Pierre Poilievre, the reformer

Rookie minister steels himself for battle over a potentially profound piece of legislation

Canada's Minister of State for Democratic Reform Poilievre speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa

Sitting in a coffee shop for the 23rd interview of his week, Pierre Poilievre, the minister of state for democratic reform, explains how he prepared to table the Fair Elections Act and how he and his staff of four drew up a table with justifications for each measure in the 252-page bill. “Our preparations drilled down to molecular detail,” he says. He turns to an aide seated to his left and half-jokes, “I think you guys were ready to knock my head off by the end of it.”

Poilievre joined the cabinet last July, but his real debut as a minister was last week, when he brought a government bill to the floor of the House of Commons—a multi-faceted reworking of federal election law and the affairs of Elections Canada.

Not that Poilievre needed much introduction. Four months short of his 35th birthday, he has already been an MP for nearly a decade and, as a parliamentary secretary, he became one of question period’s most prominent recurring characters—a boyish, smooth-talking government defender deployed to obfuscate and irritate the opposition in response to accusations of wrongdoing.

“My life is politics, reading books and exercise,” he said in an earlier interview. He has said that reading Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom at the age of 17 was “seminal” to his political thinking, and he identifies the principles of limited government and “maximizing people’s freedom to work hard and achieve things for themselves and their families” as the reasons he is in politics.

In preparing to table his bill, Poilievre consulted with veteran ministers John Baird and Jason Kenney, and it was Kenney’s advice that seems to have guided Poilievre’s public approach. “His formula for responding in the House is always to deliver a multitude of simply presented, irrefutable, documented facts,” Poilievre says of the employment minister. Poilievre’s responses in the House have subsequently been punctuated with references to turnout data, error rates, studies and legislation, most of it delivered confidently and quickly. To fend off one question from the NDP, he recited chapter and verse from the Director of Public Prosecutions Act. (It was a recitation that delighted the Conservative side: Maxime Bernier, Polievre’s seatmate, stood to mime a home-run swing when Poilievre had finished.)

Responding to Poilievre’s initial remarks in the House on the new bill, NDP critic Craig Scott complimented the minister on an “an extremely well-prepared speech,” though, via email, he still quibbles with how that knowledge has been applied, accusing a “smart minister” of “manipulative spin?.?.?. inaccuracy, sophistry and, ultimately, Orwellian doublespeak.”

The bill is being challenged on a number of fronts, and the debate is not nearly over, so it remains to be seen how much Scott and other critics can succeed in unravelling the minister’s arguments. (He has at least conceded that the bill might be amended to mollify some concerns of the chief electoral officer.) The biggest problems governments have with legislation, Poilievre says, is when “they can’t answer basic questions about controversial measures. So much of the time, in politics, we try to come up with these clever turns of phrase, slogans or messages, but what the public really wants is just the simple facts,” he says. “And whichever side has a better mastery of those facts, I think, wins the debate in the long run.”

A fascinating battle between a rookie minister and the opposition over a potentially profound piece of legislation is thus set up.




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Pierre Poilievre, the reformer

  1. Doubleplus doublegood duckspeak from the minon of democratic reform.

  2. I give him credit for being well prepared. Of course it is easy to know more about the bill when you have had it for months, and you have given the opposition only a few hours before debating it.

    • and don’t feel constrained by accuracy or honesty.

    • i think its a great bill, it needs a few changes of course (any bill that size will be imperfect in some way). but it brings about real change and reforms

  3. The CPC vendetta against Elections Canada has been wrapped in the cloak of legitimacy called “Election Reform”. We all know who the driver is on this legislation and we all know who the toady is. I hope Mr Mulcair grills you so long you begin to contradict yourself Mr Poilievre.

  4. Brilliant Parliamentary Performer !
    Future leadeship candidate.
    Future King of Canada.
    Ah, what the heck, Future King of the World !
    Seriously, he is an excellent example to the young NDP members to work hard, get your facts right, come prepared, don/t worry about the jealous critics, and maybe when they are in their mid-thirties they will get some respect—–on second thought, maybe not, most of them will be back at Starbucks by then.

    • I’ll bet you have shelves full of snake oil.

      • Not as much as the barrels of Liberal Kool-Aid you ingest daily.

        • Koolaid is rightwing Aurora….and I’m not Con, NDP or Lib. Sorry.

      • Did you run out already?

  5. Democratic reform? Really? So the Harper government (TM) feels that the democracy that gave it its so abused ‘mandate’ is somehow not expressing the will of the people? That it needs to be ‘improved’?

    • Not improved, just cemented in place for good. Although PP would agree with your choice of verb…not so much the ironic tone though.

  6. Another refugee from the U of Calgary ‘school of economics.’

    • Sad to say, but it isn’t just UofT and other eastern universities that teach liberal fraud economics. Some of the economic statement from profs of UofC tell me they have lived a government sheltered life too long to be good at what they do.

      • Nonsense.

        • Describes your posts, precisely.

    • Another banal post from a “Burger University” graduate.

  7. Canadian democracy is a ruse and many people know it.

    Only one possible result no mater who you vote for. Who gets more of our money for back room buddies and will do less and less for the people because of inflated government costs.

    So why vote if there is no one on the ballot that credibly wants more efficiency, more economy, more effective and economic governemtn with less hidden and realized taxes and protectionism inflation that makes Canada a very expensive place to live?

    As the reality is, tax foods and other items making them expensive, tax me more, waste more, add debt, give us lower value money and its added inflation, we have less to spend on each others jobs.

