Political pundits say Pierre Poilievre’s popularity with Conservative MPs stems from his interest in the key issues that matter to Canadians.
Malcolm Bird, a political science professor at the University of Winnipeg, says Poilievre gained popularity by focusing on vital economic issues, personal freedoms and empowering families.
“Look how many people he attracted to the party, look how many people bothered to go vote and pay money. It’s a good sign that it certainly shows that it meant a lot to some people, and a lot more than last time,” Bird said.
The 43-year-old MP for Carleton won the first round of the leadership election hands down, with 68.15% of the points awarded and 70.7% of the vote.
Poilievre launched his campaign on Feb. 5 and drew large crowds to his rallies. By June, he had signed up a record 311,958 members, a number that exceeded the total number of members the Conservatives had in the 2017 or 2020 races. By comparison, Justin Trudeau recruited 150,000 new Liberal Party members before to become a chef in 2013.
Scott Bennett, an associate professor of political science at Carleton University, says Poilievre succeeded by focusing on economic issues and not alienating social conservatives.
“Mr. Poilievre appeals to fiscal conservatives who want smaller government. He also appeals to some populist elements who recognize that Canada is drifting away from the ordinary tenets of democracy. He is not primarily a preoccupied social conservative by cultural and moral issues. However, social conservatives don’t hate him. They just like certain candidates more and he respects them,” Bennett said.
“The groups that don’t like him are diehard Patrick Brown supporters and, more importantly, people who think the party has a better chance of winning if it’s a watered down version of the Liberals.”
Brown was disqualified from the race in July under allegations that he had circumvented party rules by the way he acquired memberships. He supported Jean Charest, who finished second in the race with 16.07% of the points awarded and 11.6% of the votes cast.
Former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper endorsed Poilievre in July. Brooke Jeffrey, a political science professor at Laval University, says Poilievre’s alignment with the Harper tradition rings true to party loyalists.
“Poilievre is especially popular with Stephen Harper’s New Conservatives of the Reform/Alliance/New Conservative Party current. They also control the party apparatus and the governance process, so its margin of victory is hardly a surprise. These are NOT your grandfather’s conservatives,” Jeffrey said in an email.
“And so, of course, he is not popular with the old school Progressive Conservatives, embodied by Brian Mulroney, Joe Clark, Senator Majorie Lebreton, Hugh Segal and Jean Charest. They do not recognize themselves in this party, as they themselves have said.
Don Desserud professor and researcher in political science at the University of Prince Edward Island, says some conservatives like Poilievre because they don’t like leaders seen as too “accommodating and generous to special interest groups.”
“In these people, it is interpreted as a weakness. Therefore, they rally around someone who they believe, rightly or wrongly, is not afraid to “speak their minds” and will not be swayed by pressure to follow a more politically correct course. “, did he declare.
Geoffrey Hale, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Lethbridge, says Poilievre is the “brazenest Tory” to lead the Tories since Harper.
“Many Conservatives appreciate his combative approach to Mr. Trudeau, both inside and outside the House. Of course, that makes it come across as ‘polarizing’ to those broadly adhering to the left-liberal worldview that shapes federal liberal policies,” Hale said in an email.
“Mr. Poilievre is more likely to be effective if he appeals to the interests of Canadians on bread-and-butter issues, and addresses their economic concerns with practical approaches. He has, to some extent , during the leadership campaign, and will have to continue to do so, while responding effectively to the inevitable attacks from other parties.
Opinions were divided on whether Poilievre will work to foster greater unity within the Conservative Party.
“I don’t think he will try,” Desserud said.
“Poilievre is like ‘my way or the highway’. His followers, of course, love that about him. Whether other party members join us is another matter. Poilievre may have underestimated them.
Jeffrey says that “remains to be seen. He won’t bend… so inclusion will be on his terms. She suspects Quebec caucus members “could make a fuss or leave with maximum publicity” while others could “disappear and not participate.”
Pierre Paul-Hus, the only Conservative MP from Quebec to back Poilievre, said the 25,453 memberships he sold to Quebecers are significant. Andrew Scheer sold less than 10,000 memberships across Canada before becoming leader in 2017.
Charest was the first choice of just eight ridings – six in Quebec and two in Ontario, while Poilievre took the other 330. Bennett believes the party has their backs.
“He can unite about 80-90% of the party. I doubt the liberal-lighters would agree. However, I am impressed with the emphasis most candidates place on unity after leader selection,” he said.
Tom Flagnan, former professor of political science at the University of Calgary, says Poilievre’s “rather overwhelming” popularity is only half the reason he will face an easier time than Harper after taking over as leader of the fractured Canadian Alliance, then of the Conservative Party after the merger.
“There was deep animosities there, but [Harper] managed to get his former opponents to work together,” Flanagan said.
“Sometimes it doesn’t work, but if it happens in a way that shows you haven’t chased them away, it’s not that damaging. At some point, the irreconcilables better leave.
Poilievre has been an MP since 2004, having first been elected at the age of 25. Flanagan says he’s benefited from learning firsthand how Harper has kept the party together.
“You have to make your opponents feel that they hold important positions in the party. Treat them with respect. Do what you can to make them happy. Hold back your most ardent supporters so they don’t try to continue the campaign once it’s over,” he advised.
“Give your opponents a few marginal victories no matter what they care about. With the pro-life element in the party, [Harper] didn’t give them much, but in foreign policy he did things they liked, like cutting off the family planning systems in Africa.
Such advice may come in handy for Poilievre, given pro-life candidate Leslyn Lewis’ third-place finish with 9.69% and 11.1% of first-round votes.
Former Ontario MLA Roman Baber finished fourth with half the support. However, Poilievre may have already appeased the freedom fighters who backed Baber, having backed the convoy of truckers and marched with James Topp on the final leg of his march to Ottawa to protest the vaccination mandates.
Bird notes that, since the Conservative Party “is a bigger tent,” [it] allows discussion, dissent and social conservatives.
“Where else are the social conservatives going to go?”