Hassum: Pierre Poilievre is filling a void the left should occupy

Hassum: Pierre Poilievre is filling a void the left should occupy

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The Tory leader is building a new breed of diverse Conservative coalition: one that’s younger and angrier and more suspicious of institutions – with a nod to the protest convoy.

Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre takes part in the Chinatown Spring Festival Parade last week, held amid Vancouver’s Lunar New Year celebrations. He addresses a wide spectrum of Canadians who face material struggles. Photo by JENNIFER GAUTHIER /REUTERS Content of the article

It’s a common notion that Canadian politics mirror American politics – just 10 years behind. It should come as no surprise, then, that many Canadian progressives believe that Donald Trump is mirrored in Pierre Poilievre, leader of the federal Conservatives.

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But sorry guys. Though he throws his arms around the protest convoy and tries to woo untrustworthy and alienated voters, Poilievre just isn’t Trump. And if progressives treat him like he’s Trump, we’re going to lose.

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In poll after poll, Poilievre shows outsize strength among younger voters — contrary to Ottawa’s long-held assumptions.

In Canada, we younger people have less reason to trust our institutions than most. Therefore, if you’re under 40, you’ll immediately understand who Poilievre is trying to target – because you’ve seen these posts before, on your Instagram feed or on online chat platforms like Discord. Loving the idea of ​​cryptocurrency, many millennials have hailed attacks on the Bank of Canada and embraced the convoy’s anti-establishment aesthetic.

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Poilievre began by hugging the convoy – before and during the race for the Conservative leadership. Since then he has cared for this population group. With pleasure.

Poilievre has also visibly reached out to others who have reason to distrust Canada and its institutions. Despite reaching out to traditional reactionary voters through appearances at the Frontier Center for Public Policy, whose views on boarding schools are highly controversial, he has also long reached out to Indigenous voters by appearing with BC’s liberal MLA Ellis Ross in support of LNG Canada . Calling it “economic reconciliation,” he notes in other videos that he regularly hears from First Nations about the need to “remove the gatekeepers in Ottawa.”

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It is of course not limited to young voters or indigenous voters. Poilievre has reached out to racialized voters at every turn, highlighting racialized validators like “Mustafa from Calgary” or the owners of ARZ Fine Foods. He promises to remove the gatekeepers preventing them from succeeding.

Canada’s conservative movement’s ability to attract diverse voters has long been noted by observers in Ottawa. But those same observers assumed that winning those voters meant going to the center.

So what are we to make of Pierre Poilievre?

It is clear that he is building a new breed of diverse conservative coalition: one that is younger, angrier, and more suspicious of the media and institutions than the coalition it replaced.

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It’s, frankly, a coalition that includes many of the voters that progressives need to win.

Poilievre didn’t just build this coalition by winking at radical anti-establishment movements like the protest convoy. He has also spoken on the very real economic and material concerns of this coalition. He has successfully combined caustic solutions with attacks on Canadian institutions. Think of housing – next to health care, the issue that dominates the minds and wallets of young people. Liberal politicians may scoff at affordable housing, but they refuse to identify a villain, preferring to make transfer payments to cities (which they are late in delivering). Poilievre, on the other hand, correctly identifies “gatekeepers” in local government as his nemesis. He combined this attack with an attack on the Bank of Canada.

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It’s an attack that has a lot more emotional resonance. Because together with anger it offers hope.

Poilievre and Trump are both practitioners of the grievance policy and channelers of anger. But where Trump tried to channel his constituents’ cultural grievances, Poilievre is trying to channel their material grievances – in part, if not all – and build a new conservative coalition.

Younger voters, mixed voters and marginalized voters — the kind of voters who like to envision progressive parties as their base — have material grievances to spare.

These complaints are legitimate. And that’s why Poilievre is dangerous.

For too long, left-wing political parties have abandoned the materialistic politics of the working class in favor of a cross-class majority uniting in false culture wars. This strategy has expired. That is why reclaiming real politics and creating a multi-ethnic working-class coalition is the central mission of the Broadbent Institute – and the theme of our forthcoming Ottawa Progress Summit.

The left must recommit itself to the material politics of better deals and happier lives. Because when it doesn’t, the right will continue to fill that void, and we will all suffer the consequences.

Jennifer Hassum is executive director of the Broadbent Institute.

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