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Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre addresses the national Conservative caucus on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Jan. 28.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Pierre Poilievre stood in front of his cheering Conservative MPs on Sunday, rhetorically pummelling Justin Trudeau and revelling in his status as the front-runner to be the next prime minister.

The speech was all about the faults of the Canada that Mr. Trudeau leads, from housing costs to car thefts – a Canada that Mr. Poilievre said looks a long way from home. He exhorted Tories to paint a picture of what home should look like.

This was a buoyant opposition party that feels it has the governing Liberals on the ropes. And it does.

Polls now consistently give the Conservatives a double-digit lead – 13 points in the past Nanos Research survey. The polling website, 338Canada, figures that the Tories currently have a 99-per-cent chance of winning an election.

So the big question for 2024 is how Mr. Poilievre plans to build the better home he is promising Canadians.

The odds he will become prime minister seem so high that his plans for governing are arguably now more consequential than Mr. Trudeau’s.

So what would Pierre do? You might think you already know, because he makes speeches with bold phrases that do seem to paint a picture of a different future. Yet so much of the picture is unclear or full of gaps.

Even the most basic elements of his political identity, such as his promise to substantially reduce government spending, have been muddied by the things he has said and left unsaid.

On Sunday, he ended his word picture of the Conservative future with a pithy four-part summary for MPs to carry forward: axe the tax, build the homes, fix the budget and stop the crime.

Sounds simple. But what does it mean?

Certainly, we know that “axe the tax” is the plan to cut the carbon tax, because Mr. Poilievre has made a mantra of the promise to cut the consumer fuel charge. But we don’t know if he would scrap the other carbon tax – the output-based carbon pricing system for industry. He won’t say.

His promise to build homes rests mostly on a plan to tie federal infrastructure funds to whether municipalities meet home-building targets, but weirdly, only for about a dozen large municipalities. Mr. Poilievre’s stop-the-crime plan is essentially a promise to toughen bail conditions.

But Mr. Poilievre’s pledge to “fix the budget” is the most central aspect of his politics. He has claimed that Liberal spending and deficits caused inflation and interest-rate increases. He makes it abundantly clear he will cut taxes and shrink government.

But, so far, he hasn’t said how.

In December, he told an interviewer with the Quebec network, TVA, that he won’t cut the federal-provincial child-care program or the new dental program. In fact, he said he won’t cut any existing social program. So what parts of government will he shrink?

Last March, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s budget outlined a massive green-technology industrial strategy that would cost $80-billion over 10 years, as Ottawa poured out subsidies for electric-vehicle battery plants. You might expect a free-market Conservative would oppose that, but Mr. Poilievre would not say if he is for it or against it.

The cuts he does talk about – the same things over and over again – don’t add up to much of a dent in the $40-billion annual deficit.

He promises to eliminate the Canada Infrastructure Bank, but that would yield only a tiny fraction of the $35-billion he claims, and only one time. He said Sunday that he would cancel the $54-million ArriveCan app, but that money isn’t coming back.

He regularly promises to cut the $21-billion-a-year in spending on consultants, but in fact that is not the amount Ottawa pays for consultants, but rather the expenditure on all outsourcing, whether it’s information-technology or waste disposal or plumber. About $5-billion a year is spent on consultants – way too much, but not nearly enough to balance the budget.

So what’s Mr Poilievre’s plan to fix the budget?

Of course, opposition politicians don’t usually detail all their spending plans until an election campaign. But Canadians expect a front-runner who is proud of his plans to start describing how they would work.

Mr. Poilievre is focused on painting a picture of their new Conservative-run home. But Canadians should know now more about how he plans to build it. What would Mr. Poilievre do?

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