Canada’s Left Should Read The New Pierre Poilievre Biography

Pierre Poilievre: A Political Life. Andrew Lawton. Sutherland House, 2024.

As my long-time readers are aware of, I have found much to criticize in Pierre Poilievre – particularly on some of his more unhinged policies (like bribing cities to build apartments above transit stations) and his skittishness around the immigration issue.

This article is not about his policies, but about the man. I opened my advance copy of Pierre Poilievre: A Political Life hoping to find some insight into Poilievre’s political instincts and strategy, and was thoroughly satisfied. After reading this book, it is now clearer to me than ever that Canada’s left is making a fatal error in underestimating the Conservative leader.

Left-wing figures often accuse Poilievre of taking inspiration from Trump – an accusation which they lob at right wing leaders the world over – but the truth is that his penchant for nicknaming opponents and concocting theatrical gestures predates the Trump era by decades. The book is full of examples to this effect from all periods of his life – and the truth is that this form of theatrics gains media exposure, sells party memberships, and wins elections.

When the University of Calgary student union tried to prevent Poilievre and other student Reform Party activists from putting up posters, he helped organize a “funeral for freedom” in response. The melodramatic display included a march through the food court while students were having lunch, and ended with eulogies for democracy being delivered by Reform MPs.

That was in the late ‘90s. Fast forward to the early 2000s, and Poilievre – by then an MP – was protesting delays to the construction of an Ottawa high school stemming from bumbling bureaucrats having designated a mostly dry creek bed as sensitive habitat. He opted for something with more flair than a mere petition or press release. Poilievre convinced fellow Conservative MP Lisa MacLeod into helping him lug a canoe to the creek bed. They hosted a press conference there, sitting inside the boat to showcase the absurdity of the situation.  

Fast forward to 2024, and Poilievre continues to make headlines for very similar stunts. One of the latest was a comical incident in which he called Trudeau a “wacko prime minister” in the House of Commons, resulting in his being expelled by the Speaker for unparliamentary language. True to form, Poilievre tweeted out his own summary of the events: “BREAKING: Today the Liberal speaker censored me for describing Trudeau’s hard drug policy as wacko”.

Far from off the cuff, these events are carefully crafted to generate maximum media exposure – Poilievre’s tendency to carefully weigh his options is an enduring theme in this book. He even goes to the point of submitting every email or statement made by his communications team to a rigorous vetting process, which sometimes goes right down to alterations in small details like sentence structure.

Even his pithy slogans and phrases – “axe the tax”, “stop the crime”, “bring it home” – are said to be the result of weeks of careful calculation and calibration. His oft-repeated promise to create “powerful paycheques” for Canadians was apparently designed as a clever workaround to promise jobs without actually saying “jobs” – voters have heard politicians say that word so many times as to render it meaningless.

Poilievre is well aware of the importance of optics. As a minister under Harper, Poilievre pushed for the universal child benefit to be sent out by cheque rather than direct deposit. Though a less convenient way for voters to receive the money, he knew the psychological effect holding the money in their hands would have.

What ideology do all of these calculations, plots, and schemes serve? As right wing politicians across the West move away from free markets and free trade, and towards what some refer to as national conservatism, Poilievre remains one of the last economic libertarians at the helm of a conservative party. Everyone interviewed in the book, both on and off the record, reports that he holds deep and genuine convictions about the threat of government overspending and debt (he apparently even has an unpublished manuscript for a book titled Debtonation). I was not surprised to learn that the first political book he read in high school was Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom.

Poilievre is calculating, deeply ideologically driven, and has mastered the art of leveraging catchy slogans and theatrics into media exposure. He is not a Trump lite by any means, and Canada’s left needs to realize this if they don’t want him to be prime minister for the next decade.

All content on this website is copyrighted, and cannot be republished or reproduced without permission. 

Share this article

Dominion Review

The truth does not fear investigation.

You can help support Dominion Review!

Dominion Review is entirely funded by readers. I am proud to publish hard-hitting columns and in-depth journalism with no paywall, no government grants, and no deference to political correctness and prevailing orthodoxies. If you appreciate this publication and want to help it grow and provide novel and dissenting perspectives to more Canadians, consider subscribing on Patreon for $5/month
- Riley Donovan, editor

Scroll to Top