Pierre Poilievre is upending every conventional assumption about Canadian politics.
There is growing evidence that the Carleton MP has successfully tapped into the anger and frustration of younger suburban voters who believe they have been denied the right to home ownership and job security by “gatekeepers,” as Mr. Poilievre calls them, who have been acting in their own, selfish, interests.
We have been seeing it in the packed rooms where hundreds, even thousands, have gathered to hear and be photographed with the Conservative leadership candidate. And now we have data to back it up.
In the video, he describes a dystopian Canada in which a small, privileged elite – “the media, interest groups, corporate giants, government authorities” – manipulate the economy to profit themselves while forcing young people into insecure housing and jobs.
He promises “to put you back in charge of your life,” by shrinking the size of government and its regulatory reach. “Together,” he pledges, “we will make Canadians the freest people on Earth.”
Half of those who viewed the video agreed with its message; a quarter disagreed; a quarter weren’t sure.
“It shows that by a margin of two-to-one,” people are attracted to Mr. Poilievre’s message, said David Coletto, chief executive officer of Abacus. “It shows he has fairly wide appeal.”
Mr. Coletto noted that 23 per cent of people strongly agreed with the video’s message and only 13 per cent strongly disagreed.
Half of all of those who viewed it said they would be prepared to consider voting Conservative if Mr. Poilievre were leader, whereas for the traditional pool of available Conservative voters that number is closer to 40 per cent.
But what really stands out is the breakdown of attitudes by age. Six in 10 people aged 30 to 44 agreed with what Mr. Poilievre was saying, as compared with only 45 per cent of those 60 and older.
“If he is able to realign even a portion, and it doesn’t have to be a large portion, of those younger, suburban, now-not-kid-any-more millennials, then it does suggest the Conservatives could be in a place where they are fishing in a much bigger pond,” Mr. Coletto said.
(Abacus surveyed 2,000 Canadians from a representative online panel from April 4 to 9. The equivalent margin of error is 2.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.)
Mr. Coletto said there was no distinction at all between white and non-white voters in reactions to the video. Unlike the Make America Great Again (MAGA) movement, Poilievre supporters appear to be driven by economic, not cultural, insecurity.
Mr. Poilievre’s main challenger, former Quebec premier Jean Charest, maintains that no politician openly identifying, as Mr. Poilievre did, with the protesters who illegally occupied downtown Ottawa in January can lead a political party. “It disqualifies you, as far as I’m concerned,” he told Evan Solomon on CTV.
And he derided Mr. Poilievre’s funny-money argument that cryptocurrencies could somehow operate as a hedge against inflation. “Not only is it wrong, it’s just simply bizarre.”
From this desk, Mr. Charest is right on both counts. But he is also expressing the views of the very elites who, with their restrictive policies, created the housing crisis the millennials are suffering through. It’s hardly surprising if they don’t trust what we say.
The obstacles between Mr. Poilievre’s ambition to become prime minister and its realization are many. The Liberals will feast on his attacks on the Bank of Canada, his support for the Ottawa protesters and much more.
And we can’t know whether the populist Poilievre message will still appeal 3½ years from now, when the next federal election is scheduled.
But we can say this: Pierre Poilievre is generating more excitement than anything we’ve seen in Canadian politics since Justin Trudeau’s leadership campaign in 2013. And just like Mr. Trudeau, Mr. Poilievre is winning over younger voters.
I have said that in this Conservative leadership race, whoever can win the party cannot win the country and whoever can win the country cannot win the party. I may have been wrong.
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