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What a year Pierre Poilievre has had. Last December, the newly elected leader of the Conservative Party of Canada was viewed unfavourably by most voters, the Tories and the Liberals were essentially tied in the polls, and Mr. Poilievre’s party had lost a by-election in the sort of suburban Greater Toronto seat that it needs to win to form government.

A year later, the polling website 338Canada puts the Conservatives comfortably ahead of the Liberals. If an election were held tomorrow, Mr. Poilievre would likely emerge as prime minister-designate of a Conservative government.

In the year ahead, voters inclined to support Mr. Poilievre deserve a clearer sense of how he would govern. As well, he will need to reassure Canadians that he can be trusted to lead this country. Some of his actions might lead voters to question his judgment. In governing, judgment is everything.

But first, credit where credit is due. As far back as November, 2021, when he was finance critic and coined the term “Justinflation,” Mr. Poilievre recognized that rising prices were corroding people’s incomes, making it harder for families to put food on the table. He recognized that rising interest rates and housing prices made it impossible for many young people to save for a down payment on a home or even to afford rent.

He correctly predicted that more Canadians would resent rising carbon taxes than would fear the effects of global warming. Pricing carbon is the most efficient way to pursue clean-energy alternatives. But heating bills are heating bills.

The Conservatives understood that while Canadians are concerned by the spreading opioid crisis, many are also concerned about the crime, homelessness and deteriorating neighbourhoods that have followed in the wake of that crisis.

Critics accuse Mr. Poilievre of spouting simplistic and even cruel nostrums: Axe the tax! Fire the gatekeepers! But his fiscal fundamentals appear sound. Reducing the deficit by cutting government spending, while encouraging growth by eliminating red tape, are sensible conservative responses to the challenges thrown up by the Liberal government’s expanded social programs.

The Conservative approach to jump-starting housing construction by forcing municipalities to loosen regulations or lose their grants is, for better or worse, similar to the Liberal approach.

But large questions remain. One question relates to the environment and carbon pricing. Mr. Poilievre vows to eliminate the federal fuel charge. How then would he meet Canada’s targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions? Or does he plan to abandon those targets?

Then there is the question of his judgment. Mr. Poilievre characterized the protests by truckers and their supporters in the winter of 2022 as a fight for freedom. In reality, the protesters took downtown Ottawa hostage for three weeks, and were only dispersed after the federal government invoked the Emergencies Act. He nudge-nudges-wink-winks at conspiracy theorists who believe the World Economic Forum is a sinister globalist conspiracy. Mr. Poilievre opposes a renewed trade agreement with Ukraine because the Liberals “would impose their destructive carbon tax on the people of Ukraine.” The treaty does no such thing, as Mr. Poilievre knows full well.

And in his much-viewed Housing Hell video, he lambasted the Liberals for letting inflation run rampant, without mentioning that governments around the world spent freely to protect citizens from the economic fallout of the pandemic. In return, the Liberals claimed inflation was not their fault, and simply the result of supply chain disruptions. In reality, Liberal deficits did in part goose inflation, although at least some of the spending was justified.

There is what a leader believes, and then there are things that happen. The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the financial emergency of 2008-09, former president Donald Trump’s threat to scrap the North American free trade agreement and the pandemic lockdowns taught us that, whatever a leader’s ideology or policies, what matters most is their ability to deal with the unexpected, to guide the nation through unexpected challenges.

However weary voters might have grown of him, Justin Trudeau has weathered unexpected storms. To seal the deal of becoming prime minister, Mr. Poilievre must convince Canadians they can trust him to navigate whatever might arise.

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