You don’t have to squint too hard to see the parallels between former U.S. president Donald Trump and newly crowned Conservative Party of Canada Leader Pierre Poilievre.

Both are economic populists with a gift for weaponizing working-class grievances and an unusual ability to connect with their audiences through social media. But that comparison does a disservice to Poilievre, who has never traded in the sort of bald-faced nativism and unapologetic bigotry that were inextricable aspects of Trump’s political brand.

It also ignores the fact that there’s a far better point of comparison for Poilievre in Trump’s own midst: Steve Bannon.

The two men have many of the same attitudes and beliefs, from their disdain for elites to their willingness to challenge the conventional orientation of the political spectrum. But above all else, they share a loathing of the professional media — and a belief that it’s OK to shoot the messenger from time to time.

Bannon famously declared war on the press during his time as Trump’s key strategist and made it clear that he wasn’t prepared to treat them as a neutral force in his country’s political life. As he reportedly said in 2018, “The Democrats don’t matter. The real opposition is the media. And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with shit.”

Poilievre, who assiduously avoided doing interviews with mainstream outlets throughout the course of his leadership campaign, took a swipe of his own during a May appearance on Jordan Peterson’s podcast. “The political media in the parliamentary press gallery are part of the establishment that finds me threatening because I’m upsetting the apple cart,” he said.

Poilievre also has an obvious gift for shit-flooding, as his numerous YouTube videos about lumber, cryptocurrency and the Bank of Canada make clear. But while those were distractions or diversions, his attack on Global News’ Rachel Gilmore was a direct assault on democracy. She covered Poilievre’s march with anti-mandate activist James Topp and tried to ask some probing questions of the candidate, but instead of actually answering them, his campaign decided to counterattack.

“No wonder trust in the media is at an all-time low,” he tweeted. “One of Global News' so-called journalists decided to smear me & thousands of other Canadians because we criticized the federal government's unscientific & discriminatory vaccine mandates.”

The online blowback Gilmore faced for simply doing her job was almost instantaneous. It wasn’t her first rodeo of this sort, either. Back in January, she and colleague Alex Boutilier were name-checked by People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier in a tweet about their coverage of the occupation of Ottawa. And when pressed about the consequences of his actions on journalists who were simply doing their jobs, Bernier doubled down. “You’re not victims, you’re liars, haters and abusers,” he tweeted. “You reap what you sow.”

Opinion: You don’t have to squint too hard to see the parallels between former U.S. president Donald Trump and newly crowned Conservative Party of Canada Leader Pierre Poilievre, writes columnist @maxfawcett for @NatObserver.

The endgame for politicians who stir up this sort of anti-media sentiment seems clear. “We have no doubt that this is deliberately done to rile their supporters against the media,” said Kiran Nazish, a longtime foreign correspondent who founded the Coalition For Women in Journalism.

Brent Jolly, the president of the Canadian Association of Journalists, was even more unsparing in his analysis at the time. “The fact that this kind of behaviour is being pushed out by someone running to be the leader of a major Canadian political party should send a shiver down the spine of Canadians concerned about the future of democracy in this country,” he told

That person is now the leader of the official Opposition, and he looks poised to become prime minister whenever the next election takes place. If you think he’s about to moderate his tone or tamp down his instinctive combativeness, well, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. The gentleman, you might say, is not for pivoting.

Instead, he’ll continue framing the media as the enemy of his people rather than an essential component of any vibrant and healthy democracy. Perhaps he’ll take a page from the book Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban presented earlier this year at CPAC, when he told the assembled right-wing guests they needed to “have their own media. It’s the only way to point out the insanity of the progressive left.”

You can be sure Poilievre’s allies in this emerging right-wing media ecosystem, which include outlets like True North, Rebel Media and the Western Standard, will be in thrall to this concept.

If he gets elected — and again, that’s a very real possibility — he’ll start by defunding the CBC and cancelling the subsidies that many journalism outlets receive (including, it should be noted, Canada’s National Observer). He’ll almost certainly overhaul whatever changes the current government makes to constrain online speech through bills C-11 and C-36, which seek to regulate digital media and crack down on the spread of online hate. And his government might even pass some new legislation that provides incentives to new upstart organizations — which just happen to lean more in his preferred ideological direction.

All of these policies are fair game. Politics, at its best, is a contest of ideas. But the personal nature of his attacks on journalism, and even specific journalists, is deeply out of bounds. It’s the sort of stuff you see in decidedly un-free countries, whether it’s Russia or Saudi Arabia. When journalists can’t do their jobs without fear of recourse or threat, that’s a direct affront to everyone’s freedom.

