A video released by Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre about the country’s housing crisis has spread widely online, signalling a new approach in his party’s push to cement support among voters, as it rises in the polls.
Mr. Poilievre posted the 15-minute video on social media on Saturday. Against a rapidly moving backdrop of graphs, charts and screenshots of news articles, the Conservative Leader delivers a voiceover narration about what he describes as something “new and strange”: an entire generation of Canadian youth giving up on ever being able to buy their own homes.
“This is not normal for Canada,” Mr. Poilievre says.
By Monday afternoon, the video had hit 3.6 million views on X, the social-media platform formerly called Twitter. By comparison, a much shorter video posted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to X a day earlier had received only 170,000 views by Monday afternoon.
Three Conservative sources with direct knowledge of the party’s planning said Mr. Poilievre’s video is part of a broader strategy, which began in the summer with a traditional ad campaign introducing him to Canadians.
The sources said the video is an example of the Conservative Leader circumventing journalists and speaking directly to voters. They said the lengthy format – most online political messaging of this kind is brief – will help combat criticism from the left that Mr. Poilievre lacks substance and relies on soundbites. In a social-media post, Mr. Poilievre referred to the video as a “groundbreaking documentary.”
Two of the sources described the video as an experiment that was largely driven by Mr. Poilievre himself. They said the public can expect more videos in this vein, considering the large numbers the first one attracted.
The video was packaged by Jeff Pierce, who has also produced content for other Conservative politicians.
Housing hell: How we got here and how we get out. pic.twitter.com/vVLsXMVM35— Pierre Poilievre (@PierrePoilievre) December 2, 2023
The Globe and Mail is not identifying the sources because they were not permitted to discuss the party’s internal strategy.
The video heavily criticizes Mr. Trudeau and his minority Liberals for their record on housing, and places the blame for Canada’s high housing costs on the federal government – largely skipping over the jurisdiction held by provinces and cities.
While housing costs have increased dramatically and significantly since Mr. Trudeau became Prime Minister, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. says the trend began under former prime minister Stephen Harper. Mr. Poilievre was part of that government.
According to a 2022 CMHC report, the last time housing was truly affordable in Canada was 2004. Back then, the average household spent about 35 per cent of its after-tax income on shelter. That has since increased to nearly 50 per cent nationally. The proportion is nearly 60 per cent in Ontario and in British Columbia.
During his tenure as leader, which began in September last year, Mr. Poilievre has made housing and cost-of-living issues a major focus. He raised these concerns again in Question Period on Monday, referencing his video. His party released a statement saying that after eight years of Mr. Trudeau’s leadership, the cost of housing has “spiralled out of control.”
In response to the video, Housing Minister Sean Fraser told reporters the Conservative Leader should be putting as much effort toward advancing new housing policies as he puts toward producing online content.
But he also said he does not want to diminish the real effects being caused by Canada’s housing shortage.
“What I find unfortunate is it seems the Conservatives’ approach is to try and inspire people to hate their political opponents rather than to adopt policies that are actually going to help those people,” Mr. Fraser said.
David Coletto, the chief executive officer of Abacus Data, said Mr. Poilievre is touching a nerve. He said his firm’s polling shows housing is now the second-most-important issue for voters, behind cost of living.
The Conservative Leader is “effectively tapping into that anxiety,” Mr. Coletto said, and doing so in a way that connects with a younger cohort that has traditionally not supported the party.
In Abacus Data’s most recent survey, the Conservatives polled 19 points ahead of the Liberals, Mr. Coletto said, adding that this reflects a broad base of support across all age groups and across all regions of the country.
Fred DeLorey, a partner at NorthStar Public Affairs who served as national campaign manager for the Conservative Party in 2021, under then-Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, said the video may mark a “pivotal moment in Canadian politics.”
“Pierre Poilievre continues to do new and innovative things,” Mr. DeLorey said, adding that the documentary-style ad delivers a powerful message.
More people will see the video than will have watched any news program, TV show or streaming service this week, he said.
Cole Hogan, a principal at Earnscliffe Strategies who worked on digital ad campaigns for Ontario Premier Doug Ford and now-former Alberta premier Jason Kenney, said Mr. Poilievre’s documentary is unprecedented in modern Canadian politics.
Mr. Hogan said he will be watching to see if the Liberals or the NDP mimic the video’s style. He added that, to date, he has not seen the same level of creativity in content put out by other parties.
“This is the sort of energy and thirst you see from a hungry opposition,” he said.
The Conservatives have been turning to Mash Strategy, a marketing agency, to advise them on targeted content.
One of the sources said that, in addition to Mr. Poilievre, the 15-minute video was overseen by his communications director, Ben Woodfinden, and Paul Taillon, the chief strategy officer with Mash. Two sources described Mr. Taillon as part of the Conservative Leader’s inner circle.
Mash has a history of working on provincial political campaigns. It also worked with Mr. Poilievre during his leadership campaign.
The Conservative Leader’s office did not provide further comment Monday.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to restore information removed in an editing error, clarifying that Mr. Poilievre's video also acknowledges the role of provinces and cities; and noting that Mr. Poilievre's video was packaged by Jeff Pierce.