Pierre Poilievre: the anatomy of a political animal

Apr 15, 2022

When Canadians hear the name “Pierre Poilievre” they will have one of two reactions; he is a tireless defender of freedom, liberty, and conservatism, or he is a crazy extremist. As usual, neither of these reactions are helpful, and both of them miss the main point anyway.

Pierre Poilievre is, always has been, and always will be, a political animal in the purest context, programmed to instantly calculate the political benefit of any given issue, and then proceed with a scripted sound bite that is half-snarky, half-informed. Non-conservatives tend to revile him because they view him as a bitter partisan, despite being irretrievably partisan themselves.

For nearly two decades, since he was a plucky 25 year old, Poilievre has enjoyed a career paid for by us. Normally, I find the “you’re paid by the taxpayers” as a relatively cheap argument, but when you champion the idea that virtually every government expenditure is a waste of taxpayer dollars, you get to wear the principle of shaming those who live off the public’s teat in perpetuity.

Wait, I almost forgot; Poilievre’s greatest value to the Conservative Party of Canada is his relentless disregard for the concept of principles itself. No, really.

Remember the Robocalls scandal? RackNine, a company hired by the Conservative Party of Canada to call voters via Robocalls, was found to have made thousands of robocalls that deliberately confused Liberal Party voters in order to stop them from casting ballots in tightly contested ridings. The infamous “Pierre Poutine” was the alias used by the still-unknown individual who purchased a burner phone and gift cards used to direct money back to RackNine, who logged into RackNine’s company site,  and who shared the same IP address as several conservative party staffers.

Ultimately, one lone campaign staffer, Michael Sona, paid the price for this conservative political operation. In one of the more mystifying moments in Canadian politics, Sona became the defacto rogue operative, masterminding the entire operation without once informing any other Conservative Party member. Everyone knew there was more to this story, but the investigation did not implicate the party itself.

A few years later, Poilievre was on television, in this case Steve Paikin’s The Agenda, defending the details of the Fair Elections Act. At one point, with an oh-so-serious look, used misleading Robocalls as the example of what the Fair Elections Act would protect against. When challenged by Paikin who rightfully cited the Robocalls scandal and the clear conservative connection, Poilievre giddily cited the technicality of not being convicted in a courtroom. It wasn’t that Poilievre had a rare moment of owning past mistakes, it was that he knew his political enemies would immediately become inflamed at the trolling effort.

When the Harper Government started to fall apart, largely precipitated by the Senate Scandal where Harper chief of staff, Nigel Wright, secretly cut a cheque to conservative Senator Mike Duffy in an attempt to shield the public from an apparent violation of senate housing rules. For months, Harper was inundated with the prosecutorial delivery of NDP leader, Tom Mulcair, forcing Harper to look to his bench for a political animal capable of reciting a series of misleading talking pints without breaking character. He found that political animal in Pierre Poilievre.

Day after day, week after week, Poilievre displayed a fierce loyalty to dodging questions, an immeasurable appetite for spin and out-of-context revelations, delivered in a manner that is both snarky, and oddly compelling. You may dislike Poilievre, but his voice and delivery sounds professional.

And, of course, he isn’t burdened by the evidence of his own hypocrisy. Political animals rarely are.

Today, Poilievre is on the brink of becoming the new party leader. His leadership campaign manager is former Doug Ford chief-of-staff, as well as Stephen Harper’s former top advisor, Jenni Byrne. For the record, Poilievre and Byrne had a previous romantic relationship years ago. Two conservative sources told Blackball Media that Byrne had been the one to advise Poilievre drop out of the leadership race won by Erin O’Toole. During the next election campaign, Poilievre ads were produced as if he was the leader, including the typical folksy communication delivery and a consistent activation method of placing Poilievre front-and-centre.

Speculation is understandably leaning towards the theory that since Poilievre clearly gained the most politically, that perhaps the initial groundswell of support for the convoy itself was a conservative political operation, complete with clear disinformation campaigns, a documented effort to inflame protestors through said disinformation, a fundraising mechanism and a clear reliance on religious extremists and science-deniers. If you ever wanted a chance to meet the batshit wing of the conservative voting base, they converged in Ottawa a couple months ago.

Normally, conservative candidates for leadership will spend leadership races employing the first step of their usual two-step strategy of throwing roses to the fringe before completely ignoring them until the next leadership race. Because when the election campaign kicks off, every platitude directed towards anti-abortion groups, neo-libertarian groups like property rights committees and anti-immigration groups, will be systematically replaced with the PR-soaked nothing-speak strategy the Harper Government was notorious for employing through their decade of power.

The current conservative position on the convoy protests is mostly positive, but it is grounded in the same bad faith position as Liberal voters who blanket every convoy supporter with an assumption that they are all racist, or misogynistic, or both.

But one snarky, veteran MP from the Ottawa riding of Carleton embraced the protesters, a group who did not show an abundance of support for any conservative politician, with the notable exception of Poilievre. Him, Maxime Bernier, and to a lesser extent embattled Ontario MPP Randy Hillier, were the only politicians who saw the protests as fruitful recruiting grounds for their respective parties.

Gun to my head, I would lean strongly towards the plausible yet completely unproven theory that this convoy started as a conservative operation, an astro-turf project intended to rattle Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, raise money, and benefit the conservatives by coming out the other side with what looks like widespread and increasing support.

The one question for the party itself still left unanswered is if Poilievre will break from the conventional wisdom of drifting towards the centre to increase their vote potential, or usher in a new era where the views of the average convoy protestor will be not just placated, but used as the underpinning of actual policy.

Contributing Writers

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