If Poilievre actually cared as much about it as he claims, he’d be standing up for the much-maligned mainstream media rather than trying to tear it down.

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Most of Canada has turned a corner where human rights is paramount. What's Poilievre's response going to be when one of his alt -right followers does something Hardik hateful, abusive, or violent? One side of that response is Justin Trudeau and the other side is Maxime Bernier.

as an citizen concerned about environmental malfeasance by corporations, white collar crime, suppression of workers rights, failure to report on labour issues in general, I dont see the “mainstream press” as neutral or impartial at all. they are one and all the “billionaire press” as George Monbiot calls them. They declared Doug the winner two months before the writ and more or less told people not to bother voting because it was in the bag and he's a good guy you know. blahhh to so called press neutrality. on foreign issues, they are awful, right in line with american empire lies usually.
However they dont usually distort the truth to the extent of the deliberate far right haters on human rights issues, or first nations issues, though they dont promote them much either
Pierre is dangerous, no question. so why dont the press pretend hes not there like they do to the NDP in Ontario and federally?

I quite agree with this. The mainstream press is owned by billionaires, covers the news using frames favorable to billionaires. And they cover the semi-fascist right almost obsessively--they give them more and more and more air time and then say "Why is this (wring hands) terrible phenomenon so out of control?" And the coverage is ultimately soft. When the right say and do horrible hateful things, they will say it's "controversial". They will mention their emphasis on "freedom" or their "populism" but rarely mention their utter lack of policies that would make anybody more free, or their complete embrace of policies that are dead against the interests of "the people".

But they know how to stop people they really want to stop. The left just disappears from mainstream coverage as much as can be arranged without it looking totally obviously deliberate. And when the left pushes a popular pro-people policy and get some traction, the mainstream media won't say it's "controversial" much less "populist", they'll say it's crazy and socialist or that it will create massive deficits or whatever, and they'll put on lots of talking heads from "think tanks" (who are paid by the moneyed interests the measure will hurt, but they won't mention that) to rubbish it.

If the media were trying to weaken the fascist right, it would be much weaker. And yet this is the media that the fascist right bitches about. Because indeed, the only media that would be right wing enough for them would be one completely controlled by them. And also because they've concluded the media are cowards--that bullying the media will discipline them into covering the far right (even) more timidly. Worked pretty well in the US. We actually saw the beginnings of this in Canada with Harper, who bullied the media quite effectively.

Some excellent observations. The press has already been semi neutered, starved for resources, and threatened if they report what the establishment wants hidden. Chris Hedges talks about how 'embedded' journalists in the Iraq conflicts saw to it that only the American perspective reached most of us on the nightly news. John Pilger has made films about the wars we didn't see.......featuring copy taken in war zones but rejected by the MSM for mainstream coverage. They've been a right leaning bunch for a few years now....mostly in terms of what they 'don't cover'.

The climate emergency is not new. CBC has started reporting on it in the last year....but that's coming pretty late to the party. And I haven't heard anything on the National about the youth of Ontario taking the Ford government to court over their policies that push greenhouse gas rise, and virtue signal on real mitigation.

However, even this watered down version of reality has a 'left wing bias' to the crazies on the right. Reality is likely left wing, and has to be re-written....from a conservative perspective. Leaving out the big stories, minimizing the threat of current wars on all of us....this watering down of the news is insufficient.

We need to move rapidly to pure propaganda....if our way of life is to survive on life support a few more decades. Poilievre and his ilk see that clearly....violence is becoming more and more necessary, if we are to keep the people in their place, and the oil derricks pumping out the only wealth we can count on.
Yes. Pierre is dangerous.

The only antidote to demagogues like him is more real news.....and a serious brush up on our analytic abilities. We not only have to have the facts, we have to be able to connect them into a pattern that resists conspiracy thinking. It's hard work for the silver bullet mindsets we've been creating for decades now.

And the capitalists need to sell snake oil instead of medicine is squarely behind that erosion of real media, real thinking, and disinterested citizen engagement. What might save us is clear enough....but do we have the will or the time?

Because pretending we aren't where we are, won't cut it.

