Canada Reset: Poilievre Wins, What Next?
Also, (Some) Charest Bashing
Wait, you mean to tell me that the very obvious, always going to happen thing that I’ve been screaming is an inevitability since fucking February happened? Wow, I’m shocked.
Pierre Poilievre has won the Conservative Party of Canada leadership election with 68% of the vote, with Jean Charest getting exactly what this site predicted many months ago, 16% - a truly pathetic result for both Charest and those who carried Charest’s water for months on end.
Shockingly, the guy who never had a hope in hell didn’t end up with a hope. I cannot express my shock more vociferously.
Obviously this entire column could just be mocking Tasha and Lilley and all the other clowns who thought this would be close or that Charest had a lane, but that’s boring and frankly not really worth a whole column (at least, not tonight). What is worth it is whether or not Pierre Poilievre can win the next general election, because that actually matters, unlike pundit accountability.
Do I think Poilievre is the favourite to win the next election? No, God no, and I think that a lot (not all, but a lot) of the people now claiming he is now a favourite were the people who thought Charest and/or Brown had a lane, so it’s clear that a lot of the Poilievre hype and Liberal panic is people who don’t understand Poilievre’s appeal misreading it initially and then overextrapolating it because they’re dumbasses who don’t know shit from a hole in the ground.
Will he be an electoral asset for the Conservatives compared to O’Toole? In some places, 1000%. The problem with O’Toole’s election message was that it was designed to appeal to basically nobody – it was too culture war-y for the suburbs and not sufficiently strong for the regional towns and cities. It was a strategy that wasn’t good enough to stop the PPC from getting 13% in Timmins but also didn’t win the suburbs.
It is inevitable that swathes of seats – northern Vancouver Island, northern Ontario, and some more of western Newfoundland – will eventually go Conservative. It is the logical expression of the Global Fucking Realignment, because just as the Liberals are appealing more and more to socially liberal fiscal conservatives, the Tories are winning over culturally conservative voters who have what I would describe as “wrong” views on abortion, gay marriage, COVID, whatever, who have traditionally voted NDP. To deny that there will be Singh 2021 – Poilievre 2025 voters would be absurdist nonsense.
That said, there aren’t enough of those for Poilievre to hit 140 seats without gains in Quebec, which are eminently possible, but don’t help, because the seats the CPC could plausibly win there are Bloc seats, and a seat going BQ – CPC doesn’t matter to the Liberals. Any plausible combination of seats that the CPC need to hit that threshold inevitably include things like “two Kitcheners + Cambridge, plus Kanata”, or things like sweeping Windsor or London (which might happen in the medium term, but not in 2025).
If there was a decent sized overall swing, could there be a small LPC to CPC swing in the suburbs, a big one in the regions, and therefore the Tories stitch together 140? The seats maybe add up to that being enough on paper, but the thing is, that’s the Tories drawing an inside straight, and they’d have to win all their targets, which almost never happens. There will be some Liberal incumbents in northern Ontario who hold on, some NDP incumbents who are stronger on Vancouver Island or up to Skeena that I’m dismissing, or just some old fashioned tactical voting from NDP supporters who didn’t think they had to vote tactically last time but do this time.
The other elephant in the room is Alberta, where the CPC have obviously the majority of support but where that support is fading (at least in the cities). If the Liberals get serious about Calgary, there might be losses there, and in Edmonton (to either the NDP or LPC) that end up increasing the number of seats the CPC need to win elsewhere. Do I think the Tory advances in Atlantic Canada are likely to be rolled back? No, I don’t, but that’s another theoretical worry for Poilievre – although, in all honesty, he should be able to keep all their Atlantic seats and add at least 3 more.
The problems for Poilievre are as numerous as they are deep – he supported the Convoy, which as much as non-Ottawa residents don’t remember the vitriol will be a useful heuristic for his judgement, he claimed Bitcoin was a way to “opt out” of inflation (Bitcoin is currently down over 50% since he said that), his economic platform is just Fuck the Bank Of Canada, and most importantly he runs a party that is still rife with the same divides as they’ve been for the last decade.
At some point, the Liberals will put a bill to expand abortion access in this country, and to help red state border women able to come to Canada for them. At some point, there will be more votes on guns. At some point, there will be votes on Dental care for children and the uninsured, pharmacare for the poor and the old, and there will be a choice made on whether Poilievre will continue the Liberals’ child care deals. All of those are inflection points.
If Poilievre votes against abortion access and gun control, he wins Timmins and locks himself out of Kitchener. If he votes for them, the PPC get 12%. His voter coalition is fragile, a mix of red Tories whose ideals of party unity are “we’re united when the right backs me”, but won’t back a culturally conservative voting record, and the PPC friendly Convoyists who will flirt with Max if Skippy pivots.
The Liberals will get to choose their timings from here, and by the middle of the decade, the post-COVID shockwaves will have receded, leaving an economy mostly back to something resembling normal. In that time, the Tories will have to keep up their anger, and that’s hard to sustain for a long time – ask any US Democrat how the energy and anger at the Orange Man held up after a couple of years.
I wrote during the Convoy about a concept called Scrimshaw’s Paradox, which holds that “Any leader who gets through the membership cannot win a general election.” Right now, I see no reason to amend this. Poilievre ran an extremely good leadership campaign, but one that forced him into stances that will hurt him in the General Election. The PPC fucks him if he pivots, as Scheer and O’Toole did, and he’s a career politician pretending to be an outsider.
Being able to beat Jean fucking Charest does not a good national politician make, and Justin Trudeau has been consistently underestimated. The Liberals are clear favourites to win the next election, and tonight changes fucking nothing, because this has been obvious the whole the time.