The Liberal caucus is gathering in rural New Brunswick for three days of meetings before returning to Parliament later this month, where they will face a new Official Opposition leader in Pierre Poilievre.
One day after the Conservative Party announced that Mr. Poilievre won a convincing first-ballot leadership race victory, some Liberal MPs offered their thoughts Sunday on his potential impact on Canadian politics.
Quebec Liberal MPs and ministers say they doubt Mr. Poilievre’s win will alter the political landscape in the province, even though Mr. Poilievre made several direct pitches to the province’s voters in his Saturday night victory speech.
The Conservative Party’s victory program included an introductory speech by Anaida Poilievre, Mr. Poilievre’s wife, who spoke in French about her Quebec roots growing up in an immigrant family. Mr. Poilievre described his personal connection to the French language and said Conservatives have a lot to learn from Quebeckers.
He said Quebeckers defend their heritage, their culture and their language and that the Quebec nation “stands up to wokeism.”
Mr. Poilievre outperformed his main challenger, Jean Charest, in the province even though Mr. Charest is a former Quebec premier.
The Conservative Party will need to win more seats in Quebec and Ontario if it hopes to defeat the Liberals in the next election. Most members of the Conservative Quebec caucus supported Mr. Charest over Mr. Poilievre during the leadership race.
Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly, a Montreal-area MP who served as co-chair of the Liberal Party’s 2021 national campaign committee, said Sunday that she doesn’t see evidence of strong support for Mr. Poilievre.
She said a scan of the total Conservative leadership race votes cast in Quebec ridings do not suggest a groundswell of support.
“I think that we can never take our base for granted and we will double down on the organization,” she said Sunday in reference to the Liberal Party’s ground game in Quebec. “But meanwhile, I’ve looked into the results riding by riding and clearly the numbers are very low.”
Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier, who represents Gaspésie-Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine, said she doesn’t expect Mr. Poilievre’s victory will change Quebec politics.
“Honestly, no,” she said. “We’re a government that works very well with Quebec.”
Other Quebec MPs, including Emmanuel Dubourg and national caucus chair Brenda Shanahan, also played down Mr. Poilievre’s chances in the province.
“No there’s no worry for us in Quebec, I don’t think so,” said Mr. Dubourg.
“All I know is that I have a number of conservative friends, and they’re not very happy right now,” said Ms. Shanahan.
In terms of immediate impact, the Liberals can certainly expect a more aggressive style of questioning from Mr. Poilievre, given his track record as a veteran front-bench critic. Unlike many MPs, Mr. Poilievre is comfortable speaking without notes and reacting on the fly to what his opponents have to say.
As a long-time finance critic, he has primarily focused on economic issues and criticized the government for lacking fiscal discipline. Those were also themes of his leadership race.
The official Liberal reaction to Mr. Poilievre’s win came through a statement Saturday night from Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc and Montreal-area MP Rachel Bendayan.
The statement said Canadians need their elected politicians to work together on key files and expressed hope that the Conservative Party will work with the Liberals to deliver results.
“At the same time, we will stand up and speak out against the reckless policies that Mr. Poilievre has been pushing since the start of his leadership campaign, and during his nearly 20 years as a Conservative insider,” the two MPs said.
The Liberal statement criticized Mr. Poilievre’s campaign statements on a range of issues, including inflation, cryptocurrencies, gun control and climate change.
“The new Conservative Leader is proposing dangerous ideas that would risk our economy, our health and our safety,” they said.
Ms. Bendayan told reporters Sunday that the new Conservative Leader is a good communicator, but he will need to more clearly explain where he stands.
“What we have seen so far from Mr. Poilievre are a lot of punchy one-liners and this kind of dog-whistle politics,” she said. “I’m interested, and our entire caucus is interested, in really digging deeper than that.”