The Weekly Writ for July 27
What Harper's endorsement means for Poilievre, whether Charest is the electable one and does B.C. have its next premier?
Welcome to the Weekly Writ, a round-up of the latest federal and provincial polls, election news and political history that lands in your inbox every Wednesday morning.
It’s been a bit of a week for Pierre Poilievre.
It didn’t take long after the Conservative Party announced that they’d be holding a third debate before Poilievre’s campaign put out a statement saying he would not be attending, calling the first English-language debate organized by the party “an embarrassment.”
Then, there were a few cycles of news stories about concern with the direction the party would take under Poilievre and the spectre of a new centrist party emerging from the result of the contest should he take over.
On Monday, there was a new poll released by the Angus Reid Institute (more on that below) that showed a Poilievre-led Conservative Party would be in a worse position against the Liberals than a party led by Jean Charest, and that most of Poilievre’s policy pitches were net negatives among Canadian voters.
Things looked better, though, when Monday ended with an endorsement for Poilievre from former prime minister Stephen Harper.
But it was a bad week for Poilievre. His rejection of the third leaders debate was needlessly nasty, dismissive of the people running the party he wants to lead and included a gratuitous swipe against Charest for no particular reason.
His campaign undoubtedly believes it is on track for a victory, so another debate has no upside for Poilievre. Still, the rejection of a party-sanctioned debate that was supported by about two-thirds of the members who participated in a party survey could come off as entitled — he’s above jousting with opponents he has already beaten. How dare people in the party make their future boss lower himself thusly?
With the front runner out, this gave permission for Leslyn Lewis to opt out as well, making this debate utterly useless. It’ll cost both Poilievre and Lewis $50,000 for their truancy but the party’s plans to host this debate are in shambles.
The spate of articles about divisions within the party came at a bad time as well. Following Poilievre’s dismissal of the debate, it added fuel to the fire that Poilievre might be too much of a risk for anyone even a little unsure about his leadership.
The Angus Reid Institute poll might have been the final straw. Until that poll was published, every survey suggested that Poilievre was a better electoral offering than Charest, even if hypothetical Poilievre-Trudeau match-ups didn’t always put the Conservatives ahead. But the ARI poll indicated that Charest would make the Conservatives more competitive in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada — places where neither Andrew Scheer nor Erin O’Toole were able to make serious inroads.
That’s where the Harper endorsement comes in. It could act as a soothing balm for Poilievre’s campaign, as it gives Conservatives within the party permission to look past Poilievre’s arrogant debate rejection. If the man who helped unite the modern Conservative Party thinks Poilievre is up to the task, then certainly those worry-warts are off-base in believing the party is heading for another schism?
If they were on the fence before, Harper’s endorsement makes it much easier for Conservatives to rationalize getting behind Poilievre.
Of course, no one thought for a moment that Harper was ever going to back Charest. Months ago, there were stories that Harper would get involved in the campaign if Charest decided to mount a bid. But the endorsement comes at a key moment for Poilievre, potentially righting the ship just as it might have gone off course.
Alright, now let’s get to the Weekly Writ. We’ll start with the new front runner for the B.C. NDP leadership and a jump from provincial to municipal politics for a different NDP provincial leader.
Then, I break down the numbers from lots of new polling data on whether Poilievre or Charest is the more electable candidate. We also take a look at how the front runners for the United Conservative Party leadership stack-up against the Alberta NDP.
Finally, I profile a riding that could put the Quebec Liberal leader in danger in October before finishing with this week’s installment of the #EveryElectionProject, dubbed “the quietest Provincial election campaign in the history of Nova Scotia.” Hey, they can’t all be barn-burners!