Poilievre’s Refusal to Attend Debate Should Sound Alarm Bells for Conservatives … AND Canadian Voters!

Beware of politicians who try to hide and avoid open debate of their ideas/policies/principles: especially before even winning their own party’s leadership!

Pierre Poilievre is widely regarded as the frontrunner as the federal Conservative Party gets ready in August to choose it’s next party Leader … and possibly Canada’s next Prime Minister.

Both are BIG jobs: the first will bestow major power and influence over the directions/policies/principles that will govern the Conservative Party and its 678.000 members for years to come; the second, if successful, will allow the pursuit of policies that will control/regulate and impact … economically/politically/environmentally and even personally … the lives of 38 million Canadians, also for years to come.

And don’t forget … also get control of a $400 BILLION annual federal budget!

So you would think … if you believe in democracy and free and the open debate of ideas that will steer a free society … that ANYONE who proposes he or she is the BEST candidate to occupy BOTH those positions would WELCOME nation-wide televised broadcast opportunities to explain why.

And promote his ideas and beliefs.

Not Poilievre!

He is running away from Wednesday’s scheduled third and final TV debate of Tory leadership contenders: refusing to take part. (Another candidate Leslyn Lewis is also not appearing, but isn’t really regarded now as having a chance of winning) .

You can read about the coming debate here: https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/poilievre-leslyn-lewis-conservative-leadership-debate-1.6535422.

Looks to me like, believing he’s currently ahead in Tory polling, Poilievre is afraid he’ll blow it by saying something really stupid … or revealing too much of what he really believes.

Politically hiding from nationwide exposure days before voting takes place may seem understandable, but if Poilievre is so “running scared” and such a “control-the-message” freak BEFORE he becomes party Leader, how remote, controlling and unavailable would he be as PM???

Probably as bad … or worse … than Tory PM Stephen Harper was in his latter years in office!

I remember how Harper … and his Ministers … deliberately shut down and shut out media access to government information and government officials … both of whom had previously been so readily available to provide PUBLIC information and ANSWER policy questions, both as background and in formal interviews.

Not in Harper’s latter years in office!

How difficult it became for reporters to obtain … and true “public” servants all across the country to provide … public information on public policies, public programs and even public statistics … without prior “approval” from Ottawa HQ.

For those of us working in time zones other than Ottawa’s, it often became impossible to fully inform readers, listeners, viewers what was REALLY going on regarding quickly evolving local issues, because local federal civil servants could not spontaneously talk or answer questions … sometimes for days, or not at all.

And then there was Harper’s control-freak paranoid-like grip on who could ask questions at the increasingly fewer and fewer Press Conferences in Ottawa and strictly-controlled “media” availability sessions when he travelled across the country.

Real journalists … nationally and locally … were severely limited, sometimes totally excluded from Harper “media” events: the Tory PM apparently preferring very tame local or especially “ethnic” media sessions, featuring puffball lobs from oh-so-polite deferential media.

Harper and the Tories probably thought they were being so smart … severely restricting interviews and strictly limiting or altogether avoiding questioning from more pressing media types.

Say what you will about Justin Trudeau, he was before … and since … being elected, fairly readily available to take and respond (although not always actually answer) reporters’ questions.

And Canadians could see through Harper’s end-time arrogance and remoteness.

Harper and the Tories handily LOST the 2015 election … giving Justin Trudeau a Liberal majority government. And Harper was summarily sent packing by his party.

But at least Harper’s worst arrogance did not rear its ugly head BEFORE he became Conservative Leader or even in the earliest part of his 10 years as PM.

Poilievre’s arrogance, fear and disregard for free and open debate and tough questioning is showing itself VERY early … before he has become party leader.

Former Quebec Premier Jean Charest, also running for the Tory leadership, has severely restricted interviews during the campaign, but he is planning to show up for Wednesday’s televised debate. So far.

Unlike Poilievre.

Beware Conservatives! Beware Canadians voters!

Happy BC Day. Happy Pride Week.

Harv Oberfeld

(Follow @harveyoberfeld on Twitter for FREE First Alerts to all new postings on this provocative BC Blog. No spam…just First Alerts to all new postings up for discussion.)

