Image makeovers are a familiar staple of political campaigns, and few people need one more desperately than Conservative Party of Canada Leader Pierre Poilievre. In an effort to improve his likability with Canadians, Poilievre has ditched his signature glasses in favour of a more casual look.

The internet, of course, had a field day with it. But if Poilievre actually wants to move the needle on his personal approval ratings and improve his chances of defeating Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in the next election, he’ll need to do something much more drastic: take climate change seriously.

After losing two elections on the back of a fundamentally unserious approach to the issue, you might think Canada’s Conservatives would at least experiment with a different approach.

Not Poilievre, though.

Instead, he’s doubled down on the party’s climate cantankerousness, with the proposed elimination of the carbon tax and rebate as his only real intellectual contribution on the matter. His alternative, if you can even call it that, is some vague notion about technology and hand-waving in the direction of China.

Never mind the growing evidence that China is dominating the global renewable energy market or that the technologies that define it are supported by the carbon tax he so vociferously opposes. Instead, Poilievre and his party remain stuck in a mindset from the Harper era, where Canada’s high-carbon fossil fuel exports are held up as the path to national prosperity rather than a potential albatross in a rapidly decarbonizing world.

Now with the federal carbon tax hitting the Maritimes and the clean fuel standard kicking in on July 1, his party is ratcheting up its rhetorical volume even higher.

This will please its political base, which is heavily weighted towards Alberta and Saskatchewan and the people who seem determined to ignore the climate and energy realities that are unfolding around the world. But that’s no way to win a federal election, especially when you need to pick up more votes in places like suburban Toronto and Vancouver.

As the Globe and Mail’s Andrew Coyne wrote, “The lesson of the past three elections is that carbon pricing has become table stakes in federal politics, at least among voters in the regions and demographics the Conservatives need to reach: the sign of whether you’re serious about climate change, and therefore fit to govern. After this season of fire, that is only likely to be more true.”

Pierre Poilievre's new image makeover is all about making him more likable to Canadians. But if he actually wants to win the next election, he'll need to trade in his glasses for something more important — a serious position on climate change.

Indeed, a recent Abacus Data poll showed 86 per cent of Canadians said having “a good plan to address climate change and grow Canada’s economy” will impact their vote, with two-thirds of Canadians 18 to 29 describing it as “essential” or “very important.” This isn’t some niche issue, either.

As Abacus’s data shows, it’s a top-five concern for Canadian voters, ranking just below the cost of living, housing, health care and the economy. Among those who rated it as one of their top-three issues, only 15 per cent intend to vote Conservative. As Clean Energy Canada’s Trevor Melanson noted in a recent op-ed, “Pierre Poilievre has a mountain to climb, and he hasn’t even put on his boots.”

Poilievre could easily pivot here. He could, for example, eliminate the rebate from the carbon tax that many Canadians still don’t seem to know exists and use the revenues to cut income taxes. He could, if he insists on feathering the oil and gas industry’s nest, use the money to create even larger subsidies for its half-hearted attempts at decarbonization. Or he could take the Joe Biden path and propose a series of regulatory changes that stimulate investment in low-carbon technology without putting a price on carbon.

Or he can keep dying on the same political hill where the hopes of his predecessors are buried. The Trudeau Liberals will happily accept the in-kind donation, since they need all the help they can get right now.

But for a guy who seems consumed by his hatred of the government, and especially its leader, it’s odd Poilievre refuses to do the one thing that might actually help him win. Losing your glasses can only go so far, after all, when the real problem is an inability to see what’s right in front of you.

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Gee, didn't Harper do the same nonsense with his blue sweater which only made him look silly. Now the snake oil salesman Pierre Poilievre is playing from the same playbook.

Hey Pierre, a hint, it didn't work for Harper, it won't work for you. Canadians are a lot smarter than your party is willing to give us credit for. This might also be the reason why conservatives keep cutting health care and education, keep them stupid is their motto. It's the only way they can win elections.

