“This is not my victory. It is yours.”
A smiling Pierre Poilievre made the promise with passion as he delivered his election victory speech to an exuberant crowd of supporters earlier this month.
The fiery new leader of Canada’s Conservative Party was elected on Sep. 10 in a landslide 68-16% vote over his more moderate opponent.
“Tonight begins the journey to replace an old government that costs you more and delivers you less with a new government that puts you first, your paycheck, your retirement, your home, your country,” Poilievre vowed to applause and chants of “Freedom!” at the downtown Ottawa convention center.
Poilievre, an energetic firebrand populist, has aggressively taken aim at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s progressive agenda. Now, the newly-minted Conservative leader is positioned to be a thorn in Trudeau’s side at the very least and a formidable force that torpefies the Liberal Party prime minister’s agenda at most.
Although only 43, Poilievre is a career politician of nearly two decades whose ambition and appeal to the everyday Canadian have catapulted him to the top of government. Born in Calgary, the former cabinet minister has been a member of Parliament since age 25 and led his campus conservative club at the University of Calgary.
Poilievre’s moderate opponent Jean Charest likened his opponent’s scorched-earth style to the American right wing, chastising his party for seemingly following America’s lead with “a divisive approach based on slogans.” Indeed, Poilievre has been compared to former U.S. President Trump in opinion pieces and even cartoons.
Poilievre did attempt to extend an olive branch to progressive members of the party, saying they are “one party serving one country.” However, he has shown no signs of backing down from a fight with what he considers an oppressive Liberal government, promising to “fight tooth and nail” for Canadians.
Over his seven-month campaign for party leader, Poilievre attacked Trudeau on everything from vaccine mandates to Canada’s spiking inflation, which he dubbed “Justin-flation.”
Earlier this year, Poilievre voiced support for the anti-vaccine mandate trucker convoy that blocked the U.S.-Canada border, even walking with an army veteran who marched to Canada’s capital in protest of the mandates.
His election comes as Canadians look back on over two years of draconian health restrictions that were spawned by COVID but seem to never end and have harmed Canada’s post-pandemic economic recovery. One Canadian pastor made international headlines for being repeatedly arrested, fined, and jailed for weeks, including one dramatic arrest in the middle of a busy highway, after defying Canada’s restrictions on church services.
Government overreach in Canada appears to have expanded beyond pandemic restrictions as well. In one horror story, a father was jailed for opposing his minor daughter’s medical gender transition and is still fighting a daunting and expensive legal battle as his money dwindles.
More recently, spiking inflation and overall uncertainty have demoralized Canadians further.
“When government ruins the finances of the nation, it ruins the lives of its citizens,” Poilievre said last week during his first caucus address as party leader.
“We know that people are hurting across this country,” he said.
Later in the day, Trudeau made a plea for unity.
“Now is not the time for politicians to exploit fears and to pit people one against the other,” Trudeau said at a Liberal caucus retreat.
The prime minister could not resist a barb at his brand new opponent though.
“Buzzwords, dog whistles and careless attacks don’t add up to a plan for Canadians,” Trudeau added.
Trudeau has touted a progressive wishlist of policies.
The prime minister has an aggressive climate change plan that includes slashing oil and gas emissions to 42% below 2005 levels by 2030. He has also prioritized woke checklist items like government support for Canada’s indigenous population. Trudeau also scored a major win for his agenda earlier this year when his mammoth $8 per day government-subsidized child care package was approved.
Canadians are not responding with the enthusiasm Trudeau hoped, though.
Trudeau’s job approval has sunk to around 40%, even lower than President Biden’s 43% approval, according to Morning Consult. More than half of Canadians say they do not approve of Trudeau’s job performance.
If those numbers signal Canadians are ready for a change, Poilievre has an opportunity to be the architect.