GOLDSTEIN: Freezing out the national media hasn’t hurt Poilievre

GOLDSTEIN: Freezing out the national media hasn’t hurt Poilievre

So can he can win the next election without them?

Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre speaks to caucus Friday, Jan. 27, 2023 in Ottawa.
Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre speaks to caucus Friday, Jan. 27, 2023 in Ottawa. Photo by Adrian Wyld /The Canadian Press

Contrary to what was widely predicted, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre’s selective shunning of what he describes as the anti-Conservative media that dominate the Parliamentary Press Gallery hasn’t hurt him in the polls.

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That raises the question of whether he can win the next election without them.

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While that election could happen at a moment’s notice given Canada’s minority Liberal government, or be delayed until 2025 if the Liberal-NDP accord holds, most polls show a significant bump in Conservative support since Poilievre was elected party leader in September, at the expense of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Grits.

An Abacus Data poll released last week of 1,500 adult Canadians taken from Jan. 27 to 30 showed the Conservatives at 37% of popular support, three points higher than in the 2021 federal election, with the Liberals down four points at 29%.

The NDP at 18%, BQ at 7%, People’s Party at 4% and Greens at 4% all showed little change from the election.

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During his successful campaign to win the Conservative leadership race in September, Poilievre made no secret of his contempt for the PPG.

“The political media in the Parliamentary Press Gallery are part of the establishment that finds me threatening because I’m upsetting the apple cart,” he told Jordan Peterson in an interview viewed 2.5 million times on YouTube since May.

“They are part of the ecosystem of big government. When it comes to the CBC they are big government. Their entire budget comes from government …

“And that’s the irony about the Canadian media today. They think their job is to hold the people accountable to the government, rather than the government accountable to the people.”

Unlike other national party leaders, Poilievre boycotted the annual PPG dinner in October — for which he was was mocked by Trudeau in his dinner speech to the PPG — and has repeatedly raised the ire of Ottawa journalists for avoiding them.

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To be sure, Poilivere’s attacks on the media ignore the fact the PPG, including the CBC, break numerous stories critical of the Trudeau government.

While Poilivere argues most reporters and pundits in the PPG are far more in tune with the thinking of the Liberals than the Conservatives on major issues, the largest newspaper chain in the country — Postmedia, which owns the Toronto Sun — is philosophically conservative.

Most major newspapers in the 2021 federal election endorsed the Conservatives, consistent with election endorsements going back to Stephen Harper’s first victory in 2006.

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That said, successful conservative leaders, from Margaret Thatcher to Ronald Reagan to Stephen Harper to Doug Ford, all found ways to bypass what they described as the liberal media to get their political messages out to voters directly.

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To be sure, Poilievre’s ostensible boycott of the Ottawa media is selective, rather than absolute.

Both as an opposition MP and now as Conservative leader, he obviously wants to be quoted by the PPG when he’s criticizing the Trudeau government.

At the same time, he makes extensive use of party-generated videos, social media and interviews with community-based media across the country to communicate his political messages.

Finally, correlation is not causation — just because two things happen simultaneously doesn’t automatically mean one caused the other.

Selectively ignoring the PPG may be unrelated to Poilievre’s bump in the polls, which typically happens to opposition parties when governments face hard economic times.

That said, selectively ignoring the Ottawa media doesn’t appear to have hurt Poilievre so far.

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