(Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau)
The Polling Numbers
Any staunch Liberal looking at current national polling numbers can’t be confident that Trudeau would secure another government. Notwithstanding a Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition, contemporary polls show the Conservatives would win a minority government if an election were held today. For Liberal voters and the broader progressive base in Canada, such a fate is a cause for fear because it is likely to happen today.
But that isn’t to say that the Liberals are already in their coffins and the Conservatives have got but an election-win guarantee. The absolute opposite is true, the Conservatives will have to kick ad scream in the next election campaign and leading up to the campaign to have any chance of winning. To win strongly, the Conservatives will have to do more than simple attack-dog methods to win an election. Make no mistake, the Liberals have historically ad continue to be the behemoths of Canadian politics. At the end of the day, the Liberals are the “naturally governing party”; an establishment party incarnate.
But the Liberals aren’t unstoppable. If the Liberals are Goliath, then the Conservatives are David. Making the right move will allow the Conservatives to outmaneuver and slay the behemoth. As a result, the Liberals are afraid, somewhere deep within the minds of avid Liberal supporters is the fear that Trudeau isn’t good enough. That people will be captivated by a more modernized politician that speaks to the daily struggles of the working man and woman. This fear is real, Liberals want Trudeau to win and they see Poilievre as the biggest threat Trudeau and the Liberals have ever faced. Liberals can waive around their past three election wins as trophies, but there will be a time when the Liberals will lose. As a result, the Liberals are afraid that the era of a progressive Canada will come to an end.
The Man of the Common People
At the heart of Poilevre’s policy war against Trudeau is the issue of housing. Housing in Canada, especially in the country’s biggest cities, is unaffordable for many; youth, marginalized and racialized communities, low-income communities, and new immigrants. It is regrettable to hear that a large percentage of future generations have given up on home ownership. For young people, housing affordability has only gotten worse under Trudeau’s tenure, and whether that’s his fault largely does not matter. And unfortunately for Trudeau, young people are especially quick to jump to alternatives if the status quo isn’t working for them. If the Liberals have any strategy for captivating the youth vote, it starts with housing affordability. And the time to initiate such a policy should be done as soon as possible, not during an election campaign.
Furthermore, if the Conservatives combine the housing issue with a willingness to improve healthcare, attract foreign investment, improve the country's economic position, and reach net zero by 2050; Poilievre will set himself apart as a strong alternative option to the Liberals. An alternative that is attractive in terms of long-term progressive policy goals while respecting Canada's economic needs.
Winning the Culture War
As for wedge issues in Canada, Poilievre has been at the forefront is battling Trudeau's head-on government incompetency that may not even be entirely under the purview of the Prime Minister. Think passport application wait times, airport wait times, criticism on passport redesigns, hammering Trudeau on his vacation time, exposing lavish spending on dinners and travel using government revenues, and questionable ethics scandals regarding nepotism from cabinet ministers.
Just like his predecessor, Andrew Scheer, Poilievre is especially effective at hitting Trudeau where it hurts. When the government is truly in the wrong - as is in some of the above examples - Poilievre goes into Trudeau hard.
For all the politically savvy Canadians watching Parliamentary videos during Question Period. Poilievre is great at the art of debate, he hits hard and fast without letting Liberal MPs (outside of cabinet ministers) take the spotlight. Only the top cabinet ministers of the Liberal Party can challenge him and it’ll further take everything in the Liberal playbook to defeat him in an unfiltered one-on-one debate come the next election.
Poilievre; the Journey from Outsider to Insider
Being in power for nearly a decade, Justin Trudeau is the de facto establishment. A gatekeeper as Poilievre calls it. For the Conservatives and Poilievre, positioning themselves as outsiders trying to force their way into an established government. Such rhetoric is becoming increasingly popular in the democratic world; Trump in the US, Imran Khan in Pakistan, and Bolsaaro in Brazil being the ideal examples.
Such rhetoric is incredibly effective in galvanizing supporters of the party. And it is especially effective at turning supporters into loyalists for the politician they support. Although Poilievre is nowhere near reaching the loyalist extremes of Donald Trump or Imran Khan. He nonetheless is attempting to dance around the politics of Trump as a strategy to win the next election.
The post-covid world has augmented populist politicians like Poilievre to tackle the authority that has enabled the current plethora of crises. Using this advantage, if Polievre can convince enough swing Liberals to vote blue, then the election is his. Uncertain Liberals may be looking for an alternative in a world that is increasingly becoming more uncertain and expensive. Poilievre may be the voice uncertain voters think is going to be the solution. An outside force willing to crack down on the contemporary struggles of life.
In addition, Poilievre's rhetoric is especially effective at potentially wooing struggling marginalized, ethnic, and immigrant groups who feel Poilievre understands their daily financial struggles. These groups largely live in metropolitan areas so appealing to these working-class communities can be a great force for Poilievre to use against the Liberals. These voters have been the gatekeepers of the metropolitan Liberal strongholds in the country, and these groups can easily vote against the Liberals rather than provide them with seat safety.
Most of these working-class ridings are located in the suburban areas of Canada’s major cities; think the 905 and Hamilton in the GTHA, suburban Vancouver, the capitals of the Atlantic provinces, and the often contested city seats of the prairies like Calgary, Regina, Edmonton, and Winnipeg.
These are the most vulnerable seats to be taken and recent polls have showcased that the Conservatives are making gains in all of them on top of province-wide gains in Ontario, B.C., and the Antlatics. And although polls at this point are largely irrelevant since the next election is in 2025, it still showcases a possibility of the Conservatives flipping these Liberal strongholds to future Conservative bastions.
The only real obstacle for the Conservatives is Quebec - which boasts the second largest seat count in the country - but we know from 2011 that it didn’t stop then-Conservative leader Stephen Harper from securing a strong 166-seat majority. The Conservatives won but 5 seats in Quebec, 2 seats less than the Liberals who suffered the greatest collapse in their vote share since the party’s inception. For the Conservatives, as long as they can secure seats in every other region of the country, they can win. A daunting task for sure, but something the Conservatives have achieved before.
Fortunately for Poilievre, the scaffolding for winning the next election is laid bare. Coupled with post-pandemic Canada being plagued by an affordability crisis, a healthcare crisis, a housing crisis, and a confidence reduction in government through countless scandals, among others. For the average voter, the Liberal Party has a lot of baggage to offer even if the party has implemented long-term popular programs like national daycare, more healthcare investment, the Canada Child Benefit, and a green economy transition. As a result, it’s a matter of if voters are willing to put up with marginal policy progress in exchange for a growing baggage of nationwide problems and scandals within the Liberal establishment. However, once the balance of baggage and policy is broken, the Conservatives will swoop in to take over as government.
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