    Want jobs, real sustainable jobs? it comes from affordable exchange of goods and services, so getting less government to increase affordability then people can drive each others jobs.

    But Ottawa only knows one solution to every problem, tax us more in hidden and deceitful ways.

    So why vote if the outcome of your vote doesn’t mater? Only options presented to us result in more government and buddies and less for the people.

  8. The Conservative Party – extending the middle finger to Canada since 2006.

    • Actually, PP’s been my MP since 2004, so they’ve been doing it longer than that.

      • but until 2006 they were all about “demand better yakkity yakkity yak”

    • The Liberal Party…extending the finger to Canadians since the Salmon Arm train ride.

    • The Liberal Party – shafting Canadians since the 1960′s.

      • ahahha well said !!

        • Thanks! ;-)
          Just pointing out the historical facts.

          • you mean years of surpluses as opposed to years of deficits and then a “gold star” for getting it right once, these are historical facts

  9. http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/voters-need-motivation-not-advance-polls-experts-say-1.2537416
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/election-reform-will-deter-some-voters-lawyer-warns-1.2539440

    Slowly but surely skippys thread is unraveling, thanks to the work of folks like Mr Scott and others, who wont stop digging until Skippy’s attempt to pull the wool over the nation’s eyes is clearly shown to look ever more what it is – the kind of partisan ploy we’ve come to expect from a little porker like him.[squealer alert]

    Anyone who brags about reading Milton Friedman not because he has to further his education, but out of relish when at 17 he ought to have been stuffing copies of playboy[girl] under his mattress, is someone who’s clearly got his life’s priorities backassward, and is unworthy of public trust just on principle alone, imo.
    I mean just look at the twaddle he comes out with in order to appear competent on this file…

    “So much of the time, in politics, we try to come up with these clever
    turns of phrase, slogans or messages, but what the public really wants
    is just the simple facts,” he says. “And whichever side has a better
    mastery of those facts, I think, wins the debate in the long run.”

    Indeed Mr P. But selective use of facts in order to further a suspected highly partisan political goal is not quite the same as proving your case, not by a long shot it isn’t. Maybe he should have read a little more widely? He might’ve come across the old aphorism that no one owns the “facts.” His assertion that ECs outreach is a proven failure merely because it occupied the same time period as further voter decline, is a case in point. And bad logic to boot, unless he can prove it with more than just rhetoric

    • Many Liberals dislike facts
      It is a fact that there about one-sixth as many Liberal MP/s as there was in their heyday.
      That makes Luberals angry.
      Then they lash out at PP.
      That makes him laugh.

      • Lets unpack this fine example of Conbot logic in action shall we.
        Many liberals dislike facts…from this generalized assumption you blithely skip to what I presume is your causation…leads to a precipitous drop in angry unfunny liberal mps. Naturally they lash out at laughing boy PP because he loves facts.
        All this hangs on your initial self serving circular argument that only liberals dislike facts. I’d say you’re exactly in the right Party there Socrates. The party of the stupid.

        • Why don’t you pack up and leave town. There’s a bus leaving in five minutes…be under it.

          • Dug deep for that didn’t ya missy?

          • Lovely, conservative free speech and tolerance from Aurora 7

  10. Pierre Polyester reminds me of an angry young Himmler.

    • Funny, all I see is him yelling “it’s not funny! Stop laughing!”

  11. The conservative party of Canada: killing democracy one bill at a time…

    • The liberal party of Canada: embracing Chinese communism…

      • and basic dictatorships since 2013…

    • Looks like we’re all in agreement. Mulcair for PM.

  12. “what the public really wants is just the simple facts…” What would “Skippy” or any of the CONS know about simple facts? They don’t deal in facts… they deal in double-speak and fraud. What on earth could “they” possibly know about what the public really want? We’ve been without representation or a voice since 2006. We get trained seals with memorized talking points and “canned” form letters from our CON MPs that justify every lousy thing they’ve done while patting themselves on the back as though they deserve a compliment for attacking the foundations of our democracy. “They” don’t care about the citizens of Canada. They care about their base and their corporate owners. We’ve been silenced just like the scientists, librarians, etc. We’ve got a crime minister and a bunch of trained seals destroying Canada with impunity. It’s up to the voters of this country to give them their just rewards. #HeaveSteve2015

    • What would “Skippy” (JT) or any of the LIEBERALS know about simple facts? They don’t deal in facts… they deal in double-speak and fraud. What on earth could “they” possibly know about what the public really want?

      http://youtu.be/oA1yCIHMJwY

      “We get trained seals with memorized talking points and “canned” form letters from LIEBERALs that justify every lousy thing they’ve done while patting themselves on the back as though they deserve a compliment for attacking the foundations of our democracy.”

      http://youtu.be/a-dr160f59s

      Steve will win in 2015!

      • You should vote NDP like I’m going to

        • Oh, hell no!

  13. Perhaps Mrs. Poilievre, aka Jenny Byrne (and amongst the top in the party’s ranks), has a little robocalls problem that has yet to come to light? Poilievre is completely untrustworthy…his track-record of willful denial and obfuscation in the face of overwhelming facts to the contrary has become his defining personal characteristic.

  14. Scary, mis-educated, unethical douche. The right-wing media will ensure you win the debate with “facts” Pierre, don’t worry about it. For the rest of us: welcome to crazy-land.

  15. I have to laugh at his title. Minister of Democtatic Reform. I just do not think Poilievre and democratically go together.

  16. Democratic and Poilievre is funny.

  17. He consulted with Baird and Kenny? What about the opposition and elections Canada?

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