Poilievre keeping Newfoundland at the top of must visit list

By Craig Westcott

Conservative Party of Canada Leader Pierre Poilievre enjoys a jolt of caffeine at Rocket Bakery in Mount Pearl on Wednesday ahead of hitting the road for Gander as part of a four day swing across the island. Craig Westcott photo

By Craig Westcott

He’s taller than he looks on TV, but little else about Pierre Poilievre is surprising. He is as focused, frank and obsessed with detail as you see on the nightly news and in the House of Commons.

The Conservative Party Leader was in Mount Pearl Wednesday morning as part of a four-day cross island tour with a small team of support staff.

Four days is a long time for a leader of a major political party to spend in any province, particularly one with just seven seats, but Poilievre has been a regular visitor to Newfoundland since he won his party’s leadership last year.

With the polls, and most objective political prognosticators, including those among the parties that oppose him, the MP for Nepean is poised to win one of the biggest majorities in Canadian history come next election as Justin Trudeau’s governing Liberals spiral ever lower in voters’ estimation.

As Poilievre looks more and more like a solid winner, attracting candidates to run for the Conservative Party in Newfoundland will be much easier than during the dark years of Premier Danny Williams’ Jihad against the federal Conservatives.  

Poilievre says all the time he is spending in Newfoundland “is worth every minute.”

“You don’t want to be the guy who just shows up when he needs a vote,” says Poilievre. “You show up beforehand with ears open, listen to people and share my commonsense plan to axe the tax, build the homes, fix the budget, and stop the crime.”

Poilievre is keeping the campaign message simple, but when you prod him on those polices, he has no trouble citing facts, figures, examples and arguments to make his case. His degree in International Relations was not for nothing. He’s not the stereotypical politician who talks a lot, but vaguely about big issues, and when pressed for a solution says we need to talk more about it, or more study is needed. No, Poilievre will tell you exactly what he thinks the solution is and often it’s a small c conservative one that rankles his critics on the left.

For small c conservatives in Newfoundland, who didn’t have a real conservative to vote for even during the Williams years when the PC Party was arguably as left of centre as the NDP, Poilievre must seem like manna from the sky.

But with many moderate Canadians too growing exhausted by the federal government’s constant promotion of woke ideology and policy, Poilievre is looking like the candidate of choice for people who want a swing back to something that looks like normal.

And with every major polling company in the country forecasting a Poilievre landslide, it won’t be surprising to see conservatives of all types, both true blue ones and the usual opportunists who suddenly discover they like low taxes and small government, to don the colours and seek a nomination.

So, what is Poilievre looking for in a candidate?

“First of all, I want people with common sense,” he says. “Common sense is uncommon in this federal government. I want people who have shown they have common sense – maybe it’s because they worked as a carpenter, welder, a fisherman, a forestry worker. That commonsense experience will be valuable in my cabinet. The second thing is, I want people who will be champions for Newfoundland and Labrador in Ottawa, not the other way around. We have the silent six Liberals who go to the PMO (the Prime Minister’s Office), get their marching orders and they come back and wag their fingers at Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. I will say, (Liberal MP) Ken McDonald, thank goodness, has voted against Trudeau on the carbon tax, but the others have been as quiet as church mice. And we don’t want that. We want people like (Coast of Bays-Central-Notre Dame) MP Cliff Small, who fights for fishermen, makes no apologies for being Newfoundland’s voice in Ottawa and not the other way around. That’s the kind of people I want to attract for the rest of the province.”

Poilievre also cites Carol Ann Anstey, a realtor and businesswoman in Deer Lake who lost narrowly to Liberal Gudie Hutchings in the last federal election when the Conservative vote increased 11 per cent and the Liberals went down by three in a riding that has been Liberal for more than four decades. Anstey has already secured the Conservative nomination in the riding of Long Range Mountains for another run. Poilievre will spend a good part of this trip in that riding.

“She’s a very impressive candidate,” Poilievre says. “We have others that we’re talking with, but we’re not at a point where I can throw their names out.”

Meanwhile, the message he’s bringing around the province, will likely resonate with more Newfoundlanders, especially those in rural communities.

“I’m the only guy defending people’s hunting rifles, defending the energy sector, including the offshore, the only guy fighting the carbon tax at a federal level, the only one fighting for lower income tax, so people can keep more of their paycheque, and these are all things that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have been demanding,” he says.

The implementation of the federal carbon tax, set to come into effect on what Poilievre gleefully points out is “April’s Fool Day,” will likely drive up the cost of shipping food and other products even further, something that dovetails neatly with Poilievre’s speeches on the need to make like more affordable.

“I was just at a food bank yesterday in St. John’s and they told me the demand is up 45 per cent in four years,” says Poilievre. “They’ve heard of other food banks that might have to close because they’ve run out of food. There are just not enough donations. We’ve got this terrible story of 28 dead bodies refrigerated outside a Newfoundland hospital because their families can’t afford a funeral or cremation. I never thought I’d see that in Canada. We have 30 homeless encampments now in Halifax. Thirty homeless encampments… People can’t afford their rent and they’re on the street and their getting addicted to drugs. Everything is falling apart. The Justin Trudeau experiment has been a nightmare. He’s not worth the cost, the crime, and the corruption. He’s not worth the country we know and love, so it’s time to replace him with a common-sense Conservative government that will bring home the country we know and love.”

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