the government’s pandemic response was overreach, and I am concerned about speech restrictions.
I’m also concerned about foreign affairs (which wasn’t mentioned by Baber or questioners), the economy and, especially, the environment. The next Conservative leader must make the environment a priority if he or she wishes to be taken seriously.
Some of the questions from the audience were bordering on conspiracy theories, but I suspect that may be the case at any political rally these days. I keep wondering why people think politicans who can’t manage simple things like buying a fighter jet, building a pipeline or moving an illegally parked truck are part of some super-secret global cabal. Given the level of political incompetence, I find it difficult to believe in a conspiracy involving people who aren’t smart enough to find the washroom without direction.
Baber’s audience is not Baber, and I don’t discount the man’s abilities just becasue he attracts some people who haven’t thought their positions through. His positions though seemed a little naive.
He has great plans for improving health care, plans I have already forgotten as it was obvious he didn’t realize his proposals would be a federal infringement on provincial jurisdiction. His plan to lower housing costs by selling surplus government land for new construction, was at least something within the federal domain. I don’t think he realizes that such a plan has been proposed many times, even implemented in some areas, and housing prices continue to skyrocket. (I learned a lot about housing in Canada when I was researching a book on the topic. Housing prices aren’t high because there is no land. We have lots of land in Canada. Housing prices are high because everyone wants to live downtown.)
Baber and his ideas will appeal to the same voters who support Pierre Polievre, who is widely seen as the frontrunner in this race. He might manage to get enough signatures and raise enough money to get his name on the ballot, but he won’t finish in the top five. Unless there are only five names on that ballot – the $300,000 deposit might be tough for some prospective candidates to raise.
Which has me wondering why he is running for the job. Perhaps it is because he thinks he can’t win his riding as an independent in the June 2022 provincial election. Independent candidates rarely come out on top, even ones who had previously been elected under a party banner.
He seems like a pleasant person. Hard working and sincere. Given his provicial electoral prospects, the man needs a new job. It just isn’t going to be as leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.
Not this time anyway.