Well articulated, Valerie Losell. I too have wondered why the mainstream press gives so much coverage to charicatures like Polievre & Ford who say nothing and just attack, and so little to the Greens, workers' rights and the plight of the poor.
It is frightening that it is getting harder to discern the truth from the reports we get from mainstream media. It is also telling what the mainstream media do not write about.
Thank goodness we have Canada's National Observer.

The Bannon comparison is useful. Bannon is dangerous because he's clever and insane. I'm not sure what makes Poilievre tick but intellectual dishonesty is certainly his currency. He knows the media is a threat to him because they may get at the truth.

It's hard to grab onto any particular thing but in one of his YouTube videos he mentions the "great economist Thomas Sowell". I don't know if you ever bothered to look at any of that guy's videos but the simple takeaway is that he is from the Chicago School and a disciple of Milton Friedman. He's basically a PR guy for trickle-down economics. Sowell makes great pronouncements like he is the oracle but, interestingly, he rarely gives anything to back up what he says. The comments are so adoring it's like they are written by bots.

PP rails against "gatekeepers" but he seems to be auditioning for a spot in the Koch network. The whole point seems to be gather up a bunch people with promises of making their lives better and handing them over to the oligarchs for dinner. "If you can fake sincerity.."

He is a fascist enabler for sure and probably a full blown fascist. And he threw his own father under the bus by voting against gay marriage. The good news is he is probably going to get the Liberals off their asses and stop over promising and under delivering, which until now has been easy sine the cons only promise to lower taxes and give to the rich while ignoring the poor.

Right on.....conservative parties predominate with rich white many of them are there, population wise?? However, the pageantry we see on display around Queen Elizabeths death and funeral, should convince all of us those rich white guys are still pretty much on their game. Worship is what they crave....and they have the doe rey me to put on a pretty impressive show.

Of course, show doesn't put any food on the table....but circuses are an essential part of fascism, and they do seem to attract and distract a goodly number of us little folk.

Taking care of the people who matter 'is' a conservative value.

I'm not a conservative and don't even know the guy -- but this piece had a lot of opinion and innuendo about a man I'm sure the reporter has never spoken with. I think anyone who states outright that the mainstream media was muddying the water and vilifying non-violent protesters (in defense of big pharma profits) is on the right track. If those reporters get blowback from the public for peddling propaganda -- those are the consequences of being a bad faith actor.

Thinking of bad faith actors, I don't actually believe someone pushing anti-vaxxer talk is "not a conservative".

Until the 'blow back' guys come on with their version of science. Conflating big pharma profits with the race to produce a vaccine is the kind of sloppy conclusion the right deals in. Were we serious about the profits made in vaccine roll out..........we'd be talking about windfall taxes....or fielding ideas about bringing back the Canadian labs the conservatives under Mulroney sold to the private sector.

You can't rally against Big Pharma and against Big Government at the same time and be making any sense. If you don't like private pharmaceutical giants, you have to come up with some alternative that has the capacity to react to pandemics and other health crises when they arise.

Hating, being suspicious and resentful of everything might be fun for some temperments....but it generally creates the problems it thinks its bad mouthing is going to solve. Thank goodness we had the capacity as a global community to create the vaccines that have saved so many lives. Demand more from government scrutiny and regulation if you're tired of the free market.

But let's be clear. PP is a free market man....he's mad that the gutting of government hasn't gone further. Liberal democracies spend too much money funding media, social programs and public health care....for his taste.

Question - what is integrity in business and politics? Why should it matter? Because its based on the health of the world? When rulers only care about the power they have and want to keep, the vulnerable suffer. Women and children suffer under the fists of the pecking order. The innocent are charged with wrong doing while those up the ladder do as they please knowing those with less power are afraid of them, and the world is not governed by responsibility but opportunity. And a society believes if we can get away with it, it must be okay.

“No wonder trust in the media is at an all-time low,” he tweeted. “One of Global News' so-called journalists decided to smear me & thousands of other Canadians because we criticized the federal government's unscientific & discriminatory vaccine mandates.”

I believe PP has it all wrong, it's trust in the politicians that are at an all time low, especially ones like him, a metamorphosis of harpers bizarre with a far right religious fervour. He would ask us to believe his unscientific & discriminatory vaccine opinions, lol.

Pierre Poilievre has the same problem as all the other CPC leaders. He owes everything to the worst Canadians whose only aspiration is never voting for anybody better than themselves.

Is it a Sausage or a Cabbage? If everything was renamed no-one would take notice. We have lost integrity because of the love for fame and fear of truth. So what can good reporting do to fight our demise into irrelevance?