Why choosing Poilievre is a huge gamble for Tories

I have had debates on twitter about Poilievre’s chances and many seem convinced people will be so sick of Liberals that he will easily win in 2025. Others think he cannot win. Future is always unpredictable so I don’t want to go out and say he has zero chance only to look foolish if he does win 2025 election. But considering all things, I do believe the odds of him becoming prime-minister are probably somewhere in the neighbourhood of 10 to 20%. Otherwise if he is chosen as leader, I believe Liberals are heavily favoured to win next election. So as someone who does not like the Liberal-NDP deal and move left by Liberals, why not choose someone who has better odds. Charest and Brown may not beat Liberals in 2025, but both I believe have better odds than Poilievre. Part of winning means understanding Canada and I feel far too many conservatives don’t understand just how left leaning Canada is and likewise assume there is a much larger right wing cohort out there than there really is.

Part of winning is understanding your audience and reality is in Canada, Trudeau still has decent approval ratings although not great and fear of a sharp turn right is very strong and not one that can be easily overcome. Poilievre may not be a social conservative, but he is very much a libertarian like and his whole talk about freedom and minimalist government won’t sell in Canada. Yes I believe government has gotten too big, but reductions should be specific to areas where not working not across the board. If Poilievre is leader, Liberals have so much ammo in attack ads they could run a 24 hour informercial of them. And for those suggesting they will fail, they are wrong. Canadians by nature are fairly risk averse and since Liberals have governed most of the time in past century, people tend to feel they are safest alternative and will only switch when really angry and feel alternative is not too risky. Former Tories have no control over, but latter is where having a moderate leader like Charest and Brown can improve odds if Liberal approval falls enough and that is a big if.

Common reason many think Poilievre will win is he challenges Liberals and takes them on forcefully. But that only works if most dislike what Liberals are doing and with deal with NDP, I do believe most want to see more social programs. In fact I believe most Canadians want a Nordic style welfare state, just aren’t willing to pay taxes necessary for it so which side gives first is anyone’s guess. But that hard choice is unlikely to come prior to 2025. Many say O’Toole’s failure is proof Red Toryism doesn’t work, but they are missing point. Canada is a capital L Liberal country by nature. That means in most elections, Liberals will win no matter who Tories put up. As such 2021 election was simply not winnable and if it was, it would have been by staying moderate not flip flopping like O’Toole did. Some point to Harper’s almost decade in power as proof Canadians okay with a more right wing prime-minister, but ignore how he got there. Harper ran on a right wing platform in 2004 and got smoked by Liberals due to attack ads. In 2006 he ran a much more disciplined one yet still won a very weak minority and that was after sponsorship scandal and Liberals in power for 13 years. Since then, Canada has moved even more to left suggesting that may not work. 2008 was against a very weak Liberal leader while in 2011, people had seen enough of him as a minority government to realize he was not too risky. After one majority, he was turfed and he was much moderate than Poilievre plans to be. If we look at premiers today, Dennis King of PEI and Tim Houston of Nova Scotia are super popular and both Red Tories in provinces federal Tories struggle in. By contrast Kenney is super unpopular and would lose to NDP in Alberta, one of the most reliably conservative provinces. This should pour cold water on idea there is seem huge untapped right wing vote out there. Yes a more ideological right wing vote out there does exist and no doubt with social media, much better organized than in past. But they are still a minority and nowhere near enough to actually win.

Some say inflation and deficit will defeat Liberals. While deficits should matter, thanks to strong growth we are unlikely to hit crisis level before 2025 and recent elections suggest average voter doesn’t really care unlike 90s. Inflation is a problem, but its hitting every country and with Canada being the most educated place on earth, most don’t look at absolutes but relative. Its why Harper won in 2011 despite Great Recession. People look not how bad we are doing, but are we doing better or worse than peers. And as long as doing better, Liberals should be fine. Most understand Canada is too small to control its economic fate. Inflation hurting Biden more as US is a large enough country that government of the day can make a difference, but Canada is not. More government assistance which Liberals and NDP favour if anything probably helps blunt negative impacts. Also Poilievre is too nasty and that is fine if on left but not right. Most rightly or wrongly see left as for little guy and right for big guy so if left nasty they are seen as the David in the David and Goliath battle while right is just seen as bully. Poilievre is nasty and a huge turnoff, especially to female voters. Other argument I hear is Liberals will have been in power for 10 years. While its true after a decade in power, fatigue tends to set in, but people forget Tories and Liberals are not equal. Usually Tory governments tend to be much shorter in duration than Liberal ones. In fact in past century, no Liberal government has been that short. 15 years is more about what a typical Liberal government lasts while Tory around 8 so history suggests Liberals should win one or two more elections. That means for Tories to win, they must go above and beyond what they usually do. Many say there is a backlash to Liberal elites, but I would disagree. Canadians by and large don’t hate Liberal elites. Many may find them a bit out of touch but general view is they help take care of us so most want more help from government, not a government that leaves them alone. I want latter, but to do so you need someone like Charest who can explain that bigger government does more harm than good long term, not someone who uses simplistic slogans like Poilievre. Support for smaller government is huge in US, but in Canada has much less support and our history and culture is generally built on deference to authority, not rugged individualism and suspicion of it like you see in US.

Off course it is possible Poilievre does win. When people are angry enough, sometimes they do the unthinkable. After all someone like Mike Harris winning in Ontario would have been seen as preposterous most of the time (Note even he gets this as has endorsed Charest not Poilievre) but backlash against Rae government was enough to allow him to win. So maybe in 2025 that will happen. But odds are not good so question is with all the problems of NDP-Liberal deal and more left wing government, is this a risk you are willing to take? Would it not be better to choose a more moderate one who has better odds so we can get rid of current government than go for a more right wing on hopes backlash will be strong enough but also take risk party could lose seats (and I believe if Poilievre is leader, party more likely to lose than gain seats). If we had a centrist Liberal government like Chretien or Martin, I might say go for it as no big deal if Liberals win and we can get answer as to how many libertarian like people exist in Canada. But with a more left wing under Trudeau, we cannot afford to lose so lets be smart and play it safe, not play Russian Roulette, which is what choosing Poilievre is doing.

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