Batters pointed to Poilievre’s rally-style convention speech, in which he closed on an image of a young couple savoring a home they could afford, one of them clutching a hard-earned paycheck on a warm midsummer night.
“He was calling to mind this imagery of something to long for, something to wistfully look at,” says Batters. “If he had given that part of the speech even several years ago, somebody would have thought, ‘Why are you even talking about that? That’s not a big deal.’”
Back in 2015, the average price of a home in Canada was C$413,000. The Canadian Real Estate Association reported a massive mid-pandemic spike past C$800,000 before gradually dropping to C$668,000 in July.
Poilievre’s housing solution: fight cities that don’t build homes.
He promises to force municipalities to increase homebuilding by 15 percent annually or face penalties — including withheld federal funding. He’d also boost funding to cities that beat targets. Poilievre says his government would hear complaints from residents about cities that engage in “egregious NIMBYism” that constrains supply.
“When complaints are well-founded, we will withhold infrastructure dollars until municipalities remove the blockage and allow homebuilding to take place,” he has said.
The Tories would grant federal funding to cities that “pre-approve building permits for high-density housing and employment on all available land surrounding transit stations.” They promise to sell off 15 percent of the 30,000-plus federal buildings owned by Ottawa.
He has found particular traction by zeroing in on the public anxiety that has risen as housing demand has outpaced supply and interest rates have climbed sharply, pricing out would-be buyers and straining family budgets in a country where most mortgages carry rates that adjust every few years.
A summer makeover that gained traction
For most of his 19 years as an elected politician, Poilievre has been the picture of confrontation in the House of Commons — an attack dog whose penchant for aggressive remarks has occasionally landed him in hot water.
In 2008, Poilievre apologized for questioning the work ethic of Indigenous people on an Ottawa talk radio station. This summer, he apologized to a woman whose home he called a “tiny little shack” as he railed against runaway housing prices.
That reputation needed some massaging.
The Conservatives launched a $3 million summer ad campaign, a significant sum in Canadian politics, meant to soften his image as a family man.
He also stopped wearing glasses in public, claiming his wife prefers the new look.
The ads, at least, appear to be paying off. Poilievre’s favorability ratings are positive for the first time since he entered his party’s leadership race in 2022.
The Conservatives recently broke a yearslong statistical polling tie with the Liberals, soaring ahead by double digits in successive surveys published by major polling firms.
Poilievre fought negative personal favorability ratings for more than a year, according to Abacus Data. By September, he had flipped the script. For the first time, more Abacus respondents had a positive impression than a negative one.
Abacus CEO David Coletto tells POLITICO the bad news for Liberals has been brewing for about a year. “It’s not a new phenomenon. This isn’t a sudden shift,” he says. “We’ve seen these underlying leading indicators telling us that there was something building against the government.”
In Abacus’s most recent survey, only 27 percent of voters had a positive impression of the prime minister. More than four-fifths say it’s time for a change in government, though one-third don’t see a good governing alternative.
The Conservatives hold a commanding lead — 41 percent of votes, compared to 26 percent for the Liberals and 18 percent for the NDP.
Some convention delegates doubted the trustworthiness of summertime polls when most Canadians aren’t thinking about politics. Coletto insists Poilievre’s traction is legitimate.
Peace in the ranks (mostly)
The positive momentum has produced more unity among Conservatives than at any point since Stephen Harper, the beloved founding leader of the party, last forged a winning Conservative voter coalition in 2011.
A big tent of Tories gathered at the policy convention in Quebec City. Roman Baber, a former provincial politician who was booted from Premier Doug Ford’s caucus for opposing Covid lockdowns, roamed the halls. So did plenty of campaigners for Ford’s Progressive Conservative Party, despite whispers of discord between the provincial and federal clans.