Liberals won’t underestimate new Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, minister says

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Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc says his party won’t underestimate new Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre after the MP won a decisive victory in the party’s leadership election.

“We don’t underestimate at all … our adversaries in politics,” LeBlanc told chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton during an interview on Rosemary Barton Live.

“I think we should take seriously the concerns that Canadians have, Mr. Poilievre will have to explain why his ideas are not reckless and irresponsible,” he said, referring to some issues Poilievre raised on the campaign, particularly around inflation.

WATCH | Poilievre’s ideas while running for Conservative leadership ‘pretty reckless,’ LeBlanc says:

Poilievre’s ideas while running for Conservative leadership ‘pretty reckless,’ LeBlanc says

Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc congratulated Pierre Poilievre on his overwhelming victory in the Conservative leadership race, but tells Rosemary Barton he thinks Poilievre advocated for irresponsible policies during the Conservative leadership race.

The rising  cost of living was a key talking point for Poilievre throughout his campaign, going so far as to promise to fire the governor of the Bank of Canada for failing to rein in inflation.

Speaking ahead of the Liberal’s caucus retreat in New Brunswick this week, Official Languages Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor defended the government’s track record on inflation.

“As a national caucus, this week we are meeting in order to have those discussions and making sure we develop a strategy, an economy that works for all Canadians,” she said. 

Petipas Taylor was joined by Liberal MP Rachel Bendayan, who went a bit further, criticizing Poilievre for lacking substance and focusing on “punchy one liners and dog whistle politics.”

Poilievre took in 68 per cent of the available points on the first ballot in the party’s ranked ballot leadership election.

But the Ontario MP didn’t just dominate in the points — he nearly swept every riding in the country.

Of the 338 electoral districts in Canada, Poilievre lost only eight to his main opponent, former Quebec premier Jean Charest.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau congratulated the new leader of the official opposition on Twitter Saturday night.

“As Parliamentarians, we must work together to deliver results for people across the country,” he tweeted.

Poilievre will be the third leader to take up the mantle after former prime minister Stephen Harper resigned following the party’s 2015 election loss to the Trudeau Liberals. But the government may be facing a more united opposition than under the Conservatives’ previous two leaders.

Both Erin O’Toole and Andrew Scheer won their leadership races after multiple rounds of voting, compared to Poilievre’s decisive victory.

‘War of succession is over’

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner told CBC’s Rosemary Barton Live that Poilievre’s first-ballot victory will help unite a caucus that has seemed fractured at times in previous years.

“I feel a sense of relief and hope this morning that that crashing wave of a victory … will give Mr. Poilievre and the team that wind in the sails to have that stability and foundation,” she said.

Scheer resigned a weeks after failing to unseat the Liberals in the 2019 election, and O’Toole was ousted by his own caucus earlier this year.

Poilievre will be entering his leadership with big caucus support — 62 MPs and seven Conservative senators supported his candidacy.

“This war of succession is over,” Rempel Garner said.

WATCH | Rempel Garner thinks Poilievre’s victory was a ‘tectonic shift’ for the Conservatives

Rempel Garner thinks Poilievre’s victory was a ‘tectonic shift’ for the Conservatives

Calgary Nose Hill MP Michelle Rempel Garner tells Rosemary Barton she was relieved after Pierre Poilievre’s decisive victory in the Conservative leadership race and thinks his tenure will bring stability to the party as it seeks to win the next federal election.

It may be some time before Poilievre gets his chance to take on Trudeau in a general election because the confidence-and-supply agreement the prime minister signed with NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh earlier this year could ensure the Liberals remain in power until the planned 2025 campaign.

Recent polls suggest the Liberals and the Conservatives are still running neck-and-neck, but it remains to be seen what impact Poilievre’s win will have on his party’s numbers.

But it was clear throughout his leadership campaign that Poilievre was attracting large crowds, including an estimated 5,000 in Calgary in April. His campaign says more than 93,000 people came out to see Poilievre at more than 80 rallies during the campaign.

The party also had a record number of party members eligible to vote for the leader, 678,702 compared to 269,469 in 2020. Poilievre’s campaign has said they signed up over 300,000 of those members.

Polievre said Canadians will come onside with the Conservatives in the next election because they’re tired of a Liberal government that “sneers” at them.

“They don’t need a government to run their lives. They need a government that can run its own passport offices. They need a prime minister who hears them and offers hope that they can again afford their homes, their bills, their food and a secure retirement. I will be that prime minister,” he said.

He has vowed to fire government “gatekeepers” — a catch-all term for bureaucrats he blames for making daily life more difficult.

Poilievre is expected to name his house leadership team and critic roles in the coming days and will address caucus on Monday morning.

Poilievre will take his seat as official opposition leader when the House of Commons sits next week. Parliament was set to return on Sept. 19, but the first sitting will be delayed by a day out of respect for Queen Elizabeth’s funeral.

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