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14 Responses to Poilievre’s Refusal to Attend Debate Should Sound Alarm Bells for Conservatives … AND Canadian Voters!

  1. D. M. Johnston says:

    In the Canadian Parliamentary system of democracy, the refusal to debate demonstrates a cowardice to such a degree, that the politician refusing to debate, leave politics.

    What this tells me is that the Conservative Party is fast turning into the American GOP/Republican/Evangelical Party and a law unto itself.

    If Poilievre wins the leadership, I think Trudeau the Apologist will have another four years rent free at 24 Sussex Drive.

  2. nonconfidencevote says:

    As you stated Harvey …
    “Harper and the Tories handily LOST the 2015 election … giving Justin Trudeau a Liberal majority government….”

    Trudeau didnt win that election so much as Harper lost after annoying so many voters with his dictatorial style.
    Either way.
    He was punted.
    I held my nose and voted Liberal during that election.
    That mistake will never happen again.
    Poilievre will get my vote.
    With or without a Conservative debate.

    (Response: Canadians (and others?) often vote more to throw-the-bums-out rather than enthusiastically endorse a newcomer. I thought Harper was a breath of fresh air when he was first elected … and I can’t recall, but believe I may have voted Tory at that time. But most parties/leaders get lazy, arrogant and even erratic by the end of their second term … so it’s good to go back and forth and give a moderate Opposition leader/party a chance to show what they can do. And I have written on this blog about my own lousy experience with Charest and his press people when I was in Ottawa representing BCTV. But I also have never been impressed with Poilievre, his statements, actions and some of his ideas: his decision now to run away from Wednesday’s televised debate increases my disdain. h.o)

  3. irvin taylor says:

    Nice going Harvey, you and the rest of the press are terrified that Pierre P will be elected and clean up that swamp in Ottawa. Here, in Kelowna, radio, TV and newspapers only go after Pierre, a sure sign he is going to win. Remember nobody gave Trump a chance to win.

    (Response: Forgive me if it’s a sin to expect someone … who wants to be Prime Minister of Canada, control a $440 BILLION annual taxpayers’ funded budget and make laws that govern out lives … to actually PARTICIPATE in a nationwide televised debate so voting party members and ALL Canadians can see/listen to what he says and wants to do!!! Ridiculous! h.o)

  4. First of all,the political “debates” are not debates at all.They are just poorly moderated media side shows.Poilievre has nothing to gain from participating in the media circus and has no reason to do so.His opponents and detractors will try to make a big deal of it but Conservative members who will elect the next Leader already know pretty well who will get their votes.
    Secondly,the underlying reason for the Conservative election loss was in 2015 was media bias in favour of the Liberals.This has not changed and Conservatives will face an uphill battle in the next election as well. An impartial, unsubsidized media,where most Canadians get their “news”, would have crucified Trudeau many times over.

    (Response: Losers always claim media bias. Boo hoo! Certainly, some media are biased these days … much worse than even a decade or two ago … BUT when a Leader/party are rejected from coast to coast to coast, by millions of voters following the “news” in print, on radio and on tv, in both or either official language … and witnessed themselves the thousands of party ads … almost every five minutes for weeks, as well as personally saw the actions/policies/promises of ALL the parties and the actions/remoteness/coldness and dictatorial actions of Harper for years, there’s a LOT MORE than the media to blame! As for Trudeau, were you asleep during the “WE” scandal, the coverage of his “holiday vacations”, his other ethical violations, and media coverage of the slow rollout of vaccines???? I don’t think Trudeau/Liberals would feel the media were on their side! LOL! h.o)

    • e.a.f. says:

      Harvey, liked the response to Henderson.
      Wouldn’t vote for the Conservatives, but was willing to give Harper a go before rejecting him. First thing he did was defund women’s groups across the country. that one its own was a non starter for me and things didn’t get better.

      Towards the latter years of Harper in office, one of the worst mistakes was attacking Veterans who spoke out against the lack of medical assistance they received and how their medical files were accessed by politicians and read and discussed. That was against the law and for many that was the final straw. At the time I lived in a riding with a lot of retired military and an active base, with a Conservative Cabinet Minister who was voted out of office. When I got into discussions with others as to who to vote for all I had to do was list off the things the government wasn’t doing for Veterans and what they were doing against them. It just shocked people.

