Pierre Poilievre’s biggest selling point is who he isn’t

‘Look at me! I’m a cowboy!”

So, Pierre Poilievre has been anointed as the new leader of the Conservative Party, and by an overwhelming majority. Canadians will now have to learn how to pronounce and even spell this guy’s name (go ahead, try to spell it without looking at this paragraph).

Unlike the two previous Conservative leaders, Poilievre has a real chance of becoming our next prime minister.

I can’t believe I’m writing this. 

A few months ago, when the hapless Erin O’Toole stepped down (a guy so forgettable, I had to look up his name on Wikipedia) and Poilievre immediately rose to the top of the pack of contenders, I was certain that this oily, arrogant, hard-right career politico would never win a general election, inflicting us with another term of Justin Trudeau. 

Now, I’m not so sure.

Although the next election might not be until 2025 (unless Trudeau manufactures a phony crisis that would necessitate an election), I can actually see Pierre Poilievre as the next prime minister.  And I take no pleasure in writing this.

Poilievre is that breed of politician that I find the most disdainful – a career politician, someone who has never done anything in his life but politics. His work resume is so skimpy, his Wikipedia page lists that he delivered newspapers for the Calgary Sun as one of his work highlights. He was on the board for his Calgary MP, arch-conservative Preston Manning, when he was just 15. He was first elected to Parliament at the ripe old age of 25 – making around $150,000 a year in his first real job – and he hasn’t left since. His entire life experience is inside conservative politics, which hardly makes him the champion of the common man that he claims to be.

What does he stand for? Freedom, baby, freedom!

When he launched his campaign, Poilievre spoke about firing the governor of the Bank of Canada (which he can’t do) and turning Canada into some sort of crypto-paradise. Only the nerdiest nerds know anything about the governor of the Bank of Canada (whose first name is, incredibly, Tiff), and crypto has collapsed. But it seems Poilievre has put that stuff behind him, in favour of freedom. 

“Join me in making Canada the freest nation on earth,” his website proclaims. “Take back control of your life.”

He talks about “removing the gatekeepers”, which is rich for a guy who has lived inside the castle for years. He supported the ‘Freedom Convoy’ that shut down Ottawa. He supports “vaccine choices” (and that does not mean Moderna vs. AstraZeneca) and the right to “worship God in your own way”, which I didn’t know was under threat. His audience loves it when he talks about “defunding the CBC”, which is the right’s version of “defund the police”. He quotes a poet named Henley, saying in a video message “you are the master of your fate, you are the master of your soul”. 

That’s going to be hard to put on a campaign poster.

What Poilievre certainly has going for him is supreme self-confidence. He firmly believes he is right – far right, in fact – and simply does not back down. While O’Toole and his predecessor, Andrew ‘Howdy Doody’ Sheer, were continually sidetracked by controversies real or imagined (manufactured by the Liberals and their friends in the media), Poilievre will not apologize or flip-flop on anything.

His freedom message is clearly resonating with Canadians. His campaign appearances brought out thousands. An Abacus Data poll showed 37 percent of 18-29-year-olds were prepared to back the Tories, a larger base of support for either the Liberals or the NDP. 

Personally, I find him supremely creepy. But he has one tremendous selling point, one that might put him in the prime minister’s office – he isn’t Justin Trudeau. And that just might be enough. 

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By Maurice Tougas

Maurice Tougas is a lifelong Albertan, award-winning writer and reporter, and a former MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark.

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