By Lily Canete-Goodine
As Parliament prepares to readjourn after several weeks of summer vacation, conservatives all across the nation are ready for a new era of right-wing politics. The date is September 10th, 2022, and Pierre Poilievre has just been elected as the new leader of the Conservative Party of Canada with 68.15% of the vote.
This election comes after former Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole was removed from his position in a vote of confidence back in February 2022. With his landslide win, Poilievre will replace interim leader Candice Bergen as both leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and head of the Official Opposition against Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.
But who is Pierre Poilievre? And what will he offer to Canadians in 2025 as their Conservative Party candidate?
With over eighteen years of experience, Poilievre is not new to the game of politics. Born to a teenage mother in 1979, he was raised in Calgary, Alberta, by adopted parents. Politics played a central role in Poilievre’s youth and early life. Anger and frustration at how Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s National Energy Program affected his family and community in Alberta helped shape Poilievre’s future conservative values. Before he was even of legal voting age, he had already attended a political convention and written a letter to a local newspaper, airing his grievances about the current Liberal government. He was first elected as MP of the Nepean-Carleton riding in 2004, at the age of twenty-five.
With goals to make Canada the “freest country in the world,” Poilievre’s personal brand of conservatism features an anti-elite, anti-vaccine mandate, and anti-Trudeau sentiment. His libertarian and populist beliefs follow in the footsteps of other notable political figures like fellow Calgary native Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz. And if these election results mean anything, the vast majority of Conservative members in Canada must agree.
But not everyone likes the way Pierre Poilievre plays politics. With a snide and unforgiving debate style, Poilievre is unrelenting in his verbal attacks against the people and policies he disagrees with. Several times, he has referred to the hike in grocery prices and increase in inflation in Canada as “JustinFlation,” pinning the blame of a widespread global issue on a single leader. Furthermore, Poilievre has had conflicting and almost contradictory opinions on different protests throughout his tenure as MP.
During their weeks-long occupation of Ottawa, Poilievre remained a vocal advocate of the so-called “Freedom Convoy.” Promoting their anti-vaccine mandate and anti-Trudeau messaging, he told a Maclean’s journalist in March 2022 that he supports “the legitimate aspirations of individual truckers and other Canadians.” All the while effectively ignoring the blatant racism of some organizers and participants.
However, only two years ago, Poilievre took a very different stance towards individual rights to protest. In contrast to his response to the Freedom Convoy, when Indigenous leaders and allies staged much less disruptive protests against the planned pipelines through traditional territories, Poilievre criticized the movement for “impeding other people’s lives” and called for law enforcement to step in.
Evidently, this change of opinion only occurred when the villains in the story became Justin Trudeau and the Liberals rather than pipelines and the oil industry. The hypocrisy is baffling and raises the question: how much of his rhetoric does Poilievre actually believe in, and how much is said purely for political gain?
It’s clear that Poilievre is a lifelong conservative, but despite all his talk of freedom and creating the world’s “freest country,” it’s still somewhat unclear what exactly he wants or how he plans on achieving it. Is it enough for him to rally this like-minded minority of conservative, populist libertarians to a win against the larger reach of the centre-left Liberal Party? Some think it will be necessary for Poilievre to swing towards the centre to appeal to a bigger base or risk losing, once again, to Trudeau’s Liberals, for the fourth consecutive election. Only time will tell what Poilievre has in mind for the next federal election, but voters can be sure he won’t go down without a sharp barb and strong fight.