Now the real work begins. For Pierre Poilievre, winning the Conservative Party of Canada leadership on Saturday night is only the beginning. Now he has to unify a divided group, healing wounds of division – many of which he created.
The past two Conservative leaders have been undermined by factions within the party. Some objected to Andrew Scheer’s social conservatism. Others thought Erin O’Toole too centrist. A party that wants to form government was showing all too often it couldn’t govern itself.
The new leader has too options; purge those who hold differing viewpoints or reach out to the defeated leadership candidates and those who supported them.
So what will Poilievre do? He ran a divisive campaign. Will he force those who opposed him out of the party? He won an overwhelming first-ballot win – 68 per cent of the votes cast.
Poilievre’s acceptance speech was a good first start. He sgared teh podium with his wife and together they shared about their beginnings and challenges as people from very different backgrounds coming together to form a family. The undertone was that this is possible too for the party and the country.
Encouraging too was his message of hope for those who feel they have been disenfranchised. He assured them he will not forget them. There was concern, but not anger. For those just now tuning in, this was qa different Pierre Poilievre than the media has depicted. (Media coverage may at times be a little biased – Poilievre has promised an end to government handouts for journalism organizations, his premise being that accepting the cash could bias coverage.
He also attacked government policy – but stuck to issues rather than personalities. If he can continue this tone he will be a formidable opponent for Justin Trudeau.
The size of Poilievre’s victory should allow him time to unite the party. Like it or not, his vision for the future was accepted by an overwhelming majority of party members. The internal party struggles should be laid to rest and the concentration can be on forming the next government.
The Pierre Poilievre who won the vote on Saturday was the same one we saw on the campaign trail the past six months, yet subtly different. He praised those who ran against him, using far kinder words than anyone expected, If he maintains the same style over the next couple of years, he will be Prime Minister.
Just like the last person to win the party leadership on the first-ballot. His name was Stephen Harper.