Pierre Poilievre: What the new Conservative leader needs to do next


Pierre Poilievre wakes up today as the new leader of the Conservative Party, after a landslide victory.

Before he can take the time to enjoy the win, he has a to-do list.

The House of Commons is due to resume in nine days, meaning Poilievre and his entourage must decide who will fill the roles of party spokesperson.

Poilievre has no shortage of names to choose from, given that 62 of the party’s 118 MPs have chosen to support him in the leadership campaign.

He must also decide where to place MPs who were former leadership rivals: Scott Aitchison and Leslyn Lewis.

The Conservative caucus is also set to meet on Monday, where Poilievre and the MPs he leads – including those who did not support him in the race – will set their priorities for the fall.

Saturday’s leadership election results show Poilievre won not just big, but really big.

A detailed breakdown of the results shows he won nearly all of the country’s 338 ridings, including most of those in Quebec.

It would be a disappointment for former provincial premier Jean Charest, who was Poilievre’s main rival in the race.

Charest announced in a video Sunday morning that he was considering returning to the private sector, adding that it was time to unite behind a new leader.

“I will continue to be active in the party,” he said. “I will continue to be a member of the party and I will continue to fight for the ideas that I have put forward.”

Those ideas included defending the rule of law when it came to last winter’s so-called truck convoy that shut down parts of downtown Ottawa for weeks. During the race, Charest had criticized Poilievre for embracing the protest, saying he could not be taken seriously as a lawmaker because he supported an illegal blockade.

In an opinion piece published Sunday in the National Post, former campaign co-chair Mike Coates said Charest would not run in the next federal election and poured water on the idea that those who participate in his leadership campaign are at all interested in forming their own party after losing to Poilievre.

Poilievre’s support for the trucking convoy had worried some about the direction he envisioned for the party, prompting speculation that his victory could see the party’s centrists and progressives seek another option.

“The members have spoken,” Coates wrote. “It’s time for fans to do what we do best: unite.”

Another candidate who counts with Saturday’s results is Lewis. She only got around 9% support this time around after surpassing the expectations of many party members with her strong third-place finish in the 2020 leadership race.

She presented herself as a social conservative and positioned herself as the only competitor in the race to want to introduce policies around abortion, pledging to ban so-called sex-selective abortions.

The anti-abortion organization Campaign Life Coalition is now asking Poilievre to choose Lewis for one of its lead critic roles.

He said it would show respect for the social conservative wing of the party.

Poilievre made a point of reaching out to supporters of Lewis and Charest, as well as those who supported Aitchison and former Ontario lawmaker Roman Baber, in his victory speech.

“I open my arms to you,” he said.

Those who took the stage on Saturday, including outgoing interim leader Candice Bergen, spoke of the need for party unity.

Poilievre’s victory in the first ballot with nearly 70% of the vote will be seen by many in the party as a good first step.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on September 11, 2022.