Angus Reid recently reported a survey of Canadians’ attitude towards our federal political leaders, and it was not good news for the Conservatives new head honcho Mr. Poilievre. While he should have gotten a bump following his convincing victory in the lengthy and well-publicized leadership race, it seems his nemesis PM Trudeau got more of a bump.

Not that Justin finished the year strong. His approval rating was 42 percent favourable, 53 percent unfavourable. His only consolation was finishing the year stronger than he was mid-summer. Pierre’s approval rating was worse, only 33 percent favourable to 53 percent unfavourable. Neither of these guys is winning a popularity contest. Singh isn’t a big hit either although he did manage to score slightly more favourable than unfavourable.

While Canadians are much more likely to have an opinion of Poilievre at this early point in his leadership compared to past Conservative leaders, that opinion is less favourable than those leaders. The degree of disapproval is much higher than it was with Andrew Scheer, Erin O’Toole, or Stephen Harper at the beginning of their tenure. The only provinces where his approval is more favourable than unfavourable are, no surprise here, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Poilievre is particularly unpopular among women. He is favoured nearly twice as high among men (44 percent to 23 percent). The reverse is true for the Prime Minister (35 percent among men, 50 percent among women).

This is hardly surprising. Poilievre is very much the small government, tax-cutting libertarian. And tax-cutting leads to pressure on education, health care and social services, the very areas that tend to be more important to women. More important to women perhaps, and I risk being called a chauvinist here, because they are more concerned with the caring side of society. They, after all, have to do most of it.

But it’s more than that. Women are most prominent in the caring professions. They make up the great majority of teachers, nurses, social workers and their numbers are increasing among physicians and lawyers. Consequently, shrinking the caring professions shrinks women’s greatest source of employment and opportunity.

And it’s more even than that. Conservatives are not great fans of unions, particularly unions in the public sector. But the rate of unionization is highest in the public sector and most public sector union members are women. Over three-quarters of working women in the public sector are unionized compared to only 12 percent in the private sector. And, in 2017, unionized women made on average over seven dollars more an hour than non-unionized women. An attack on public service unions is an attack on working women’s greatest source of power.

Poilievre has suggested that he is a champion of ordinary working class Canadians. If he wants to be a champion of working women and improve on his paltry support, he will have to advocate strong social services and support unions. Macho pandering to freedom convoys and promoting cryptocurrency won’t do it.

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