      Vic Toews also didn’t help Harper in the polls and then there was the issues with Appiwaskat, the list goes on. harper thought he could do anything he wanted and not respond to the voters. He found out the hard way that wasn’t the way to go. He passed 8 pieces of Legislation which he was told were in violation of the Constitution. With his majority he passed them any how and all of them were overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada. The ninth one, regarding sentencing was recently over turned. Most of the 8 cases were undertaken by a Toronto lawyer, who was in private practice.

      with PP starting the Harper act early voters might want to be aware of what people with that type of personality usually wind up doing.

      Politicians who aren’t willing to face the voters, media, the people in their party, their competitors are either worried they’re too stupid to answer the questions, don’t care what his competitors think, or they’re afraid people will see them for who they are. Some consider PP not a real friendly guy with little consideration for democracy. Having seen him in action on the news while Harper was in office, my conclusion: nasty bit of business, best left outside. I suspect PP is avoiding debates because the big question is going to be asked: where does he stand on choice/abortion rights/etc. Too many in the Conservative Party would change the law in this country, as we have seen in the U.S.A. Some of us fought too long and too hard for women to have control over their own bodies.

      (Response: I don’t trust politicians …from ANY party … who run for office, but then avoid interviews, as many press conferences or scrum questions as they can, flee from broadcast debates, and ignore all-candidates meetings. It is total disrespect for voters. Boggles the mind that so many people are willing to vote and give power to ANY of these types. h.o)

    • D.B. Henderson says:

      Harv,if you can’t see the media bias you are part of the problem.

  5. e.a.f. says:

    It is totally disrepectful, as you write. They want us to vote for them, but not answer our questions or those from the media, who ask on our behalf.
    Voting for some one as you describe is like buying a car without looking at reviews or taking test drives. Voting a party into office is a much greater gamble than buying a car without back ground.

    As you state, he’d be responsible for a $400B budget. We don’t really know if the budget will stay at this figure. We haven’t been able to ask him if he plans on continuing to finance our healthcare or continue transfer payments. Will he continue paying part of the RCMP’s costs for areas which have them as the local police. Will he transfer money for transportation costs in provinces? Will he continue to have Canada support Ukraine? How will he deal with China? What about his views on climate change? Will Canada continue to accept refugees? Where does he stand on immigration or is he in favour of the P.M. of Hungary’s position? His stance on events which have been compared to terrorism needs to be explored by the press, his rivals, the VOTERS, etc.

    Did a little checking

    @” CANADA DAY ”

    “BREAKING: We just got off the phone with Pierre Poilievre and his team. He plans on meeting with us in ottawa for July 1 and Poilievre says he supports us 100%


    then there is this with the same group


    “Abortion is murdeer. If you support abortionm,, you will burn in hell for all enternity”

    two signs from the same group:

    “Masks don’t save! Only Jesus saves”.
    “Freedom over Fear”

    Now we go to PP’s site where he sells t-shirts:

    The t-shirts carry the following messages:

    “Unite for Freedom”

    “Freedom over Frear”

    Its all just to close for comfort. with out debates, interviews, etc. we the voters have no idea where PP stands on these issues. We need to know and so does the Conservative Party members before they vote for a new leader. If we are to have a democracy, we need at least 3/4 vialbe political .parties in this country. If a major political party in Canada takes a turn for the worst, such as the American Republicans have done in some places, there does our ability to choose who will represent. I’m a leftie as most know. However, I have always had the belief that the Conservative Party of Canada needs to continue to survive and thrive and appeal to Canadains because it gives them a party to vote for and thus maintain a decent democracy. If there is no Loyal Opposition then who will challenge the government of the day?

    (Response: Actually, it’s even worse than you say in describing it “like buying a car without looking at reviews or taking test drives”. It’s like a salesman trying to SELL you a car but then refusing to attend the final meeting where you were supposed to ask questions! But he asks you to just sign an only partially completed form buying what he’s selling! 🙂 h.o)

  6. Not Sure says:

    Let’s look at this objectively says this NDP supporter.

