Pierre Poilievre is in touch with his feelings and they are angry

“Everything seems broken in the lives of ordinary Canadians. This has become Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre’s mantra. He won the leadership of his party by promising to make Canada the freest nation in the world. Now he is running to form the next government promising to fix what he and his supporters believe is broken.

Strong brands focus on and constantly reinforce a message that taps into the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of their target market. They fit into the conversation of the moment by aligning their story with the times. But capturing hearts and minds can’t always be about sunshine, rainbows and lollipops – some are in competition with the leading brand, or they are in opposition. So they tap into a different set of feelings: fear, anger, and frustration.

In a recent and controversial video, Poilievre asks, “Have you ever felt like everything is broken in Canada? Text accompanying the video reads: « Everything looks broken. But we can fix it.

It echoes the mood of many Canadians, amplifying it to its advantage.

Anyone watching his House of Commons speech posted on YouTube last week would think the country is falling apart. It’s a feeling that many have. As Poilievre keeps saying, we need to “turn pain into hope”.

But is everything really broken in Canada, or is it just like that?

Poilievre is a savvy politician and communicator. In fact, he’s not saying it’s all broken — he’s saying he feels it is and asks Canadians if that’s how they feel.

When Poilievre says « we can fix it, » is he referring to what’s broken or our feelings about it? So far, his promise of turning pain into hope seems to be more about fixing what we feel than what’s broken. For voters, showing empathy and promising to give people hope is far more compelling than laying out required government policies.

Just as aligning with freedom gave Poilievre a massive victory in the Tory leadership race, echoing and amplifying the frustrations or rage of Canadians could resonate with a large enough group of voters at election time.

Three months after Donald Trump’s inauguration as the 45th President of the United States, I visited the town of Aurora, Indiana (population 3,500). Mike Pence was state governor until he became Trump’s running mate. As the press talked about Trump’s first 100 days in office, life in Aurora hadn’t changed — yet there was quiet optimism that the real estate mogul would make America great again.

I met the owner of the local Dairy Queen, who said he liked what Trump was saying. That’s all I could tell him. I detected that he was a big fan of the president, although I’m not sure he has to say it that loudly yet.

Pollsters likely included him in Trump’s base, but he probably hated the circus and must have been appalled by what unfolded on Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021.

Trump has often spoken of « hard-working Americans, the people who made this country so great, who were left in the dust. » But the hardworking American small business owner I met in Aurora doesn’t fit the profile of election deniers, with their unequivocal support for Trump. He saw a successful businessman who could change Washington by running it like a business, and now he must be feeling disappointed.

There are many voters like him in Canada. I suspect they too like what Pierre Poilievre says.

Liberal strategists had better take a close look at this group and figure out how to speak their language and address their concerns. They are not “deplorable”, but many suffer.

Americans liked what they saw on reality TV and elected a man with no political experience to lead the free world. Voters on this side of the border love what they see of Poilievre on YouTube – and while he’s a career politician, he’s also a bad temper.

Éric Blais is President of Headspace Marketing.

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