Don't worry Max, the CPC will come up with some bad pun "refined" carbon kabuki theatre which will sound good in P.P. sound bytes, but at best change nothing. And at worst leave the less well to do, less well to do as their carbon rebates are swept away into the open arms of the oil and gas industry, so they can begin to ponder cleaning up their own mess. The Western and wealthy base will love it, his oil and gas donors will be giddy, the biggest polluters happy to have their nasty carbon tax burden lifted, and just enough people who think they are angry at J.T. will follow suit and trade in their financial gain due to the carbon rebate for a chance to elevate Pierre because he convinced them the carbon tax is actually hurting them. The man, his party, and his politics are devious and could care less about the environment or the little guy.

"Pierre Poilievre still isn’t serious about climate change"

Are the Liberals serious about climate change?
Is that not the more urgent issue? Trudeau is in government. Poilievre is not.
When progressives fail on climate change, that is even worse.

Since when is climate action a make-or-break election issue?
Are suburban voters clamoring for a higher carbon "tax"? Public transit? Solar panels?
Stephen Harper won three straight elections without action on climate. Under the Conservatives, Canada walked away with several "Fossil of the Day" awards for climate obstruction.

Trudeau's Liberals carry on that noble tradition at COP and elsewhere:
"Canada leads G20 in financing fossil fuels, lags in renewables funding, report says" (CP, 2021)

The Liberals' climate plan is criticized across the spectrum for its duplicity.
"Federal watchdog warns Canada's 2030 emissions target may not be achievable" (CBC, 2022)

Climate Action Tracker's 2022 report rates Canada's efforts overall as "highly insufficient". Same rating since 2011 — in every year but one.

If fitness for government depends on whether you’re serious about climate change, neither the two main federal parties nor the provincial NDP parties are fit to govern.

Fawcett: "[Poilievre] could, for example, eliminate the rebate from the carbon tax that many Canadians still don’t seem to know exists and use the revenues to cut income taxes."
Enriching the rich, and harming the poor. Yes, go on.

Fawcett: "[Poilievre] could, if he insists on feathering the oil and gas industry’s nest, use the money to create even larger subsidies for its half-hearted attempts at decarbonization."
Fawcett urges Poilievre to get serious about climate, then advocates larger subsidies for industry's fake climate solutions that do not work.
Who is not serious about climate?

Typical political consultants. The problem: Our candidate is perceived as unlikable because everything that comes out of his mouth is shrill invective. The solution: Ditch the glasses.
Joe Clark wears glasses, nobody considers him unlikable.

For that matter, the climate change thing is perfectly true, but also doesn't seem like it is directly relevant to whether Poilievre is likable, except in the sense that if he spent more time talking about positive policy proposals of any sort, that would have to reduce the amount of slander and general negativity he puts out just by taking up time he would otherwise have been devoting to it.

However, there's a basic problem for modern Conservatives. Bottom line, they have no credible policies. They used to be free market neoliberals, but then everyone in politics joined that bandwagon, and then the public realized it was a crock of shit anyway, so that's out. They can pretend, for instance by putting out vastly oversimplified policies and counting on media echo chambers to make them look good. Doug Ford does a fair amount of that. But for the most part, they sense that everything they really want to do, if the public got to look at it much, we'd hate it. So they go negative and avoid putting in any proposals of their own, and elect leaders who are good at going negative, who have an instinct for the jugular. Then they're perceived as unlikable and there is little they can do about it.

Poilivere isn't serious about climate change, but then again, neither is Trudeau. Only the Green Party is.

Yes, only the Greens have been serious about climate, for many, many years. Notice how once again, they are absent from the abacus poll. The continued exclusion (stonewalling?) of Greens in the mainstream media is a major impediment to Canadians becoming aware that there is a real, viable, meaningful alternative to the same old, same old 3 big parties. Sigh.