    How many debates is sufficient? There have actually been three. An unofficial one at the beginning of the campaign that only Patrick Brown missed and then two official ones, one in French and one in English. And this fourth one seems to have been scheduled quickly. They announced it about 10 days ago, after the ballots had been sent out with about 10% of them already returned. Candidates have planned other events. You like digging for motives. What’s up with the Conservative executive with a last minute debate?

    I don’t know if you can accuse Poilievre of hiding from the press. I am not following this carefully, but his name seems to be in the headlines more than the other candidates combined.

    These aren’t debates. They are political theatre. We watch hoping for some knock out punch that rarely happens. The handlers carefully manage their guy to ensure no mistakes are ever made. Substantive discussion doesn’t happen.

    We may not like that Polievre and Lewis aren’t showing up, but unless we are a member of the CPC we really don’t have a say. When the real show happens – the federal election – then we can take their actions into consideration if we want. In other words we are not forced to buy the car the salesman puts in front of us.

    Besides, maybe with Poilievre absent, the other three candidates can put forth their agenda instead of feeling the need to attack Poilievre. Maybe that will work out for one of them. Who knows. But I have a funny feeling that Poilievre doesn’t feel threatened one way or another.

    On the other hand, I did find this article interesting. https://www.politico.com/news/2022/08/02/338canada-canada-conservative-race-00049100

    Charest’s approval rating is improving. Polievre has massive support in the prairies where there are few seats for the Conservatives to gain. Charest may not be the favourite Conservative but he is more likely to sway moderate conservatives who right now have been voting Liberal, Should Red Tories and Blue Liberals form a party that is more centrist than the now more right leaning Conservatives and the now more left leaning Liberals.

    (Response: Read my response to Elle: it stands also as a response to your Comments. Beware any candidate for any leadership office who hides from being questioned and explaining or debating their views! Especially when it gives them a chance to be seen and herd by 38 million Canadians …who they hope will choose them as Prime Minister. h.o)

  7. Elle says:

    Ok. This is getting a little over the top. I believe there already had been two debates that had all the competing members so it is not like he is hiding from from debates. The debates are not to convince Canadians to vote for them, it is for Conservative members to vote them into the leadership position. They are just trying to convince the membership that they are good leadership material. I believe that the policy positions will come out more when an election is called so the rest of Canadians can either decide to vote for or against the policies. The squabbling that is going on is not good. Charest has taken out attack ads against Pollievre. It is getting ugly. In the end they will have to pull together against the Liberals,

    I’m not sure if Pollievre is the right guy for the Conservatives but I sure am sure that we have to get rid of Trudeau. He has refused to deal with the media at times and when he does he just a glazed look on his face as he repeats his memorized lines and repeats them to any question no matter what it is. Did we need a carbon-laced tour of Canada in the last weeks so that our prime minister could play with children?

    Canada is in such trouble right now and hopefully we can get out of this mess.

    (Response: Yes, there were two earlier debates. But surely it’s not outrageous to expect that, as the vote gets much closer, and the party’s own campaign board schedules another nation wide televised debate that ALL remining candidates …especially the TOP contenders ..show up!!! Is there anything possible Poilievre is doing with his days that he can’t spare a half day to reach out to all voting Conservatives and AL Canadians? Clearly he’s hiding!@ And that’s no way to convince anyone that an applicant is the best person for any job! h.o)

  8. Not Sure says:

    Again, Harvey, I am looking at this objectively. I am not a Conservative supporter at all. I have voted Liberal federally, but for the most part I have voted NDP. I really don’t care who the Conservatives select. I do prefer Charest because he is more centrist so less scary for us on the left if he becomes Prime Minister, but maybe I should be hoping for Poilievre as he may not be as electable in a national election as Charest would be.

    Poilievre has not been hiding from the public. We know his position more than any other candidate. That’s why non-Conservatives don’t like him. But right now, as Elle pointed out, he is campaigning for the leadership of the Conservatives. He has to win this election first. For whatever reason, he has decided that he has better things to do than participate in a last minute debate. I am sure he would be there if an August debate had been scheduled earlier. But this strategy may come back to bite him in the butt. If I were Charest and the other two guys (see can’t even pull their names Atkinson?), I would be emphasizing my positions and at the same time making digs at the absent Poilievre with no fear of being attacked in return.

