Pierre Poilievre practices the politics of personal destruction. Michael Harris writes that practitioners of that dark art have a limited appeal:
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre set the bar low when he effectively called the prime minister a traitor who was covering up alleged Chinese interference in Canadian elections, instead of calling a public inquiry. Two parliamentary bodies and a special rapporteur are looking into these serious allegations. Anonymous allegations.
Leslyn Lewis got into the act when she was asked in Parliament why she and two other Conservative MPs, Colin Carrie and Dean Allison, had lunch with a dubious political figure visiting Canada. Christine Anderson represents the Alternative for Germany Party (AfD) as an MP in the European Parliament.
That party is under surveillance in Germany as an “extremist” group. No wonder. The AfD party downplays Nazi war crimes, opposes immigration and is anti-Muslim. Even though Poilievre called Anderson’s views “vile,” he did nothing to discipline his MPs who lunched with her, and then posed for a group photo.
Poilievre tried to defend his MPs by claiming that they didn’t know much about Anderson’s views before their meeting. But the organizers who set up the luncheon, Stacey Kauder and Bethan Nodwell, disputed that claim.
Now departed leader Erin O' Toole handled a similar situation quite differently:
The CPC leader’s slackness on this file stands in sharp contrast to what happened to former Conservative MP Derek Sloan. Then-leader Erin O’Toole turfed Sloan from the caucus, in part for taking a campaign contribution from a known white nationalist. Instead of disciplining his MPs for their jaw-dropping lack of judgment in lunching with Anderson, Poilievre said he was more concerned about “the vile and racist views of the prime minister.”
Yet another personal attack was levelled at the PM over his handling of the so-called Freedom Convoy. Poilievre accused Trudeau of dictatorial overreach, and painted the truckers as regular Canadians just exercising their right to protest. Internal CPC communications at the time showed that the party’s goal was to make Trudeau wear the chaos that overwhelmed the national capital and several border crossings. That effort flopped when the inquiry looking into the fiasco in Ottawa and across the country found that the government was justified in invoking the Emergencies Act. The dictator suddenly turned into a justified and competent crisis manager.
In the first three months of his leadership, Poilievre posted the worst favourability rating of recent CPC leaders, at just 33 per cent. Stephen Harper, Andrew Scheer, and O’Toole all posted better numbers in their first three months. Poilievre also sat on the wrong side of a gender divide when it came to female voters. Just 22 per cent of them had a favourable view of the new CPC leader, while Justin Trudeau stood at 50 per cent approval.
The problem with Poilievre's approach is that it eventually backfires. What goes around comes around.
Image: The Hill Times