Poilievre’s Big Reveal

2 minute read

Pierre Poilievre’s first moves as leader of the Conservative Party provide hints on his strategy and considerations for the anticipated shadow cabinet announcement later this month. He’ll have to prioritize appealing to Quebec, especially following the mishandling of the Rayes departure. The new leader’s decisive first-ballot victory will be a strong unifying force within the party, but his caucus still includes a few Conservative members who were critical of his policies during the leadership race.

Poilievre will have to adopt a more conciliatory approach, tone down his pugilistic political style without abandoning it completely, and provide opportunities for his caucus members to advance their policy goals in their new roles. 

Backing off the fighting stance

The Rayes departure was a significant distraction for Poilievre as he navigated his first week as leader of the Conservative Party. It was a reminder of the importance of party unity and the need to approach politics in a conciliatory tone that doesn’t ostracize his leadership supporters. Poilievre needs to convince his party that his political approach won’t alienate Canadians at the ballot box. He also needs to extend an olive branch to the so-called moderate members who will be targeted by both the Liberals and NDP. 

The Poilievre team’s harsh response to Rayes’ departure made a bad situation even worse for a new leader trying to make inroads in Quebec. The good news for Poilievre is that most of his MPs from the province are experienced politicians. All but rookie MP Dominique Vien are already in critic or committee roles and were sitting as incumbents going into the last election. This gives the leader a lot of strong candidates to choose from as he builds his front bench. 

Providing opportunity for caucus members

Poilievre’s promise to meet with each of his 117 MPs before revealing his new shadow cabinet is a lesson in good caucus management for all party leaders – especially those with a strong but narrow base of supporters. As Poilievre positions his party as a government in waiting, he will use announcements like the appointment of his shadow cabinet to drive positive news coverage, while simultaneously demonstrating that he is willing to listen as the party develops its policy platform heading into the next election.

Lessons learned from the Rayes debacle, his promise to meet with his caucus, and even some of his bridge-building hires are all signs that there is more to Poilievre’s leadership than his “my-way-or-the-highway” rhetoric would suggest.

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