Will the standard Liberal tactics of accusing Conservatives of being pro-gun and anti-abortion work on Pierre Poilievre?

Conservative MP and leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre arrives for a press conference outside the Bank of Canada in Ottawa, on April 28.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Earlier this week, Conservative leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre held a press conference and, once again, rubbished the Bank of Canada.

The message was confusing – something about prohibiting the bank from establishing a digital currency and bringing in the auditor general. Informed heads shook disapprovingly.

But Gerald Butts, former principal secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, offered this tweet:

“His crypto stuff is banana muffins crazy, but Poilievre’s french is fantastic. Guess which one of these two things matters more in a general election.”

Smart Liberals know Mr. Poilievre isn’t really campaigning against a central-bank-based digital currency. He’s campaigning against entitled elites – “gatekeepers,” he calls them – who have made unaffordable housing and vaccines mandatory, who worry more about global warming and acknowledging unceded Indigenous lands than about the price of gas and having to give up beef for chicken.

Smart Liberals know the Carleton MP is the most serious threat they have faced since Stephen Harper reunited Conservatives in 2004.

Mr. Poilievre continues to generate big crowds and disapproving headlines. Tom Brodbeck of the Winnipeg Free Press accused him of engaging in “Donald Trump-style politics.”

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“The former US president made a political career out of lying to Americans and attacking the integrity of public institutions, such as the courts, intelligence agencies and the US Federal Reserve,” Mr. Brodbeck wrote. “Poilievre’s tactics are very similar.”

Mr. Brodbeck reflects the progressive narrative: Pierre Poilievre is exploiting incoherent anger in a populist campaign that, if successful, could polarize Canadian politics and bring great harm to the country.

The progressive narrative also asserts that high levels of immigration and the embrace by younger voters of the rights of women and minorities have combined to create a diverse and tolerant society that some less-educated, rural, evangelical, white voters resent, though their influence will diminish over time.

The facts, however, say something else. In the US, there are 28 states with Republican governors, and only 22 with Democratic governors. In Canada, conservative governments of one brand or another dominate every large province except British Columbia.

Donald Trump was probably the worst president in American history, and Democrats were able to defeat him. But many analysts expect the Democrats will lose control of both the House of Representatives and Senate in this year’s midterm elections. And unless President Joe Biden reverses his dismal approval rating, the GOP is likely to win back the presidency in 2024.

In Canada, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have won three consecutive elections. But they lost the popular vote in two of them. And a Nanos poll this week has the Conservatives at 36 per cent support and the Liberals at 30.

What struck pollster Nik Nanos was that younger voters preferred both the Conservatives and the New Democrats over the Liberals.

“The combination of fatigue with the Liberals, the pandemic and the squeeze on the cost of living is shaking what was once a bedrock of support for the federal Liberals,” he said.

(One thousand adult Canadians, phone-based, using a four-week rolling average of 250 each week, accurate within 2.9 percentage points 19 times out of 20.)

Young voters swinging Conservative contradicts the progressive narrative. So does labor backing tours. But on the eve of the Ontario election campaign, the Laborers International Union supports Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford, and is running an ad attacking Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca.

“The Ford government has done more in these four years when it comes to labor, labor legislation, for workers and training than Del Duca’s Liberals did when they were in office,” Joe Mancinelli, head of the union for Eastern Canada, told Brian Lilley of the Toronto Sun.

As for the angry-white-populist trope, in the United States there is growing support for the Republican party among Latinos. In Ontario, Doug Ford is popular with suburban immigrant voters, and Mr. Poilievre is actively courting those same voters.

Prime Minister Pierre Poilievre is far from inevitable. The Liberals have plenty of time to assess the threat and meet it, perhaps with a new leader. But ask yourself this:

How likely is it that the standard Liberal tactic of accusing the Conservatives of being pro-stupid gun, anti-abortion, racist and will work on Pierre Poilievre?

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