    Whatever happens I am guessing you will have more to say after the votes are counted.

    (Response: For me, it’s very simple: I expect ANYONE running for ANY party’s leadership to show up for ALL mainstream national or province-wide televised debates. Remember: the winner could end up controlling billions of dollars of taxpayers’ monies and introduce laws that can substantially impact millions of people’s laws. Not show up! NO!!! Let’s keep it real: most people no longer crowd into a local community centre auditorium to hear leadership or even PM contenders: they depend on TV (and to a lesser extent radio, newspaper coverage, internet coverage.) BEWARE of any candidate who does not show up … ESPECIALLY if her or she is leading the polls! h.o)

  9. Art Smith says:

    Hi Harvey, as you probably know, but do not acknowledge, this debate is all about getting some eyeballs for Charest, who hasn’t a hope in hell and has failed miserably in generating any interest.
    Charest is the media choice, therefore let’s put our thumb on the scale and try to make it look like he has something to offer. From what I have seen, he had trouble getting any interest from the general public. His rallies were more like a morning Kaffee Klatch than political rally. The ballots for the leadership had already been sent out and lot of members have already voted, so really, what, other than another chance to get Charest in front of the TV screens, is the point?

    (Response: Just watched the debate. No doubt Charest benefitted from Poilievre’s absence: he really hammered his refusal to show up …with a long, skillful recitation of his own history as a Conservative who “showed up” every time the party and the country needed him. I have never been a great Charest fan myself and have written on this blog of my own difficulties/failure to get any time/attention from him or his media staff while I was reporting on Parliament Hill for BCTV. So I don’t know whether his recent attention to BC and the West is a newfound mea-culpa reform ..or just cynical political maneuvering. But I have to give it to him: he DID show up for today’s debate organized and scheduled by his party! And I liked many of the points he made. Not sure how that will count with the 678,000 Conservative party members …but it’s interesting that almost half a million of them had not yet sent in their ballots before the last debate! h.o)

  10. Not Sure says:


    According to this article there were 300 people watching the debate at its peak. There were 100 people at the end. The article says that this morning there were over 18000 views. It is now over 20000 including my 3 second visit. How many of those 20000+(a little over 3% of the CPC membership) watched the whole debate? How many watched for 10 minutes and found something far more interesting to do?

    Would more people have watched if Poilievre had been there. Probably. Because right now he is the draw. He doesn’t see any upside to debating. He would just be giving Charest and the others more exposure. He has been the face of this whole leadership race. He has not hidden. He has been around the country. He has been making noise on different issues. He participated in three debates. He seems to have been working harder than any of the others. Why should he take part in a debate that was planned at the last minute?

    Wow. Sounds like I am supporting Poilievre. Not at all. I am just looking at this objectively.

    Now I get your point about people being required to debate. You say beware people who avoid debating. So what should be the consequences for Poilievre? Do you think that he should be automatically rejected by the 500,000 members who haven’t yet voted? Good luck with that.

    And what about non CPC members? You were hoping for a Conservative win last election so I am assuming that you voted for the CPC candidate in your riding. Should Poilievre win, will his current refusal to debate affect your decision. Or will it be contingent on what he does during the federal election. And if that is the case, then what he does now is of little consequence.

    I am not arguing with you, Harvey. I would find it hilarious if Poilievre lost to Charest and his strategy of refusing the debate was cited as the main reason. But it is still up to Conservative members to pick their leader. It will get more interesting for the rest of us once that leader is picked.

    (Response: Remember, selecting the leader of the Conservative party is not just based on one-member-one-vote: each riding gets 100 points (votes) …no matter how many members they have. Sooo … that gives Quebec and Ontario, with so many more ridings, a huge advantage over the West and the Maritimes in choosing the new leader. So even if all the Tories in BC and Alberta love Poilievre …it’s Ontario and Quebec that will decide … and I suspect that even though Poilievre is from Ontario, many Tories there might see Charest as having a better chance in Quebec, in urban Ontario and overall nation-wide of beating Trudeau (or Freeland, Carnie etc) and being elected PM. Unless, of course, there’s a Trump-like populist tide that favours Poilievre and is sweeping the Tory membership … even if NOT (thankfully) the Canadian population. h.o.)

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