Federal conservative leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre made his first visit to Vancouver Island on Sunday, attracting large crowds at rallies in both Nanaimo and Sidney.
More than 1,000 people were in attendance at the Vancouver Island Convention Centre in Nanaimo, where Poilievre held a town hall-style forum to drum up Island memberships for the upcoming conservative leadership.
It was a big turnout for the man likely to face off against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the next election.
Later Sunday evening, almost 1,000 people were expected to attend Poilievre’s rally at the Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney.
The federal conservatives hold none of Vancouver Island’s seven ridings — but it was only a decade ago that it held three of the seven ridings. And back in 2000, almost the entire Island was conservative blue.
But right now, the federal NDP holds all the seats except for Green Party’s Elizabeth May in Saanich—Gulf Islands riding.
If Poilievre becomes the party’s leader, he says he plans to give people control back of their money and curb inflation. The words “Take back control of your life” are displayed across his campaign website.
“Seniors feel like their savings are evaporating because of inflation, making food, fuel and other expenses out of reach,” Poilievre told CHEK News at the rally in Nanaimo.
“We need to put an end to the inflation by removing the taxes and deficits that are driving up the cost of living, for people living here on the Island and across Canada,” he said.
Harassment against Freeland ‘absolutely unacceptable,’ Poilievre says
In an interview, Poilievre also made his first comments about Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who was verbally accosted in Grand Prairie, Alta., Friday night by a man who called her a “traitor,” among other names.
Since the incident, politicians across the country have been encouraged to denounce violence and hatred, especially amongst the far right.
“Well, it’s absolutely unacceptable and I can relate, of course, because I’ve been the subject of so much online harassment and abuse,” Polievre said.
According to Poilievre, his wife Anaida Poilievre has received “so much horrific material directly to her social media accounts,” prompting the couple to hire a private security firm “to protect our family against all of that abuse.”
“So, unfortunately, this is all too common and all too long-standing,” he added. “We have to put an end to it and demand that everybody treat other Canadians with respect when we debate political ideas.”
In recent months, however, Poilievre has been accused of instigating threats against a female journalist.
Poilievre released a statement in July claiming Global News’ Rachel Gilmore smeared him and thousands of other Canadians who criticized the federal government’s “unscientific and discriminatory vaccine mandates.”
Gilmore had previously written two articles criticizing Poilievre for his support of anti-vaccine marcher James Topp, a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces and has ties to several members of the far right.
The Coalition For Women In Journalism later condemned Poilievre’s comments, saying Gilmour started receiving threatening emails and tweets “from the moment the statement went up.”
Poilievre said he’s confident the party can be a force on the Island again. First, he’ll have to win the party leadership race, which is set for a vote on Sept. 10 — though if crowds are any indication, there’s a reason he’s the frontrunner.
I asked @PierrePoilievre for his response to @cafreeland being verbally accosted and threatened in Grande Prairie. More tonight from his visit to Vancouver Island on @CHEK_News pic.twitter.com/NTWqB5wUfq
— Rob Shaw (@RobShaw_BC) August 28, 2022
With files from CHEK News’ Rob Shaw