Politics is his work, his hobby, and his life: a new biography tries to explain the appeal of Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre

Pierre Poilievre, if the public opinion polls are to be believed, is poised to become Canada’s next prime minister. But who is he? Where did he come from? And what motivates him? The author of a new book aims to answer those questions — and more.

In Pierre Poilievre: A Political Life, journalist and broadcaster Andrew Lawton paints an admittedly sympathetic portrait of the Conservative leader.

So why Poilievre? And why now?

“I think the why now is because Canadians are going to be faced very soon with a critical decision on who to vote for and which party,” Lawton said.

Indeed, with a federal election expected on or before Oct. 20, 2025, voters will decide who should be their next prime minister.

“So, I think, in general, Canadians benefit well from being informed about who their leaders are. Justin Trudeau had a level of notoriety when he was seeking the premiership of Canada that Poilievre doesn’t have to the same extent.”

Whether you agree with Poilievre or not, Lawton shows how consistent he has been with his positions — going back to when he was writing letters to the editor as a teenager.

“Things like freedom as being this all-encompassing, all-important concept in politics, the idea of fiscal conservatism, of getting government out of the way — these are things that he has been stable and consistent on for, not even just in his time as an MP, but going [back] to his adolescence,” he said.

“And, in an era of political flip-flops, I found that quite surprising.”

A key part of Poilievre’s origin story is his prize-winning entry into Magna International’s As Prime Minister, I Would essay contest — written when he was just a second-year university student in 1999.

“I will say that one thing that didn’t stand the test of time in that was he had this little section on term limits and why MPs shouldn’t serve more than two terms,” he said.

“And of course, you know, seven terms later, he’s still in politics. But apart from that, it’s held up remarkably well.”

Lawton says Poilievre may have good reasons for changing his mind about MP term limits.

“One theory I advance in the book is that when you go into politics, you conceptualize a term as being four years because that’s what the typical order of things is in a majority government. [But] his first term was a minority, the government lasted less than two years. His second term was a minority, in which the government lasted two years. His third term, another minority, this time [was] a little bit longer. So, the idea of terms in that dynamic is different than it might have been when he first set out on that path, and I think that probably weighed on it a bit.”

One of the knocks against Poilievre is his tendency to communicate in nicknames, slogans, and catchphrases — from Justinflation to Axe the Tax. Lawton doesn’t necessarily see that style as a negative.

“I mean, it’s tough whenever I get a question like that. It’s a tough thing because I look at the polls and I say, ‘Well, whatever he’s doing is clearly working to some extent or not hurting.'”

Poilievre has also attracted criticism for his supercharged rhetoric — from threatening to fire the governor of the Bank of Canada and defunding the CBC to ending what he calls “wokeness” in government institutions. Some have compared him to Donald Trump, but Lawton argues Poilievre is really a product of a modern and uniquely Canadian conservativism with a lengthy resume in the movement, going back to his university days.

“Yeah, and he certainly has a much deeper political and philosophical conviction than Donald Trump does,” he said.

“I mean, Trump was a Democrat for most of his life, and then blinks one day and he’s the face of the Republican Party, whereas Poilievre has helped to build the conservative movement and the Conservative Party.”

Early reviews of the book have called it a sympathetic look at Poilievre, something Lawton doesn’t shy away from.

“Obviously, as a commentator, I lean right and I don’t hide that,” he said.

Lawton, who ran as a Progressive Conservative in the 2018 Ontario election, hosts The Andrew Lawton Show on True North, a conservative digital media platform.

“But the book is very rooted and grounded in facts. I did an interview with [journalist and pundit] Paul Wells. He is not a conservative by any stretch, and he had asked me why there was little opinion [in the book]. And I was glad that he thought that was the case because that was my attempt.”

Ultimately, the book isn’t just for fans of Poilievre but for anyone who wants to get to know him. And with the way the polling numbers are going these days, like him or not, Pierre Poilievre is someone Canadians will have to get to know, one way or another.

Pierre Poilievre: A Political Life is published by Sutherland House.

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