With 10 days left for candidates to enter the race for Conservative Party leadership – and 20 before $300,000 in fees are due – what’s getting viewers’ attention lately is the crowds.
More precisely, who attracts them and who doesn’t.
Pierre Poilievre would fall into the first category, as the longtime Ottawa-area MP has consistently addressed large crowds at rallies across the country.
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“The kind of pull he has to bring people out is unparalleled,” said Connor Hollingshead, president of the conservative campus club at Simon Fraser University, who says he doesn’t endorse anyone.
Poilievre recently spoke to students in Vancouver at an event co-hosted with conservatives at the University of British Columbia. Later that Thursday he addressed a rally crowd his campaign said had swelled to more than 1,000.
Staying late to smile for photos and greet those who have waited long lines to meet him was also common at events – as was selling memberships.
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Registering new members and then following up to ensure they fill out their ballots correctly and send everything in on time is what successful leadership campaigns are all about.
As of Saturday, candidates have less than two months to enroll members before the June 3 deadline.
Among other things, there is talk about Poilievre, who was the first to take part in the competition, who takes part in his events.
Not only are conservative believers flocking, but also those who don’t typically attend political events frequently, including the under-40s.
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“The Poilievre movement has taken root across the country and this is just the beginning,” tweeted Senator Leo Housakos, a co-chair of his campaign.
Hollingshead says he’s seen some of it firsthand. About 150 people, mostly students, attended the campus event. He said it was the biggest crowd they’d seen in five years when reality TV star Kevin O’Leary ran for the party’s top job in 2017.
“He’s certainly a different kind of politician,” Hollingshead said of Poilievre. “He addresses a lot of the frustrations that young people have in this country.”
Railing against the price of a home is one of his most important messages. In Vancouver, Poilievre also pledged to uphold free speech at universities, once joking that a sudden loud noise would come censors to get him.
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When he promised to defund the CBC – a favorite Conservative rallying cry – the crowd cheered. He also peppered his speech with mentions of historical figures such as Winston Churchill and John Diefenbaker.
For UBC student Avril Lee, it’s not just what Poilievre says, it’s how he says it.
“My mom is on Instagram and we both follow Pierre? and we watch his videos daily with no problem. Sometimes they’re funny, sometimes they’re serious. His message is very clear and simple.”
Longtime Conservative strategist Melanie Paradis, who remains neutral in the race, says Poilievre’s crowd is impressive, comparing it to the support seen around Ontario Premier Doug Ford.
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The key will be turning that into memberships, she says.
But Paradis warned that photos of the space don’t always give the full picture of what’s happening on a campaign.
“Andrew Scheer won the 2017 tour in church basements. No one took photos of their rallies,” she said on Friday.
“If you don’t see people on the road, that doesn’t mean nothing is happening. They’re more like a duck: they’re smooth and calm on the surface, but they kick underwater as fast as they can with their little feet.”
One candidate who is less well known to the public and known for his hustle and bustle in Tory circles is Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, who was recently added to the official list of candidates after submitting his first $50,000 fee and other thresholds set by the party.
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“Patrick has attended nearly 200 events over the past three weeks and is thrilled with the number of memberships sold,” campaign spokesman Jeff Silverstein said Friday.
Michelle Coates Mather, a spokeswoman for Jean Charest’s campaign, says the former Quebec PM has 1,500 volunteers, 400 organizers and is nearing a $1 million fundraiser.
“The constant obsession with the status of our campaign on Twitter only confirms that some of our opponents are afraid of our momentum,” she wrote in an email to The Canadian Press, referring to how some compared his viewership to Poilievre’s to have .
“At the end of the day, tweets are just tweets, crowd photos are just photos, it’s member sales that count.”
Paradis says members like picking winners, and photos of full rooms can be a motivator for supporters and volunteers.
Leslyn Lewis, who placed third in the party’s 2020 leadership race and is popular with the party’s social conservative wing, recently announced that she has raised the $300,000 needed to run in the election.
She, too, has hit the ground running, campaigning in communities across the Prairies and most recently in Calgary and Red Deer, Alta, attracting sometimes hundreds of people and selling memberships at her events.
“We have had great attendance at Leslyn’s events and are encouraged to see such high engagement across all campaigns,” campaign manager Steve Outhouse wrote in an email.
“The fact that several strong candidates are gaining new members bodes well for the fate of our party in the next elections.”
The candidates are scheduled to make their first in-person appearances on May 5 at a leadership debate hosted by the Canada Strong and Free Network to kick off its annual conference in Ottawa.
Poilievre, Lewis and Charest have confirmed they will be leaving, as have Ontario MP Marc Dalton and Independent MP Roman Baber.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on April 9, 2022
–By Stephanie Taylor in Ottawa and Brenna Owen in Vancouver
© 2022 The Canadian Press
https://globalnews.ca/news/8748519/pierre-poilievre-conservative-party-leadership-race/ Pierre Poilievre draws huge crowds amid race for Conservative Party leadership – National