Ccanadian politics Just got interesting. On Sept. 10, the opposition Conservative Party elected as its leader Pierre Poilievre, a dapper fighter who promised to turn a serious political debate into a brawl. His party is betting on the boxing spirit of disgruntled voters when a Liberal government led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau next calls for a general election, likely in 2025. But it’s uncertain whether Mr Poilievre’s pugnacious spirit will have broad appeal.
There is no doubting the enthusiasm of the Conservative Party. On the Canadian speaking tour, his campaign claimed to have persuaded more than 300,000 newcomers to the Conservative Party. That’s more than two-fifths of those entitled to vote in its leadership ballot. Mr Poilievre won more than two-thirds of the vote, defeating the second-placed candidate, Jean Charest, an emollient centrist.
Mr. Poilievre, “Skippy” to his colleagues, does this by stuffing hateful people, institutions and ideas into a sandbag and hitting it hard. They include Mr Trudeau and his “Radical Awakening Coalition” with the New Democrats, a left-leaning party that backs Mr Trudeau’s minority government; central bank governor Tiff Macklem, who has pledged to sack him; the world economy the Forum, a network of bigwigs plotting “globalist” conspiracies; and “gatekeepers” such as city officials who stop housing construction. Mr Poilievre dislikes mainstream media and wants to divest Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, a public broadcasting company. He backed the Freedom Convoy, a protest against the vaccine mandate led by truck drivers that paralyzed downtown Ottawa earlier this year.
His attack struck a chord. Voters are angry about inflation and high home prices despite low unemployment and strong consumer spending. Mr Poilievre has largely ignored the role of global commodity prices and supply chain problems in driving up inflation, which stood at 7.6% in July, and wrongly blames Mr Macklem for acting independently of politics. But there is some truth to his claim that the government’s relatively loose fiscal policy has worsened inflation.
During Freedom Convoy, Mr Trudeau stunned civil libertarians for the first time by invoking the Emergencies Act, which gives the federal government the power to override the law and freeze bank accounts. That’s too much. The government is pushing ahead with a bill to regulate online streaming, which critics say could subject ordinary people to censorship. Mr Poilievre called it “nothing short of a power grab”.
Although aggressive, he is no outsider. He grew up wielding a political fist in Alberta, an oil-producing province with hard-edged conservatives. When he was a high school student, he wrote a letter to a local newspaper denouncing the Canadian government for raising pension contributions.he has been Member of Parliament Because he is 25 years old.
Mr. Poilievre’s strongest political belief is a Reagan-esque preference for small government. As the adopted son of a schoolteacher, he learned early on that “the greatest social safety net we can have” is “voluntary generosity among families and communities.” As a student at the University of Calgary, he entered a competition that asked contestants to write an essay about what they would do as prime minister. His answer: “I will cede as much of my social, political and economic control to the citizens as possible.” Now he has pledged to make Canada “the freest country on earth.”
His rhetorical style is reminiscent of populists such as Donald Trump. But his list of enemies is more limited. Unlike Mr. Trump, he supports immigration. In 2008, he questioned whether a federal plan to compensate Indigenous victims of Canada’s brutal residential school system was worthwhile, but was quick to apologize.
The blatant tactics of gaining access to Conservative Party members has unnerved some party leaders and could alienate voters. According to a poll conducted in August, about 70 percent of Canadians would have a negative opinion of a politician who supports the Liberty Convoy. Mr. Poilievre’s enthusiasm for limiting federal spending and his opposition to a national carbon tax imposed by the Liberal government to help Canada reduce greenhouse gas emissions may not be as popular with mainstream voters as the Conservatives.
Mr. Poilievre is encouraged that a majority of voters have yet to decide on him. On the eve of the leadership vote, less than half formed an opinion, according to pollster Abacus Data. His chances of winning the next election depend largely on factors beyond his control, including the state of the economy and whether voters tire of Mr Trudeau. Much will also depend on whether ordinary Canadians warm to the smart fighter. In July, Mr. Poilievre reminded voters that he would not change: “There are no big pivots. I am who I am,” he said in an interview. But being a shrewd politician is part of him. He might think the way to win is more boring. ■