In Poilievre's riding, there's little surprise he's the new Conservative leader

·3 min read
Ida Kouesso lives in Pierre Poilievre's riding of Carleton. She said she supports the new federal Conservative leader and hopes to see him as the future prime minister of Canada.  (Fiona Collienne/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Ida Kouesso lives in Pierre Poilievre's riding of Carleton. She said she supports the new federal Conservative leader and hopes to see him as the future prime minister of Canada. (Fiona Collienne/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Ida Kouesso was in the room when Pierre Poilievre was announced Saturday night as the new leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.

"I [was] so proud to be there and I'm so proud to be [on his team]," said Kouesso, an elementary school teacher who lives in the south Ottawa community of Manotick, in Poilievre's Carleton riding.

Poilievre won the race with an impressive 68.15 per cent of the available points on the first ballot — a decisive result that puts the right-wing and populist politician in a strong position to lead a united party into the next general election.

On Sunday, CBC News spoke to a number of people in his riding, most of whom said the MP is a personable guy they've known for years.

An immigrant from Cameroon, Kouesso said Poilievre's promise to make living more affordable for Canadians impresses her. She said she knows him personally — their kids go to daycare together — and she really likes him as a person.

"He has a new vision," she said.

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press
Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Won't forget a name

Clive Ozard met Poilievre years ago when he was first running for parliament, and said the new Conservative leader has a "tremendous memory for people and names."

Ozard told a story about how when Poilievre met his grandson a number of years ago, the MP sensed the young man was interested in becoming a Conservative.

So Poilievre arranged a lunch at the parliamentary restaurant for him to meet former prime minister Stephen Harper.

"That was a big thing," Ozard said. "And ever since then, if I bump into him, he remembers."

Jonathan Mahilrajan was also impressed by Poilievre after he knocked on the door of his old house in Stittsville a couple years ago. He said he liked how down-to-earth he was and was impressed by his work ethic.

"I think there's a genuine care for the country and for people," Mahilrajan said.

Like Kouesso, Mahilrajan likes Poilievre's focus on affordable living and his promise to cut government spending.

Sarah Kester/CBC
Sarah Kester/CBC

Not everyone is so enthusiastic

But not everyone in the riding was excited about the direction Poilievre took the campaign in.

Chris Bradford said he feels the MP's popularity has dropped among his constituents since he expressed support for the Freedom Convoy protests that took over downtown Ottawa in the winter.

While he wasn't surprised Poilievre won, Bradford said he may need to change direction in a general election.

"I think he better take it a little more to the centre if he wants to become prime minister," Bradford said. "I think he's pushed everything a little too far to the right for what people want, so he will have to find some common ground there."

Throughout the campaign, Poilievre promised to make Canada the "freest" country in the world and "give Canadians back control of their lives." His message is that "gatekeepers" are denying Canadians the prosperity, freedom and security that should be theirs.

He embraced the convoy protests and opposed COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates. He said he would repeal the carbon tax and the clean fuel standard, and would change federal regulations to make it easier to approve oil and gas projects and pipelines.

Sarah Kester/CBC
Sarah Kester/CBC

"As [I'm] generally pretty left-leaning myself, it's maybe unfortunate, I think, to see the Conservative Party leaning even more to the right," said Anna Graham, who moved to Poilievre's riding a couple years ago.

But she too wasn't surprised he won, adding that he's very charismatic and well-liked locally.

"I wish him all the best," she said. "And I hope that Canada continues to move in the right direction."