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LILLEY: Fiery Conservative leadership race could be dangerous for Poilievre – Toronto Sun

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Apr 11, 2022  •  3 hours ago  •  3 minute read  •  5 Comments

Conservative party leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre speaks to journalists on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Feb.16, 2022.
Conservative party leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre speaks to journalists on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Feb.16, 2022. Photo by Blair Gable /Reuters

Jean Charest says that Pierre Poilievre has disqualified himself from being leader of the Conservative Party. Patrick Brown said Poilievre is unelectable and will lead to eight more years of Trudeau Liberal government.

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And Poilievre? He just dismissed his two leadership rivals as Liberals.

Welcome back to the wild west that is the Conservative leadership race. Things got heated up over the weekend with a series of media interviews and social media posts where the candidates dropped the gloves and threw punches at each other.

“Everyone knows that Pierre Poilievre supported the blockade,” Charest said on CTV’s Question Period on Sunday.

Charest was having none of the pushback from host Evan Solomon that Poilievre just supported the truckers and not the border blockades. He said Poilievre’s position made him unfit to be party leader.

It’s a more aggressive tone for Charest that probably comes from a few different motivations. First off, Charest and his team know that not all Conservative voters backed the truck convoy and if Poilievre is going to pull support of those supporting the convoy, the former Quebec premier has to make a stand.

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The other reason is he needs to generate some excitement for his campaign.

While no one outside of top party officials and the campaigns themselves know how many memberships are being sold, Poilievre appears to have the advantage. He is drawing huge crowds to rallies across the country, the kind parties hope for in a general election never mind a leadership campaign.

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Neither Charest nor Brown are drawing 1,000 people to a rally in small-town Lindsay, Ont., or in Vernon, B.C.

Poilievre’s crowds are being noticed.

Organizers on the competing campaigns are quietly admitting that it will be tough to beat those crowds while publicly saying that crowds at rallies don’t translate into membership sales. If Poilievre is selling memberships at a pace in keeping with the rallies, then having another candidate beat him will be near impossible.

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Will some of the candidates now in the race bow out ahead of time to avoid an embarrassing finish?

That could happen, although Brown and Charest have told me they are in this for the long haul. Leslyn Lewis is likely to stay in the race, as well, as she did in the 2020 leadership, and although she will likely place well, she’s unlikely to win.

As for the many other candidates in the race, they are in it to boost their profile or raise specific issues, not to become leader.

Liberals are near giddy at the prospect of Poilievre winning the leadership race and if that happens, I predict that all this talk of Justin Trudeau retiring will disappear. Liberals seem to think that they will wipe the floor with Poilievre at the helm of the Conservative Party.

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It would be foolish for them to underestimate him, a point even Chantal Hebert has made in the very Liberal-friendly Toronto Star. Yet, it would also be foolish for Poilievre to think that Trudeau and his team couldn’t portray him a radical outside of the mainstream of Canadian politics as they have done to other leaders.

Going out on a limb on issues like adopting cryptocurrencies is one position Liberals are already pointing to. There will be others, and then there will be the divisions in the party that Poilievre is helping to deepen.

Just like Trudeau used division to win the last federal election, Poilievre is using division to win the leadership of the Conservative Party. It’s a dangerous ploy that could work now but backfire in a general election.

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