Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday December 6, 2022
Pierre Poilievre’s self-imposed media vacuum is about to face its first test
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre believes the voters whose support he needs to lead his party to government in the next federal election will not be reached via the mainstream media.
His strategy is about to be tested.
On Dec. 12, the voters of the GTA riding of Mississauga-Lakeshore will be going to the polls to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Liberal MP Sven Spengemann last spring.
Mississauga-Lakeshore is the kind of riding the Conservatives tend to win when they are doing well nationally. Indeed, if Poilievre is going to finish first in the next federal election, it will be because suburban ridings such as the one in play this month will have switched from the Liberals to his party’s column.
The Conservatives last held this GTA seat in 2011. That was the year Stephen Harper finally secured a majority government. But the party has remained competitive in the riding throughout the Trudeau era. In the last three general elections, the Conservatives won more than 36 per cent of the vote.
Of course, the Liberals are not about to give up a GTA seat without a fight. For the first byelection of Justin Trudeau’s third term, his team has drafted former Ontario finance minister Charles Sousa as its candidate.
Still, all things considered, Poilievre’s first electoral test is taking place in a winnable riding for the Conservatives, especially at a time when the Liberals are vulnerable on the economic front.
In Mississauga-Lakeshore, as in other regions of the country, there are still quite a few voters who have yet to get to know Poilievre. The jury is still out in many quarters as to whether he is a more palatable alternative to Trudeau than his two predecessors.
But unless those voters fit into one of the niche constituencies the Conservative leader is targeting for support, they should not count on him to help them fill in the blanks about his political persona.
It is not that Poilievre and his team have not been campaigning hard in the byelection. On the contrary, the social media feed of Conservative candidate Ron Chhinzer — a police officer — is replete with photographs featuring some of the party’s leading MPs pounding the pavement on his behalf.
Poilievre himself spent last weekend doing a variety of events in the GTA. He has touched base with many of the riding’s diverse communities, attending events with his candidate.
He also boasted about holding a rare news conference in Toronto. But if that’s the first you’ve heard of it, that’s because the city’s major media outlets, be they print, radio or TV, were not invited. True to his belief about the mainstream media, Poilievre is campaigning off its radar.
The outcome of the Dec. 12 vote will not alter the dynamics in the House of Commons, but it will impact the morale of the Liberal and Conservative caucuses.
The byelection vote comes on the heels of a fall that has found both main parties at a loss to decisively move the needle of voting intentions their way.
The fall fiscal update came and went without generating much of a ripple in public opinion.
The prime minister’s recent appearance at the inquiry into his use of the Emergencies Act to end the so-called “Freedom Convoy” occupation of Ottawa last winter elicited mostly positive reviews.
But based on polling done by Abacus over the past week, the event did not really register with most voters.
By the same token, Liberal hopes that the testimony heard over the course of the commission’s hearings would make a dent in the support of the convoy-friendly Conservative leader do not seem to have panned out.
But the Conservatives, similarly, failed to build on whatever momentum their new leader had coming out of his first-ballot leadership victory in September.
Since then, Poilievre has increasingly fallen off the media radar.
For that, he has his own communications strategy to blame.
Where his predecessors mostly found the parliamentary press to be an asset to amplify their critique of the government of the day and keep them in the public eye, this Conservative leader wears his disdain for its daily coverage on his sleeve.
In this self-imposed vacuum, some of Poilievre’s top provincial allies have been grabbing headlines this fall, with moves like Ontario’s aborted flirt with the notwithstanding clause and the shambolic Alberta sovereignty bill that would make any serious candidate for the job of prime minister run for cover.
By taking himself out of the mainstream media mix, Poilievre has left centre stage to his fellow Conservative travellers at Queen’s Park, in Edmonton and in other provincial capitals. The Dec. 12 vote will provide some indication as to whether that is the recipe for electoral success he believes it is. (The Toronto Star)
From sketch to finish, see the current way Graeme completes an editorial cartoon using an iPencil, the Procreate app, and a couple of cheats on an iPad Pro … These sped up clips are posted to encourage others to be creative, to take advantage of the technology many of us already have and to use it to produce satire. Comfort the afflicted. Afflict the comforted.