With Poilievre as leader, Tories set to beat Trudeau’s Liberals

The party can form a new coalition with working class and young Canadians

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Pierre Poilievre is now the first permanent leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, having won the Conservative leadership race to decisively replace Erin O’Toole. Poilievre’s first election victory gives him a serious leadership mandate, the kind of mandate no leader has had since Stephen Harper. The Conservatives now have a huge opportunity before them not only to potentially form government, but to do so by offering a clear, bold and compelling alternative vision to Canadians who finally seem tired of a scandal-ridden Liberal government on the run. ideas.

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The minute Poilievre announced he was running for leadership, the race was over. It wasn’t quite a crowning achievement, and to Poilievre and his team’s credit, they never behaved like this. But there’s no point in pretending that Poilievre was anything but unstoppable. The race was also perhaps the nastiest internal fight the party has seen since its formation in 2003, with conservatives of various persuasions spreading dirty laundry and engaging in bitter infighting, to the joy of a much of the media that seems to enjoy little more than spilling the beans on intra-conservative squabbles.

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But none of this should overshadow the remarkable campaign led by Poilievre. He signed, according to his campaign, more than 300,000 new members and almost single-handedly the party grew to record size. He won the race in all provinces. He broke fundraising records. It dominated the news cycle for months. Poilievre organized energetic and well-attended rallies from coast to coast that no politician in this country, except perhaps the Prime Minister himself, could hope to match. He has proven to be a particularly savvy and gifted communicator, his social media reach allowing him to connect with segments of the general population previously inaccessible to conservatives. Poilievre tapped into something, and while some conservatives aren’t sure exactly what he tapped into, there’s no denying the energy and momentum behind him. He must now use that momentum to propel the party into government.

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Experts will now be watching closely to see if Poilievre is making the supposedly necessary “pivot” to the center where all the voters who are needed to win the election are. But Poilievre should continue to do what he has done throughout the race, which is to pay little heed to the advice of people who don’t really want to see the Tories win. Poilievre has two traits that endear him to diehard conservative supporters. First of all, he doesn’t seem to care too much about what the voices of the legacy or “mainstream” media think of him. He is neither embarrassed nor sorry to be a conservative. This has served him well in the race, as Poilievre has consistently refused to define himself on the pitch or live up to the rules of engagement hostile voices expect of him. Second, Poilievre recognizes that elections and the political spectrum more broadly should not be understood on the overly simplistic left/right/center spectrum. Canadians are more complicated than that, and Poilievre doesn’t just have to pivot and become a liberal-lite centrist to build a winning coalition.

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Political divides and alignments are changing, with new divides coming to define our politics. Instead of performing the legendary centrist pivot, what Poilievre can and should do is grow the tent by bringing in people who were previously unreachable. Blue-collar and hard-working Canadians, whose values ​​seem increasingly distant and opposed to the values ​​of progressive elites, seem ripe for the picking. The NDP seems particularly vulnerable on this front as it becomes dominated by the concerns of well-educated urban progressives sharply disconnected, and with very different priorities, from its traditional working-class base. Poilievre would do well to look to Ontario and the remarkable achievements of Monte McNaughton and the Ontario Conservatives under Doug Ford to woo those voters. Likewise, Poilievre appears to have made inroads with young Canadians frustrated and alienated by Canada’s captive economy and housing market. If Poilievre can continue to appeal to these two groups of disgruntled and frustrated Canadians, he has the potential to build a heterodox but formidable political coalition.

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  1. Federal Conservative leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre has a mixed record when it comes to conservative social issues.

    Ben Woodfinden: Tory critics of Poilievre don’t understand their own party

  2. The Conservative Party has been embroiled in infighting since the September election, and the infighting doesn't appear to be ending anytime soon.

    Ben Woodfinden: Red Tory vs Blue Tory is nothing but a trap set by liberals

Poilievre not only faces an opportunity, he also faces a huge challenge. Canada is in desperate need of heterodox thinking and a questioning of the conventional wisdom that has resulted in an ossified status quo ill-equipped to deal with the challenges Canada currently faces. Inflation and the rising cost of living is a problem that the current government seems totally unable to take seriously. But our economic woes run deeper than that. We expect a prolonged period of sluggishness with minimal economic growth. This has real consequences for all of us. Canadians will be poorer. They will have fewer economic opportunities. This will mean less revenue to support social services. Since 2015, the Liberals have been on a massive public service hiring spree, and almost all of the net job growth since the pandemic has been in public sector employment. This is not conducive to productivity or economic growth and creates an increasingly bloated public sector that still seems unable to provide basic public services.

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Canada desperately needs a serious economic growth agenda that challenges Canada’s progressive liberal vision, and Poilievre has the chance to offer an ambitious alternative agenda to challenge that. His attacks on Canada’s diverse guardians allow him to channel the simmering discontent and anger across the country and marry it to a bold pro-growth governance agenda that aims to make life more affordable and provide more economic opportunity for struggling Canadians who feel left behind . Poilievre’s agenda will have to be more than that, but tackling our economic challenges should be at the heart of what Poilievre and the Conservatives offer Canadians.

With the leadership race over, the Conservatives should turn their eyes to the prize and forge a new coalition that positions them to finally beat Justin Trudeau. Poilievre’s campaign message, with a few tweaks and refinements, may be precisely the message needed to lead conservatives back to the promised land.

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