Conservative party leadership hopeful Pierre Poilievre was in Calgary, his hometown, on Tuesday night, holding a campaign rally at the Spruce Meadows Equi-Plex that drew thousands of supporters.
Poilievre's leadership campaign pitch to the crowd included a long list — criticism of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government, the cost of housing, inflation, axing the consumer carbon tax, cutting red tape for farmers and the role of the West in Canada's future.
He also included criticism about COVID-19 vaccine mandates and "control versus freedom."
"Lately, people haven't felt so free in this country, have they?" he asked the crowd.
"Can you remember a time when we've ever been this divided? East versus West, vaccinated versus unvaccinated. I can't remember a time when people were turning on each other in this way."
The Prairies love him. - Duane Bratt, political scientist, Mount Royal University
He also told the vocal crowd he would support building pipelines in all the cardinal directions.
"We're going to clear the way for pipelines. I am going to support pipelines south, north, east, west. We will build Canadian pipelines."
He dug into his past in Calgary, noting he grew up in Shawnessy and used to deliver newspapers. He later led chants of "defund the CBC," which he called a waste of a billion dollars. That drew loud cheers from the audience.
Poilievre has drawn large crowds throughout his Canadian tour. In Calgary, a volunteer told CBC News that attendance was estimated at more than 5,000.
Duane Bratt, political scientist at Mount Royal University, said Calgary is Poilievre's base. While he now lives in Ottawa, he grew up in the city and went to the University of Calgary. But even outside of the city, Poilievre's crowds are staggering, Bratt said.
"The Prairies love him," Bratt said.
"But he was drawing big crowds in Ontario and Quebec, too. Not like what he's getting out here, but he had a huge rally in Windsor, which is not conservative heartland."
Bratt said those crowds indicate an enthusiasm for Poilievre as a candidate, and show he's been preparing for the race for a while.
"[Poilievre] is just loved by the base because he knows the language that they speak," Bratt said.
The party will choose its next leader in September. Other leadership candidates include Leslyn Lewis, Jean Charest, Patrick Brown, Scott Aitchison and Roman Baber.
Poilievre is holding an event on Thursday in Edmonton.