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Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre speaks to the media at Parthenon Market in Vancouver on Nov. 9.Marissa Tiel/The Canadian Press

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre defended his practice of largely avoiding questions from reporters on Wednesday, during a brief news conference in Vancouver that was open to mainstream media outlets.

Mr. Poilievre, who won the party leadership on Sept. 10, has not answered questions from journalists on Parliament Hill in nearly two months, breaking with the practices of other national political leaders, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

Surrounded by oils, meats and cheeses at a Greek deli in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood, the Ottawa-area MP delivered a short address about his criticisms of the current government and the state of the country, including the way inflation and sky-high housing costs are negatively affecting the average person.

Then he took questions. The first were about why he had not opened himself up to media scrutiny. He bristled, saying he has had sit-down interviews with journalists and done interviews with non-English “multicultural media” outlets, which he said are often shut out of debates on Parliament Hill. He added that he would eventually take questions while working in Ottawa, but that he has so far intentionally avoided interacting with reporters there.

The making of Pierre Poilievre, conservative proselytizer

“The press gallery believes it should dominate the political discourse,” Mr. Poilievre told reporters. “I believe we have a big country, with people who are not necessarily part of the press gallery.”

Mr. Poilievre also took questions on whether his support for anti-government and anti-pandemic-mandate demonstrators has wavered after revelations from the continuing public inquiry into February’s convoy protests (he said he still supports their cause, but will wait until the inquiry’s final report to weigh in on the extent to which they broke laws); what he thinks of Ottawa’s Indo-Pacific strategy (he needs to see it before commenting); and what he thinks of a Global News investigation into allegations China meddled in the last federal election (he said Conservatives would push for an investigation by the procedure and House affairs committee).

The Parliamentary Press Gallery consists of 302 members from 48 domestic and international agencies and outlets. Mr. Poilievre regularly answered questions from reporters in Ottawa in his previous position as finance critic.

The last time he took questions from Parliament Hill journalists was on Sept. 13, after an exchange in which Global News reporter David Akin heckled the new leader over his refusal to talk. (Mr. Akin later apologized.)

It’s the Pierre Poilievre party now: completely different, and yet completely the same

A Nov. 3 photo on Mr. Poilievre’s Twitter account shows him sitting in front of some journalists’ microphones, but provides no other information. And he posted a photo on Tuesday that shows him sitting down for an interview with Harjit Singh Gill, in the studio of Sher E Punjab Radio in Richmond, B.C.

Angelo Isidorou, who hosted Mr. Poilievre in March on his podcast for the conservative website The Post Millennial, was working at the door of Wednesday’s event. Mr. Isidorou declined a Globe and Mail request to speak about why he is volunteering for the Conservative Leader.

Alex Marland, a political-science professor at Memorial University, said there is no question that party leaders need to get out of Ottawa. But he said that shouldn’t preclude them from engaging with political reporters in the country’s capital.

“A lot of people would argue these are professionals. It’s important to have journalists ask difficult questions and, frankly, it’s actually excellent training for a prime minister in waiting, as many opposition leaders present themselves as,” Mr. Marland said.

Mr. Poilievre has well-developed social-media networks, which he used in his successful bid to win the Conservative leadership. He has since used them to tout his key policies on issues such as affordability.

Tamara Small, a political-science professor at the University of Guelph, said Mr. Poilievre’s tactic of bypassing reporters in favour of social media is problematic for democracy, yet appealing to politicians of all stripes – even if most can’t pull it off.

“I always joke: if Barack Obama could have gotten away with not meeting with the press he probably would have,” she said.

The Conservative Leader will likely have to do more media appearances to appeal to a wider swath of voters as the next federal election nears, she added.

David Black, a political communications expert who teaches at Royal Roads University, said Mr. Poilievre’s populist ideology characterizes the press not as a body that serves and informs the public, but as part of a broken political system run by elites, and as an obstacle to speaking directly to the people.

Dr. Black said Mr. Poilievre’s assertion that parliamentary reporters are intent on dominating political discourse is “essentially a Canadian translation of the fake news epithet” employed by Donald Trump and many Republicans in the United States.

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