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Poilievre’s Journey As Leader Of The Opposition Begins

By Charlie Senack

For the first time since the days of Sir John A. Macdonald, the federal Tory leader will be the party’s representative from Carleton.

Carleton Member of Parliament Pierre Poilievre will lead the Conservatives into the next federal election after winning the party leadership race by a landslide.

Poilievre, who has been the riding’s MP since first being elected in 2004, was always seen as a front runner in the race. His first ballot victory came with a little over 68 per cent of the vote, totalling over 22,900 votes cast under his name.

The outspoken MP won 330 of the 338 electoral districts in Canada, dominating in Quebec where his main appointment, Jean Charest, was expected to do well.

In Poilievre’s home riding of Carleton, he secured 2,897 votes, with Charest coming in second with 557 votes. Leslyn Lewis secured 222 votes in the riding with Roman Baber receiving 106. Scott Aitchison received 60 votes in Carleton.

In his speech at the Conservative Leadership Convention held at the Shaw Centre on Sept. 10, Poilievre focused on reversing decisions made by the Justin Trudeau-led Liberal government which has been in office since 2015.

Carleton MP Pierre Poilievre was surrounded by family at the recent Conservative Party of Canada Leadership Convention. (Charlie Senack photo)

“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,” said Poilievre. “Your paycheque, your retirement, your home, your country. By tackling Liberal inflation we will put you back in control of your life and your money.”

The Carleton MP was welcomed to the stage by his wife, Anaida, who Poilievre now jokes is favoured to be Conservative leader by party members. He thanked his “complicated and mixed up bunch” family for being by his side during the campaign.

‘I want to thank my brother Patrick, my father Don, his partner Ross, my mother Marlene, and even my biological mother Jackie, who is here today,” Poilievre said to a chanting crowd.

“I want to thank my parents, two school teachers who adopted me from a teenage mother. They taught me it didn’t matter where I came from but where I was going,” he added. “It didn’t matter who I knew but what I could do. That is my hope for my kids to inherit.”

Poilievre was always expected to do well in the race, climbing party ranks in recent years. He’s often been outspoken on government issues, and more recently advocated for choice when it came to COVID-19 mandates.

During the leadership race, Poilievre did not shy away from words, oftentimes attacking his opponents stance on issues. While he often butted heads with Charest during debates, Poilievre credited the former Quebec Premier during his victory speech.

“Thank you to Jean Charest for your service to our country and for ensuring we still have a country that is united and which we can call home,” he said. “Thank you for fighting for Canada when the nation’s back was against the wall in the 1995 referendum when you stood with courage and passion. You defended our country and our nation will ever be grateful for your work.”

Since Stephen Harper lost to Justin Trudeau in the 2015 election, the Conservative Party of Canada has struggled to unite around a leader.

Rona Ambrose took over the role in the interim until Andrew Scheer was elected in 2017. He led the Conservative party into the 2019 election, where they picked up 26 seats. Scheer stepped down in 2020, but stayed on as interim leader until Erin O’Toole was voted in later that year. His tenure on the job was short lived; after the Conservative’s failed to form government that year, he was ousted from his own party.

Candice Bergen then took on the role as interim party leader and tried to weld the Conservative party together again. During Saturday’s leadership convention, she was credited by party officials for unifying the party caucus.

In her speech, Bergen, who’s said she won’t run in the next election, asked for party members to unite with their new leader to create an even stronger party.

“Our caucus is made up of so many smart, experienced, wise, and compassionate individuals,” she said. “If there is one piece of advice I want to give to the new leader it’s this: respect, listen to, and trust our caucus. They will not let you down.”

The outgoing interim leader also asked for Conservative voters to stick together despite their differences.

“Please don’t allow yourself — whatever kind of Conservative you are — to be broken into groups and labelled,” said Bergen. “Do not descend into the cauldron of identity politics and division in our own party. Do the opposite. Live, talk, and walk in unity, even if you disagree with each other; actually, especially when you disagree with each other.”

Because of Queen Elizabeth ll’s passing just two days prior, activities at the conference were scaled down. All speakers were dressed in black, and black ribbons were draped over the many Canadian flags. Photos of the Queen’s many trips to Canada were displayed, and many party officials — including Poilievre — paid tribute to her long reign as Head of State.

“Elizabeth ll, though she may have recoiled at the thought, was the world’s most famous woman. She was our Queen, our Sovereign for almost half of our nation’s existence,” said Poilievre. “In her 22 visits here and her dealings with 13 Prime Ministers, she exhibited the virtues we most cherish.”

Trudeau On Poilievre’s Win

On Sunday less than 24 hours after Poilievre was elected, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked by a reporter what his win means for the Liberal party strategy: “A lot of work,” he responded in French.

Speaking at a Liberal circus retreat the following day, Trudeau expressed his well wishes to Poilievre, but also took aim at some Conservative policies.

“We all need to work together. Now is not the time for politicians to exploit fears and to pit people one against the other. As you all know, the Conservative Party picked a new leader over the weekend,” Trudeau said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in the Carleton riding several times in 2019 to campaign with Liberal candidate Chris Rodgers.
(Jeff Morris file photo)

While Trudeau hopes to work well with the new party leader, he also said certain ideology would be called out.

“This doesn’t mean that we’re not going to be calling out highly questionable, reckless economic ideas. What Canadians need is responsible leadership,” Trudeau said. ”Buzzwords, dog whistles and careless attacks don’t add up to a plan for Canadians. Attacking the institutions that make our society fair, safe and free is not responsible leadership.”

Poilievre often took jabs at institutions and individuals throughout his campaign. He called for the Bank of Canada Governor to be fired amid rising inflation, which sits at 6.7 per cent. The Carleton MP also said universities were being influenced by “thought police”

In the middle of his campaign, Poilievre expressed support for using cryptocurrency, a form of digital currency which has sparked controversy for its safety risks and effectiveness. Trudeau took aim at the new Conservative party leader for his viewpoint.

“Telling people they can opt-out of inflation by investing their savings in volatile cryptocurrencies is not responsible leadership,” the Prime Minister said. “By the way, anyone who followed that advice would have seen their life savings destroyed.”

Poilievre shied away from referencing the Bank of Canada during his victory speech, and also did not reference his support for cryptocurrency.