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Thoughts on the emergence of Pierre Poilievre from political writer Paul Wells


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Posted with permission from author Paul Wells

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What Poilievre is up to

We’re in an odd world where most of the journalistic coverage of Pierre Poilievre is critical, but he might yet become Prime Minister. The week’s big Abacus poll suggests this may simply be because more and more people are done with Justin Trudeau. But we’re still missing a theory of Pierre Poilievre. Since Shannon Proudfoot’s profile of him for a prominent food magazine last year (note: Shannon didn’t write or like the headline), there’ve actually been fewer attempts to figure the guy out as he gets closer to an election.

Here’s one thing to chew on. In early 2022, two weeks after Poilievre announced his candidacy for the Conservative leadership, this essay appeared in The Hub, a good online journal of mostly conservative-leaning opinion. It was by Ben Woodfinden, “a doctoral candidate and political theorist at McGill University.” Woodfinden has since got hired as Poilievre’s communications director, which suggests that if there’s anyone who thought Woodfinden had Poilievre figured out, it’s Poilievre.

What did he write? Woodfinden’s essay noted that Poilievre had already been talking about “gatekeepers” who make the rules that stifle initiative and progress for ordinary people. He encouraged Poilievre to keep going. The “gatekeeper” talk could appeal to a few different corners of today’s conservative movement — small-government conservatives, populists and new Canadians who feel frustrated in their attempts to get ahead. Woodfinden writes:

“The elites in this message are essentially political elites whose actions hold back the so-called ‘little guy’—ordinary Canadians who just want to own a home and make a living. There is undoubtedly something of a populist moment in the Canadian right at the moment, and this is a particular framing that can resonate with the Tory base whilst not giving in to the darker and more sinister populist temptation.


“Put all this together, and Poilievre may have the makings of a perfect storm message. It scratches the itch of different parts of the conservative coalition, and it has the potential makings of a winning electoral coalition that could propel the Poilievre-led Conservatives to government. Whilst appealing to both small government and populist types in the conservative movement, it also potentially offers a populist message that appeals to people who feel left behind or screwed over in Canada today, with ire aimed at a clique of gatekeepers who frustrate the goals and aspirations of ordinary Canadians.”

I’ll let you read the rest if you like. Woodfinden’s essay is here. Not having written it I offer no warranty for it. But I’ve always found it worthwhile to consider what politicians think they’re doing, rather than just what their worst critics think they’re doing. Maybe this piece will be illuminating.

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Saskatchewan premier defends plan to use notwithstanding clause for pronoun policy

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Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe holds a news conference during a tour at Lakewood Civic Centre in Saskatoon, Sask., on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023. Moe is defending his decision to recall the legislative assembly early and use the notwithstanding clause to ensure the province’s pronoun policy stays in place. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Heywood Yu


Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is defending his decision to recall the legislative assembly early and use the notwithstanding clause to ensure the province’s pronoun policy in schools stays in place.

Speaking to reporters in Saskatoon, he said he wants to make it clear the policy will go ahead.

“The policy is paused here today,” Moe said Friday.

“What we feel is of paramount importance is to provide clarity to parents, to families and ultimately to school divisions and educators that are in our classrooms across the province. This will provide that clarity.

“We’ve said for a number of weeks now that there are tools available for the government to ensure this policy is in place moving forward for the next number of months and years.”

Moe made the announcement Thursday that he plans to use the notwithstanding clause, shortly after a judge granted an injunction to pause the policy that requires parental consent when children under 16 want to go by different names and pronouns at school.

He had said in a statement that he was extremely dismayed by the injunction, calling it judicial overreach, and suggested the policy has strong support from the majority of Saskatchewan residents and parents.

On Friday, Moe added that he wants to provide clarity as soon as possible to families and school divisions.

“The school divisions, up until yesterday, have informed us they’ve been working on their implementation plans of this policy,” he said.

“What pausing the policy means is for a period of time it will not be mandatory to include the parents in some of these discussions.”

The legislative assembly is to be recalled on Oct. 10 to use the notwithstanding clause, a provision that allows governments to override certain Charter rights for up to five years.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 29, 2023.

