Pierre Poilievre Demonstrates Principled Leadership With Continued Support For Ukraine

The Conservative leader has refused to pander to the fringe elements who oppose Ukraine’s fight for freedom in the face of Russia’s invasion.

For many years, the authoritarian Russian state invested in a massive propaganda apparatus, meant to be deployed both within their own territory and abroad.

The country had enjoyed ‘relative’ media openness following the fall of the repressive Soviet Union, but Vladimir Putin has steadily chipped away at any remnants of free thought and media independence. Media conglomerates controlled by his cronies bought up most outlets, and others were outright shut down by the state.

Freedom of expression has also been steadily eroded in Russia – a process that accelerated following Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine – to the point where people can be arrested for holding up blank sheets of paper as the state sees that as a subtle anti-war message. Even calling the war a war can lead to punishment.

Thus, Russia is once again a repressive autocratic state, led by someone who pines for the return of the Soviet Empire and the oppression of countries like Ukraine, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Since the latter four are already in NATO, Putin targeted Ukraine and launched a brutal invasion that has led to hundreds of thousands of deaths, the kidnapping of Ukrainian children by Russia, destruction of countless villages, towns, and cities, and significant economic disruption around the world.

In the face of Russia’s actions, North America, most of Europe, and some democracies in Asia (Japan, South Korea), have responded with strong support for Ukraine. Though a combination of military aid and humanitarian aid, and their own immense fighting spirit, Ukraine has managed to not only survive Russia’s invasion, but also push Russia out of much of the territory that the invaders took in the beginning of the war.

And this brings us back to Russia’s propaganda apparatus.

Unable to win decisively on the battlefield, Russia is seeking to win through long-term attrition and cutting off Ukraine’s support.

To do this, they seek to undermine support for Ukraine in the Western world, and they have deployed their propaganda machine in order to do so.

There is no coherent principle behind Russia’s rhetoric, as they simply use whatever argument they think will sow dissension and undermine support for Ukraine.

Russia tells left-wing audiences that they are an anti-colonial power fighting against the greedy Western capitalists.

Russia tells right-wing audiences that they are a culturally conservative, pro-family nation fighting against the godless and decadent West.

Those claims are absurd of course. Russia is an empire, with many of Russia’s regions being colonies in all but name. Russia’s war against Ukraine is a war of colonial conquest. Russian oligarchs have stolen a tremendous amount of the nation’s wealth.

Russia also has a higher abortion rate than the United States and many Western democracies, along with a high divorce rate and a lower church attendance rate. And there is nothing ‘pro-family’ about kidnapping Ukrainian children and sending them to be indoctrinated in Russia.

As for the Russian claim that they invaded Ukraine because of NATO expansion, NATO expands when countries willingly vote to join. Many of those countries joined to avoid being invaded by Russia. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine thus further legitimizes NATO and demonstrates why it is so important.

This is why the vast majority of people in the Western world have rejected Russia’s propaganda. According to a recent Pew Research poll, 61% of Canadians have a “very unfavourable” view of Russia, while 20% hold a “somewhat unfavourable” view. Just 12% view Russia either “very or somewhat favourably.”

73% of Canadians express “no confidence at all” in Vladimir Putin, while 12% express “not too much confidence.” Just 12% express “a lot/some confidence.”

By contrast, 65% of Canadians express “a lot/some confidence” in Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, compared to 32% who express “not too much/no confidence at all” in him.

NATO is also popular, with 62% of Canadians expressing a positive view of the alliance, while 28% express a negative view.

Taken together, we can see that while pro-Putin voices may be loud on social media, they represent a fringe element of Canadian society.

Principled leadership stands the test of time

Of course, because politics operates in many ways like a market, there will always be those willing to supply the demand for certain views.

For example, PPC Leader Maxime Bernier has sought to differentiate himself from the Conservatives by opposing Canada’s support for Ukraine, and pushing a perspective that largely lines up with Russia’s propaganda narratives.

Bernier sought to do this in the recent Portage-Lisgar by-election, making Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre’s support for Ukraine one of the issues of his relentless attacks on the Conservatives. The effort fizzled, as Bernier was decisively defeated.

Still, at a time when many Canadians are being hit by the rising cost-of-living, there may be some short-term political advantage to be gained by questioning Canada’s ongoing support for Ukraine. It would be unsurprising if there are some trying to convince Pierre Poilievre to do exactly that.

Thankfully, he has refused to do so.

Surely knowing that he will get backlash on social media, Poilievre continues to express his support for Ukraine’s fight for freedom:

“Celebrated the 32nd anniversary of Ukrainian Independence from the Evil Empire of Soviet Socialism. Long live Ukraine free from Russian occupation. Down with communism.”

This is not the first time Poilievre has expressed support for Ukraine. He attended a pro-Ukraine rally in Toronto earlier in the year, an event also attended by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford.

Poilievre faced a significant online backlash at the time as well, yet he has refused to let that change his principled stance.

This is important for two reasons:

First, Poilievre is refusing to turn Canada’s support for Ukraine into a partisan issue. Instead, he is making clear that some things are beyond partisanship, and that Canada must stand firm in support of democracy and freedom even when that has a financial cost.

Second, Poilievre is demonstrating that he remains committed to real conservative principles, rather than the ‘oppose everything no matter what’, anti-western drift of some within the conservative movement as of late.

Poilievre’s refusal to pander to fringe anti-Ukraine, pro-Russia elements bodes well for how he would perform as Prime Minister, because true leadership requires adhering to core principles in the long-term, rather than succumbing to short-term political pressure from a few loud voices.

Spencer Fernando

Photo – Twitter