Conservative leadership 'front runner' Pierre Poilievre returns to Calgary for campaign event

As the Conservative Party of Canada searches for its next leader, Carleton MP Pierre Poilievre appears poised to take on the role and challenge Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the next federal election.

The 42-year-old, grew up in Calgary, attending Henry Wise Wood High School before going to the University of Calgary.

On Tuesday night, thousands of Poilievre supporters jammed Equi-Plex at Spruce Meadows to see the candidate they hope becomes the next leader of the party. Campaign officials estimate between 5,000 and 7,000 people were in attendance.

Calgary-born Poilievre pitched a message of freedom, promising to put an end to what he called the 'gatekeepers' currently in government.

Supporters stood shoulder to shoulder inside the packed venue, while outside vehicles were bumper to bumper trying to make their way into the grounds, causing major traffic delays.

With his mother and brother in the audience, Poilievre wasted no time talking about protecting personal freedoms and promoting crypto-currency if he is elected to the top job.

'TAPPED INTO ISSUES'

“Poilievre is young, he's dynamic and charismatic. He's a very effective communicator because he's tapped into issues, I think that are particularly of interest to millennials who are now the largest group of voters in demographic terms,” said University of Calgary political scientist  Lisa Young.

Poilievre has been referred to as a 'pitbull' by political experts, for his persistence of attacking the Liberal government on policies.

Young says that is a quality trait in opposition, but Poilievre will need to broaden his approach if he becomes leader.

“I think Polievre is aware that his reputation as an opposition politician, as an effective attack dog, could potentially come to haunt him, particularly once he gets to the general election,” said Young.

“So it's no coincidence that his campaign was launched with the phrase, I'm running for prime minister.”

Poilievre’s visit comes as Trudeau tours Edmonton, on Budget 2022.

Young believes there is no correlation between the two events, with both in Alberta at the same time.

“Trudeau’s people probably should have thought twice about having him here at the same time as Polievre because I think it's safe to assume that the size of the crowd to see a Liberal prime minister in Edmonton will be smaller than the size of a crowd seeing the Conservative party front-runner in Calgary,” she said.

Alberta UCP MLAs Devin Dreeshen and Tanya Fir have thrown their support behind Poilievre.

So has Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides.

Young says there currently is no clear challenger to Poilievre, with the likes of former Quebec premier Jean Charest and Poilievre’s colleague, Leslyn Lewis challenging him. Both have already made campaign stops in Calgary.

“I think this is probably a landslide win for Poilievre,” she said.

Being from Calgary but representing an eastern Canada riding is expected to benefit Poilievre in the leadership race.

“He’s uniquely well positioned to straddle the divide between east and west within the party,” said Young.

Doors open at the Spruce Meadows Equi-Plex at 6:30 p.m., with a large crowd expected.