Tank: Saskatchewan seems to support Poilievre like nowhere else
Saskatchewan must love cryptocurrency. Or maybe the love affair we’re witnessing is with career politicians.
Regardless, the province that’s easy to draw and a challenge to spell appears to be supporting the campaign of Pierre Poilievre to become leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and then prime minister like nowhere else.
If the leadership race was a poker game, Saskatchewan looks to be pushing all of its chips into the middle of the table in a bet on Poilievre. Or at least that’s what the province’s politicians of various levels are doing.
Poilievre called Saskatoon his “second home” in an appearance on Tuesday that reportedly drew more than 2,000 people. He was adopted by two teachers from Saskatchewan, but was raised mostly in Calgary and once helped Jason Kenney sell Reform Party memberships.
Poilievre’s reception in Saskatoon makes one wonder whether he’s as popular here as the proverbial backup quarterback for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
That’s the apparent perception by politicians.
Six of Saskatchewan’s 14 Conservative MPs are listed among those endorsing Poilievre on his website, including Kelly Block, Michael Kram, Brad Redekopp, former Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, Corey Tochor and Fraser Tolmie.
Tochor posted on Twitter on Feb. 5, the day Poilievre announced his candidacy, “our prayers have been answered.”
Tochor, MP for Saskatoon University, issued that endorsement before Poilievre starting making bizarre statements about using cryptocurrency, which is now plummeting in value, to solve inflation or firing the Bank of Canada governor.
He appeared at Poilievre’s Saskatoon event and hugged him, so presumably he’s fine with those sentiments.
Saskatchewan Sen. Denise Batters has also endorsed Poilievre.
Yet the 18-year MP is not right wing enough for some Saskatchewan politicians. Saskatchewan MPs Rosemarie Falk, Jeremy Patzer and Cathay Wagantall have endorsed Leslyn Lewis, who believes the World Health Organization is threatening Canada’s sovereignty.
The other five MPs appear to be staying neutral thus far.
What’s more intriguing is the number of provincial Saskatchewan Party MLAs who have endorsed Poilievre, since they have little to gain by backing any federal leadership candidate.
Poilievre’s website cites 21 Saskatchewan Party MLAs supporting his candidacy, including ministers Christine Tell and Dustin Duncan. That compares to six from all other provinces combined.
Some of these MLAs attended Poilievre’s Saskatoon event, as did former Saskatchewan premier Grant Devine.
But it’s difficult to see what all this Sask-support does for Poilievre, except make him look like he’s leading a regional party.
The Conservatives won all 14 Saskatchewan seats (with 59 per cent of the vote) last year under Erin O’Toole, who attempted a moderate campaign, just like they did with a more traditional conservative leader, Andrew Scheer (64 per cent in 2019).
Justin Trudeau beat both.
Poilievre may have captured some feelings in this province with his opposition to vaccine mandates — yet little to no sympathy expressed for those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 — and support for convoys and blockades that disrupted Ottawa and cross-border trade.
But those beliefs will weigh like an anchor on his campaign elsewhere in Canada.
Similarly, bashing the carbon tax, crossing your fingers and hoping technology can solve the climate crisis plays well in Saskatchewan for some reason, but not so much elsewhere in Canada.
Just ask Scheer.
It’s puzzling when you consider Saskatchewan just went through a drought last year that resulted in a decline in economic growth.
That might make you think a politician like Poilievre would have difficulty selling himself in a province that’s clearly feeling the effects of climate change.
Yet Saskatchewan seems eager to embrace him, and he seems likely to win the Conservative leadership.
However, by the time the next federal election happens — which could be three years from now — the opposition parties will want to make the campaign all about the incumbent Liberals, who will have governed for a decade by then.
Poilievre’s controversial statements ensure the campaign will focus just as much on him.
Political support from Saskatchewan will make no difference there.
Phil Tank is the digital opinion editor at the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.