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Cyberattacks hit military, Parliament websites as India hacker group targets Canada

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The federal government is coping with apparent cyber attacks this week, as a hacker group in India claims it has sowed chaos in Ottawa. Hands type on a keyboard in Vancouver on Wednesday, December, 19, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

By Dylan Robertson in Ottawa

The federal government is coping with apparent cyberattacks this week, as a hacker group in India claims it has sowed chaos in Ottawa.

The Canadian Armed Forces said that its website became unavailable to mobile users midday Wednesday, but was fixed within a few hours.

The military said the site is separate from other government sites, such as the one used by the Department of Defence and internal military networks. The incident remains under investigation.

“We have no indication of broader impacts to our systems,” said a statement from spokeswoman Andrée-Anne Poulin.

Meanwhile, various pages on the House of Commons website continued to load slowly or incompletely on Thursday due to an ongoing attack that officials say started Monday morning.

The Commons administration said it was facing a distributed denial-of-service attack, which is when bots swarm a website with multiple visits and cause it to stop loading properly.

“House of Commons systems responded as planned to protect our network and IT infrastructure. However, some websites may be unresponsive for a short period,” spokeswoman Amélie Crosson said in a written statement Thursday morning.

“The House of Commons IT support team, in collaboration with our partners, have implemented mitigating measures and restored services to appropriate service levels. The IT team is still continuously monitoring for such activities.”

She added that the Commons administration is helping their Senate colleagues “to provide guidance and support them to restore services.”

Elections Canada also experienced roughly an hour-long denial-of-service attack starting around midnight early Wednesday, Ottawa time.

“This website does not host any sensitive data or information. It is separate from our main website,, and is hosted by an external service provider. It is in no way connected to the network that supports,” the agency wrote in a statement.

“Our systems are monitored in real time both internally, and by the Canadian Cyber Security Centre, enabling us to quickly detect any anomalies on our platforms and systems. They are aware of the incident.”

That centre is under the umbrella of the Communications Security Establishment, Canada’s signals-intelligence agency.

A hacking group named Indian Cyber Force claimed responsibility for the incidents involving the military and Elections Canada, and it appeared to have managed to infiltrate a handful of websites owned by small businesses in Canada.

The group made reference to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau telling Parliament on Sept. 18 that there were “credible allegations” of Indian involvement in the killing of Sikh independence activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who had been wanted by India for years and was gunned down in June outside the temple he led.

The hacking group has posted multiple versions of a message riddled with spelling and grammatical errors onto websites of restaurants and medical clinics.

The affected sites show a message on a black background with green digits, similar to the film “The Matrix,” as warlike music plays.

The message described Canada as a haven for terrorists — a “heaven hub,” it said in butchered English — and similarly insulted Sikh separatists.

It also criticized Trudeau for “throwing something without any prove,” or proof.

The group claimed to have attacked Elections Canada and the Ottawa Hospital, though these sites appeared to be operating normally Thursday morning. The Canadian Press has asked those responsible for these web pages to confirm whether they have been affected.

The hacking group also claimed to have taken down the Global Affairs Canada website for travel advisories, but the department insists this hasn’t happened, and the group deleted that claim from its account on the social-media application Telegram.

News of the attacks came as questions abounded over Indian officials’ level of co-operation with Canadian officials over Trudeau’s allegations — and to what extent allies such as the United States were advocating on Canada’s behalf.

On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with India’s foreign-affairs minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.

Neither of them made mention of the controversy in Canada when they emerged briefly to pose for photos before their meeting began.

During a State Department briefing prior to that meeting, spokesman Matthew Miller refused to speculate on what the secretary would tell Jaishankar directly.

“What I will say, however, is we have consistently engaged with the Indian government on this question and have urged them to co-operate, and that engagement and urging them to co-operate will continue,” Miller said.

“We urge them to co-operate with the Canadian investigation.”

Miller flatly refused comment when asked about a television interview last week with U.S. ambassador to Canada David Cohen, who confirmed that Canada received intelligence from one of its Five Eyes security partners.

“I am not going to speak to intelligence matters from the podium.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 28, 2023.

— With files from James McCarten in Washington, D.C.

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