Pierre Poilievre and his strange political affiliations
Poilievre seems to believe his own politics wholeheartedly; that may be a problem
Pierre Poilievre is the new leader of the official Opposition. Poilievre won the Conservative Party leadership election on September 10, 2022. In fact, he didn’t just win – he annihilated everyone else on the ballot. It wasn’t even close. Normally these leadership elections require several rounds of voting, but not for Poilievre. He won a first-ballot victory; something that hasn’t happened since 2004.
Not only is Poilievre the new leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, he could likely be the next prime minister as well. A poll released last week by Nanos Research showed that Poilievre and Trudeau are virtually tied as the preferred prime minister of Canadians; Poilievre at 30 per cent, Trudeau at 29.8 per cent. So, who is this guy, and why is he doing so well?
Poilievre has always been in politics. As a teen, he spent time volunteering in Alberta’s conservative circles. He attended the University of Calgary as an International Relations student. At age 25, Poilievre was elected as a member of Parliament. He hasn’t left federal politics since then. Under Harper, he served as Minister for Democratic Reform, and later as Minister of Employment and Social Development. In recent years, Poilievre served as the official Opposition’s finance critic.
It’s obvious that politics is a personal passion of Poilievre’s. In interviews, he frequently cites Edmund Burke, an Irish-British politician and philosopher, considered to be a founding figure in modern conservative politics. Another favourite of Poilievre’s is Milton Friedman, the libertarian free-market ideologue par excellence. Apparently, Poilievre has spent considerable time in the realm of theory, forming his political thought.
He speaks effortlessly and confidently about his favourite political topics: free markets, individual responsibility, managing debt, small government, personal liberty, and so on. In this regard, he is irresistibly persuasive. For Poilievre, politics is a very simple continuum with big government and oppression on one end, and small government and freedom on the other. In his view, the state is an insatiable behemoth – eating up the people’s taxes and hindering progress with bloated regulations – that must be reined in by no-nonsense politicians like himself. “I don’t want the state to run people’s lives anymore,” he says. Cute.
For Poilievre, the problems of government are readily apparent; the solutions are even more apparent and elegantly simple. His logic is well-greased and persuasive. It seems that, in Poilievre’s world, politics is about applying rationality to the problems of the world and implementing reasonable solutions. This is his incurable flaw.
He’s intelligent. He’s articulate. He’s confident. He’s charismatic. But he lacks the essential ingredient that separates all good politicians from the great ones: cynicism. His biggest problem is that he is idealistic, and he seems to actually believe what he says. Even worse, he seems to lack even the capacity for cynicism – at least for now.
Poilievre has been under fire in recent weeks for allegedly trying to appeal to misogynists on his official YouTube channel. Going back to 2018, Poilievre’s YouTube videos included a hidden tag: #MGTOW. The acronym stands for Men Going Their Own Way.
MGTOW is a loosely organized online community of anti-feminists and male supremacists who believe all women are promiscuous, manipulative gold-diggers. Something like that. And adherents of MGTOW, privy to this harsh reality, as they see it, separate themselves from women in order to protect their fragile hearts and property. Hence, ‘going their own way.’
It’s not a great look for Poilievre. When this hidden tag was revealed, Poilievre’s social media team immediately removed it from his YouTube videos. Poilievre swiftly denounced MGTOW and all extremist ideologies, adding, of course, that he is very much not a misogynist.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Poileivre said, “Of course we on this side reject all misogyny and all acts of extremism, and that is how we will always conduct ourselves over here.”
Considering Poilievre’s public persona and his mostly unblemished past, there is no reason to believe that he has any sympathies with MGTOW. Besides, the tag was probably added back in 2018. It may have been some shady social media lackey who added the tag as a joke, or as some clever ploy to game YouTube’s algorithm. We’ll probably never know. And it’s not like MGTOW is anywhere near the mainstream discourse these days anyway. Does anyone care anymore?
For a slightly more recent issue, Poilievre has voiced his support for the trucker convoy. In an interview with Jordan Peterson on May 9, 2022, Poilievre stated the following: “I support those peaceful, law-abiding truckers who came to Ottawa to peacefully protest for their livelihoods and liberties. And I simultaneously condemn any individuals who broke laws, behaved badly, or blockaded critical infrastructure. I think it’s possible to hold individually accountable bad actors without painting every single person with the same brush. If you go to any protest that had nine or ten thousand people, you will find bad actors. But that doesn’t mean all nine or ten thousand are bad actors.”
Does Poilievre really believe that mass movements can be distinguished this way? Naïve. When you join forces with populist right-wing movements like the trucker convoy, expect to have strange bedfellows. The presence of conspiracy theorists and other far-right elements in populist movements has become a common fixture. Try going to a Trump rally that doesn’t have at least a handful of QAnon believers. That’s just the condition of right-wing politics at the moment.
In January 2022, Poilievre addressed the problem of far-right extremists within the trucker convoy movement: “When there’s a left-wing protest on Parliament Hill, we don’t see the liberal media look through every single name of the people who attend to find one person they can disparage the whole group with. [… People] should be individually responsible for the things they say and do. But that doesn’t mean we disparage the thousands of hardworking, law-abiding, and peaceful truckers who quite frankly have kept all of you alive these past two years.”
Poilievre has that ailment that most conservative politicians – and especially libertarian-leaning ones – suffer from: they are deluded into thinking that politics can become an individual affair as opposed to a collectivist one. It’s this delusion that has prevented libertarianism from gaining meaningful control anywhere. If Poilievre ever reaches the real corridors of power, he’ll quickly realize that these individualist and libertarian views are infantile fantasies.