Conservatives hope third time’s the charm with Poilievre

Somewhat rather quietly, the Conservative Party of Canada elected its new leader on Sept. 10, announcing Pierre Poilievre as Erin O’Toole’s successor.

The announcement was perhaps somewhat drowned out by the attention being paid to Queen Elizabeth II’s passing, which occurred just two days before the Conservative’s leadership election.

Also adding to the rather subdued announcement was the fact that anyone who follows politics saw his win coming for a mile away. Heading into the party’s election night it was all but a formality that Poilievre would emerge as the winner and the numbers backed up those predictions as he won on the first ballot, gathering 68 per cent of the vote. Contrast that to O’Toole’s victory when it took three rounds for him to defeat Peter MacKay. In claiming victory after just one round of voting, Poilievre became the first Conservative to do so since 2004, which saw Stephen Harper elected leader. Conservatives can only hope that’s a sign of things to come for Poilievre.

First things first, Conservatives have to hope Poilievre will bring not only stability, but also growth to a party that has lost three straight federal elections. The fact that it’s been just over two years since the last in-party election isn’t ideal. The Conservatives have to hope they get more bang for their buck as it were, as O’Toole held the job for about a year and half before he was removed from the role on Ground Hog Day of this year. Looking back to the previous leadership race however, there were obvious mistakes from the start. Perhaps sensing an election was near, the whole process itself seemed rushed. Candidates were expected to foot a $300,000 bill-the most expensive entry fee in Canadian politics at the time-with limited fundraising options during the pandemic. The end result saw just four candidates qualify, one of which being Hastings-Lennox and Addington’s own Derek Sloan. We all know how that ended-for both the party and Sloan himself. The net result were two fewer blue seats in the House of Commons as compared to the previous election. A few months later O’Toole was out and it was back to the drawing board for another leadership election.

There is however plenty of reason for Conservatives to have faith in their the new face of their party. His victory marked the largest in the history of the party in terms of votes cast, edging out the aforementioned Harper while also far out fundraising his opponents, generating over $4 million in campaign funds.

While he may seem the overwhelming favourite choice within his own party, it did lead to one resignation as Quebec MP Alain Rayes announced his intention to sit as an independent rather than in a party led by Poilievre. By in large however, Conservatives are happy with their choice.

As decisive as his win was, history shows it will mean nothing to the party if Poilievre doesn’t deliver results in the next election. Unlike O’Toole, he should have plenty of time to establish himself as leader of the opposition before Canadians head to the polls. He’s already got the Conservative vote locked up-now comes the challenge of convincing those outside his own tent.

-Adam Prudhomme

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