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Canadian Conservatives elect "right-wing populist" Pierre Poilievre to lead fight against Justin Trudeau

Conservative Party Of Canada Leadership 2022 Announcement Event
Pierre Poilievre, newly-elected leader of Canada's Conservative Party, speaks to the crowd after winning the leadership race during a Conservative Party of Canada leadership event at the Shaw Centre in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, September 10, 2022. James Park/Bloomberg/Getty

Toronto — Canada's opposition Conservative Party elected its go-to attack dog as its new party leader Saturday. Pierre Poilievre is a firebrand populist who opposes vaccine mandates and blames global inflation on Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He won the party leadership on the first ballot, defeating a moderate, centrist candidate with 68% of the votes cast by the party's members.

The 43-year-old Poilievre is a career politician and was a cabinet minister in then Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government. He embraced Canadians who were against vaccine mandates and supported the freedom truck convoy that paralyzed Canada's capital and blockaded the border with the U.S.

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Poilievre won the party base, attracted large crowds and signed up thousands of new members.

Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, said an apt U.S. comparison for Poilievre is Republican Sen. Ted Cruz but without the anti-abortion stance.

"He is a right-wing populist," Wiseman said. "Most Canadians recoil at his populism now, but he'll moderate some of his positions and soften his language and image. I expect the next election to be about the incumbent, an incumbent with growing political baggage."

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Poilievre, who led his campus conservative club while at university, has been a member of Parliament since age 25.

He has urged the firing the head of Canada's central bank, calling him Trudeau's personal ATM machine. He has also promoted crypto currency and has said he will defund the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

In 2005, Poilievre joined other Conservative lawmakers on the losing side of a vote by Parliament to approve same-sex marriage. In 2008, he apologized after questioning whether Canada was "getting value for all of this money" by compensating survivors of the country's widely criticized Indigenous residential school.

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Poilievre is a married father of two who represents a district near Ottawa. He was adopted by two school teachers and says he was born in Calgary, Alberta, to a teenager who couldn't raise a child.

Trudeau channeled the star power of his father, the Liberal Party icon and late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, when he first won election as premier in 2015 and has led his party to the top finish in two elections since. But his popularity has faded.

However, the Liberals and the opposition New Democratic Party reached an agreement that would see Trudeau's party keep power until 2025. Trudeau has said he will lead his party into the next election.

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