Skip to main content

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre speaks during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Oct. 6.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

As shadow cabinets go, Pierre Poilievre’s isn’t exactly a team of rivals.

Michelle Rempel Garner, one of the best-known Conservative MPs, is not in it. Neither is Ed Fast, a former cabinet minister who, you may recall, was the party’s finance critic when he took issue with Mr. Poilievre’s leadership-campaign pledge to fire Tiff Macklem, the governor of the Bank of Canada.

Odd. Mr. Poilievre’s shadow cabinet has 51 shadow ministers and 20 associate shadow ministers, on top of the nine other MPs he has already named to leadership positions such as house leader, whip and so on. When you give party posts to 80 of the 118 Conservative MPs, you have to wonder about who got left out.

Ms. Rempel Garner was the leadership campaign co-chair for Patrick Brown; he had bitter exchanges with Mr. Poilievre that made their differences seem personal. No room for Ms. Rempel Garner. Mr. Fast, who supported Jean Charest, had complained that Mr. Poilievre’s caucus supporters bullied him when he objected to the candidate’s statements. No room for him either.

Opinion: Should Poilievre be the one taking on the media, or Trudeau?

Opinion: Welcome to the resistance, Pierre Poilievre

The message the makeup of the shadow cabinet sent was as much about who was out as who was in. Political leaders prefer their own supporters when it comes to divvying up party posts. Mr. Poilievre, who won the leadership by a wide margin, could afford to exclude some who sided against him. And he did.

This was not the shadow-cabinet-making of U.S. president Abraham Lincoln, lauded by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin in her book Team of Rivals for the genius of inviting competitors. Mr. Poilievre left out two of his most prominent leadership-race critics – and it looked like a warning not to get in his way.

There were some interesting surprises. Mr. Poilievre named relatively unknown Calgary MP Jasraj Singh Hallan, a former small-business owner, as finance critic. And two former leadership-race also-rans, Scott Aitchison and Leslyn Lewis, were given mid-profile shadow-cabinet posts. (A few high-profile figures asked not to be considered, including former leader Erin O’Toole and former finance critic Dan Albas, who opted out because of the illness of a family member.)

Mr. Poilievre notably had to include Quebec MPs, most of whom supported Mr. Charest. Some of them had been miffed about the sharp attacks against the former Quebec premier, and Mr. Poilievre had already lost one Quebec MP, Alain Rayes, who was so dismayed by the tone of Mr. Poilievre’s campaign that he quit the Conservatives to sit as an independent. The Conservative Leader had to mend some fences.

Michelle Rempel Garner, seen in April, is one of the few Conservative MPs who is prominent in her own right and has a sizable social-media following. Still, she found no spot in party leader Pierre Poilievre's shadow cabinet.The Canadian Press

So after naming the one Quebec MP who had endorsed his leadership campaign, Pierre Paul-Hus, as his Quebec lieutenant in September, he moved on Wednesday to appoint three Charest supporters from Quebec – Gérard Deltell, Joël Godin and Richard Martel – as shadow ministers, and two more as associate shadow ministers.

Mr. Poilievre also appointed the two members of the caucus who ran against him – Ms. Lewis and Mr. Aitchison.

Ms. Lewis, who was named shadow minister for infrastructure and communities, spent a lot of the leadership race talking about just about every baseless conspiracy theory lighting up the internet, but she is still seen as the flag-bearer of the social-conservative, anti-abortion wing of the Conservative Party, so Mr. Poilievre didn’t exclude her.

But he did exclude many of her supporters. Seven of the 10 MPs who endorsed her leadership bid were left out.

Other social conservatives will hold prominent roles, however, including former leader Andrew Scheer, an active organizer for Mr. Poilevre’s leadership campaign who was named Conservative House Leader in September. The group of MPs close to Mr. Scheer during his leadership, many active supporters of Mr. Poilievre’s leadership bid, are also in.

And some MPs who didn’t endorse Mr. Poilievre were put in high-profile positions, such as Ontario MP Michael Chong, who remains shadow foreign affairs minister.

But the message should be pretty clear. Ms. Rempel Garner is one of the few Conservative MPs who is prominent in her own right and has a sizable social-media following. Mr. Fast is both well-liked and the most senior Harper-era minister still in the caucus. There was no room for them.

Mr. Poilievre isn’t building a team of rivals. It’s Team Pierre.