I often hear, since Saturday evening, that “Pierre Poilievre cannot win”. In fact, the last time I heard the same phrase so often was when people said “Stephen Harper can’t win”. We know the rest.
Posted at 6:00 a.m.
In fact, Pierre Poilievre has several assets that it would be unwise to overlook. First, there is the mandate he received. With nearly 70% of the votes of his party members, Mr. Poilievre has carte blanche. He will not have to make all the compromises that all his predecessors had to make to keep their party united.
There is no longer, so to speak, a “progressive-conservative” wing in Pierre Poilievre’s party. He can make the nominations he wants and choose the themes he wants, no one is going to come and challenge him from the inside.
This is a bit like what we see in conservative parties all over the world. Populist and more openly right-wing leaders are increasingly numerous and popular.
All this will allow Mr. Poilievre to focus on his one and only objective, which is to ensure he beats Justin Trudeau in the next election.
Mr. Poilievre gave a good example of what he intends to do in his speech on Saturday evening: he will not try to go for a more centrist message, he will simply forget to insist on the most divisive parts of his campaign speech.
No more dismissal of the Governor of the Bank of Canada or his ministers who would have the bad idea to go to the Davos Economic Forum. More cryptocurrency. No more threats to shut down the CBC.
But, on the other hand, full of well-targeted attacks against the Trudeau government, both on its economic record and on its inability to deliver basic government services.
Mr. Trudeau may reply that he regrets nothing of the significant expenditures that have been made during the pandemic, it will be very difficult for him – as for any outgoing government – not to live with the consequences of inflation or a economic downturn.
Very clearly, the new Conservative leader wants the conversation, over the next few months and, if possible, until the next campaign, to revolve around the paycheck, inflation and the deficit. Quite traditional themes for conservatives and which have the advantage of being less esoteric and more everyday than freedom through cryptocurrency.
Moreover, Mr. Poilievre comes at a good time for the opposition and for the alternation. There are political cycles in Canada that last roughly ten years.
Brian Mulroney was in power for nine years, Jean Chrétien for ten years, Stephen Harper for nine and a half years. And if Justin Trudeau goes to the end of his mandate in 2025, he will have been in power for ten years too.
It’s not numerology. At some point, the electorate believes it is in their interest to change parties and teams in power. The end of this political cycle should work in favor of Mr. Poilievre.
So we shouldn’t expect the new Conservative leader to spend most of his time attacking Mr. Trudeau during question period in the Commons, even though he is a formidable debater and the show is likely to be often to his advantage.
Thomas Mulcair has clearly shown that being one of the most effective leaders of the opposition in the Commons does not count for much when it comes to the electoral fight. Mr. Poilievre knows he must not make the same mistake.
Of course, in the short term, the resignation of Alain Rayes will have to be managed. But despite all the sympathy we may have for the member for Richmond-Arthabaska, he is not a big name in Quebec politics and he does not have the size to embody an internal opposition to his new leader. Especially since, as Jean Charest’s organizer in Quebec, he will have lost 72 ridings out of 78, including his own.
It would have been tragic for Mr. Poilievre to lose several members of his Quebec caucus. But by going to meet them the day after his election, the new leader seems to have succeeded in limiting the damage.
Especially since Mr. Poilievre will have advantages over his recent predecessors in the Conservative Party when the time comes to campaign in Quebec. His French is not perfect, but he speaks it with an ease that his predecessors of the last quarter century could only envy.
In short, he will not go to a leaders’ debate in French just to play the part. For the Quebec Conservatives, this will already be a very clear improvement.
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“Pierre Poilievre can’t win…”
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