A staunch supporter of the trucker protest that has taken over the downtown of Canada’s capital city is seeking to lead the country’s Conservative Party.

Pierre Poilievre, a 42-year-old finance critic from the Ottawa area, said in a Twitter post on Saturday he is running for prime minister to replace Justin Trudeau and “restore freedom.” 

Poilievre is deeply popular with the Conservatives’ base and announced his candidacy days after the Tories ousted their leader, Erin O’Toole, after he failed to stem internal dissent that had been building since last year’s election defeat.

Hundreds of truckers and other protesters have occupied Ottawa’s streets for a week to oppose vaccine mandates. Poilievre has embraced the demonstrations, meeting with protesters in person and defending their right to free speech. Poilievre said he stands for freedom “to make your own health and vaccine choices,” adding in a video that governments have gotten “big and bossy.”

“Using COVID as a political opportunity, the Trudeau government has attacked small businesses, truckers and other hardworking Canadians,” Poilievre said in the video posted on Twitter. “They target law-abiding hunters and farmers and while letting gangsters and gun smugglers run free.”