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New Tory leader Poilievre drops in on Quebec caucus before meeting with MPs, senators

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre visited members of the party's Quebec caucus Monday after nearly sweeping the province in a landslide victory over its former Premier, Jean Charest.
Conservative Party of Canada Leader Pierre Poilievre delivers a speech after he was announced as the winner of the Conservative Party of Canada leadership vote, in Ottawa, on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre visited members of the party's Quebec caucus Monday after nearly sweeping the province in a landslide victory over its former Premier, Jean Charest. 

Many of the 10 Quebec MPs endorsed Charest in the contest, but Saturday's leadership results revealed Poilievre won almost all of the 78 ridings. 

"Having a surprise visit of a leader on day one — what a great message was sent to everybody. He listened to us very carefully for a full half an hour," said longtime Quebec MP Gerard Deltell.

"I think that was a clear and very positive signal sent by the leader that we work more than ever as a team."

Poilievre also met with the rest of the Conservative national caucus Monday morning, including MPs and senators. 

Poilievre and his wife, Anaida, entered the meeting room Monday to a standing ovation. They brought their son, Cruz, and sang Happy Birthday and cut a cake to mark his first birthday. 

Members of the campaign team who are helping assist with Poilievre's transition into the Opposition leader's office were milling about the room, including senior adviser Jenni Byrne, whose skills as an organizer are widely being credited for helping deliver the resounding victory. 

In his inaugural speech as party leader Poilievre challenged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to commit to not raising taxes — including the national carbon price, which the new Tory leader continues to call a tax. 

"Canadians are hurting and it is our job to transform that hurt into hope, and that is my mission," he told the room, which erupted into applause. 

Poilievre revisited some of the anecdotes he often shared with crowds on the campaign trail about seniors and workers barely making ends meet, and being unable to afford to put gas in their vehicles. 

"I want every single Canadian to have the opportunity that I had: to come from modest beginnings but to work hard every day, to make sacrifices, to be responsible and to have all of those virtues pay off as they realize their dreams in their country — a country with a small government and big citizens."

Many Conservatives feel the decisive first-ballot victory is the recipe for unity the party has lacked for the past several years. 

Longtime MP Michelle Rempel Garner — who endorsed Patrick Brown in the race, before his ouster — said Poilievre's victory signals an end to the "war of succession" that has plagued the party since losing power to the Liberals in 2015. 

Ed Fast, a representative from British Columbia who endorsed Charest, said he expects to have a "constructive relationship" with the new leader, but doesn't plan to adopt Poilievre's position that Bank of Governor Tiff Macklem should be fired over Canada's inflation rate. 

Fast stepped down as the party's finance critic during the race, telling reporters that stance was irresponsible. Fast ruffled some feathers inside the caucus, where most of the party's 119 MPs had endorsed Poilievre. 

"I will be giving advice to Mr. Poilievre and I'll highlight the independence of the Central Bank and how important that is, as one of our key institutions," Fast said. 

That's what it means to be part of a political family, he added. 

"We do have differences of opinion from time to time, we'll have arguments, we resolve them as a family and we get on with the business of hopefully replacing Justin Trudeau's failed government."

On Poilievre's second official day as leader he's already working to figure out who will be in his inner circle. He's already dismissed the head of the Conservative Fund, who was appointed under former leader Erin O'Toole. 

Ontario MP John Brassard, the party's House leader under interim leader Candice Bergen, said Monday he's spoken with Poilievre, who plans to put a new leadership team in place. 

"I expect that he's going to make that announcement soon."

Poilievre will also need to determine who fills out the ranks of his critic portfolios.

His former rival Leslyn Lewis, who is popular among the party's social conservative wing, said she believes Poilievre will be able to unite the party's various factions. 

"I think that he understands that every part of the coalition needs to be represented," she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 12, 2022.

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press