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Pierre Poilievre's speech aboard WestJet flight sparks strong reaction online


Passengers returning to Calgary from the Conservative Party national meeting in Quebec City on a WestJet flight Sunday evening got a short, campaign-style address from party leader Pierre Poilievre.

"This is Pierre Poilievre," he said. "Happy to join you on a WestJet flight back to my hometown of Calgary," before making a mini-speech that lasted around 45 seconds.

Videos of it were posted on social media feeds Monday, resulting in both support for the opposition party leader and questions about whether it was appropriate for a party leader to speak on a public flight, as the flight was not a charter exclusively for Conservative Party supporters.

A WestJet spokesperson, replying to an email from CTV News, said that while it was a public flight, it was actually added in order to accommodate delegates flying to the Conservative Party convention in Quebec City.

"The flight was added to our schedule and advertised as a flight serving the CPC convention. As it was a commercial flight however, guests who booked the flight were not required to indicate if they were attending the convention and therefore we are unable to determine if there were guests onboard who were not attending. 

"The use of the PA in this circumstance was approved in advance by WestJet operational leadership and up to the final determination of the operating crew."

It means those flying the plane and flight attendants working in the cabin agreed with the head office decision to approve Poilievre taking over the mic.

Juno Award winner, television star and author Jann Arden was among those not happy with Poilievre's public address.

"A P.A. system on a plane is for the flight crew," she said. "Full stop. Not a political soap box for social media."

"Hey @WestJet," she said in a second tweet. "You and I will not be doing business ever again. This is so ridiculously disappointing."

Other social media users said they didn't get why anyone would be upset by it.

"Before you get upset about Pierre speaking on the plane, this flight was specifically added by @WestJet for their own customers attending convention so we could get home," said  Elle.

Others argued that the speech, which many folks videotaped and posted online, may have given the misleading impression that the flight was full of ordinary travellers with no connection to the Conservative Party of Canada.

"Some … Have presented this as depicting a random planeload of ordinary Canadians enraptured by an impromptu address by the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada," said Alheli Picazo.

Mount Royal University political scientist Lori Williams told CTV Calgary in an email that the speech was unlikely to move the political needle much in any direction.

"Strategically, I don't think this benefited the Conservatives," Williams said. "The delegate attendees were already strong supporters, so likely no new votes were gained. Those who weren't already supporters may have reacted negatively to hearing a speech they had no choice but to listen to. And WestJet has already received some blowback for allowing a partisan speech on one of their flights."

Poilievre posted a video of his speech on his LinkedIn page.

And while the incident generated some conflict on social media, there have been no reports of anyone who was actually on the flight being upset about it – which Elle pointed out in a reply to Arden.

"Imagine being mad about a flight you weren't even on," she said. Top Stories

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