Canadian Conservative party elects populist new leader

Pierre Poilievre celebrating after being elected as the new leader of Canada's Conservative Party in Ottawa, Canada, on Saturday. PHOTO: REUTERS

OTTAWA - Nearly a year after a defeat in parliamentary elections, the Canadian Conservatives elected a new leader on Saturday, choosing right-wing Pierre Poilievre to lead the opposition to premier Justin Trudeau.

Mr Poilievre won 68 per cent of about 400,000 votes cast by party members in the first round, putting him well ahead of his main competitor, centrist former Quebec premier Jean Charest, with 16.07 per cent.

Mr Poilievre, 43, beat out five contenders for the top Tory job by railing against inflation and Covid-19 vaccine mandates, promoting cryptocurrencies and pipelines, as well as backing the trucker-led protest convoy that occupied the capital Ottawa in February.

"Tonight begins the journey to replace an old government that costs you more and delivers you less with a new government that puts you first," Mr Poilievre said in a speech in Ottawa after his win.

"By tackling Liberal inflation, we'll put you back in control of your life and your money," he said, hitting out at Mr Trudeau's government as "the most expensive" in the country's history.

Mr Trudeau congratulated Mr Poilievre on his win on Twitter, calling for collaboration "to deliver results for people across the country".

A veteran politician, Mr Poilievre twice served as a junior minister before Mr Trudeau took office and has been elected seven times to represent a suburban district of Ottawa.

He takes over as party leader from an interim head who has held the post since Mr Erin O'Toole was ousted in February following criticism that he had shifted the party too close to the political centre.

In September 2021 elections, the Conservatives failed to take power, garnering 119 seats in the House of Commons compared to 160 for Mr Trudeau's Liberals. The Liberals were forced to form a new minority government, as in 2019.

The next federal election is set for 2025. AFP

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