The Hamilton Spectator
Poilievre and Liberals draw big crowds in busy political weekend
At least 1,500 people gathered at a Stoney Creek hall Saturday, waving blue “Pierre Poilievre for prime minister” signs as “Sweet Home Alabama” played on the speakers.
They came for a meet-and-greet with the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada at The Grand Olympia Hospitality and Convention Centre, where self-described “freedom fighters” waved Canada flags at the entrances.
“After eight years of Justin Trudeau and his costly coalition with the NDP, 1.5 million people are going to the food bank every single month in Canada,” Poilievre said from a clearing in the centre of the room.
The Leader of the Official Opposition, who was joined by Flamborough-Glanbrook MP Dan Muys and Tory MPs from neighbouring regions, voiced support for “common” people — mechanics, farmers, electricians, servers and police officers.
“If you want to see greatness, don’t look up. Look around you,” he said.
McMaster University politicalscience professor Peter Graefe says the Hamilton East-Stoney Creek riding, currently held by Liberal Chad Collins, has “characteristics of a working class-ish riding,” where Conservatives may feel their message resonates.
“I think the Conservatives think they can take Hamilton East-Stoney Creek, or it’s a riding they’re looking at if they’re thinking, ‘What seats can we win if we want to form government next time?’ ” he said.
Provincially, Progressive Conservative Neil Lumsden took the riding in the last election, ending the NDP’s 15-year hold. The Liberals have held it federally since 2015.
The crowd cheered vows to cut taxes, address crime, defund the CBC and “bring home the dream of home ownership again,” and booed Trudeau’s gun-control measures.
“I really like what Pierre Poilievre stands for. I think that freedom of expression is important,” said Amber Mitchell, 26, who has a master’s degree in library science. “I feel that, especially on university campuses, students are not allowed to speak their mind, especially if they oppose the kind of left-wing or woke agenda that’s being pushed.”
Mitchell, a Conservative rally “regular,” was among the majority of supporters who joined a long line to shake Poilievre’s hand. As an aspiring homeowner, affordability is top of mind.
“It will take a long time for me to save enough money to own a home, and I think that overtaxation is a big component of that,” she said.
Glen Ellsworth, however, came to the rally looking for answers from Poilievre, who took no questions from supporters or media, on what he called his “flip-flopping” stance on certain issues.
Late last month, Poilievre condemned far-right German politician Christine Anderson, known for her anti-vaccine, anti-refugee and anti-immigration views, after Haldimand-Norfolk MP Leslyn Lewis and fellow Tory MPs Dean Allison and Colin Carrie were photographed dining with her. Some say this criticism could alienate trucker convoy supporters, who Anderson was in Canada supporting.
“Why does he say he’s … for the ‘freedom movement’ and why did he not back them? Why did he flipflop on his three MPs … after they met with Christine Anderson?” said the Niagara man, a “freedom rally” organizer. “He needs to pick a lane and stay in it.”
Meanwhile, on the other side of the city, the Ontario Liberal Party held its largest annual general meeting in more than 20 years.
In a release Saturday, the party said more than 1,500 from across the province met at the Hamilton Convention Centre to “chart a course for the future of the party.”
The meeting comes less than two weeks before residents of Hamilton Centre vote for their new MPP in a March 16 byelection.
There are 10 candidates vying the seat vacated by Mayor Andrea Horwath, including New Democrat Sarah Jama, Liberal Deirdre Pike, Progressive Conservative Pete Wiesner and Green Lucia Iannantuono.
NDP leader Marit Stiles and Ontario Greens leader Mike Schreiner both cancelled plans to canvass with local candidates in Hamilton Centre over the weekend.
I really like what Pierre Poilievre stands for. I think that freedom of expression is important. AMBER MITCHELL SUPPORTER