I understand that there is considerable consternation about the future of Erin O’Toole, leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, on the grounds that he underperformed in this week’s election.
I can’t help wondering if those who are now relentlessly determined to kick the man out for being improperly conservative might perhaps consider controlling him.
Yes, I understand that O’Toole directed his leadership campaign further to the right than his personality would otherwise suggest, in order to win over the conservative base. And, yes, I understand that the unspoken agreement behind this bait and switch was that O’Toole needed to show progress in key regions, particularly in 905. Also, yes, I understand that these achievements did not materialize, and that many conservatives did. they feel betrayed and, more importantly, they are no closer to the government.
This state of affairs can ensure that O’Toole’s leadership is insurmountable.
However, there is a downside to this argument, the side of the bloody grip, that is worth considering before rolling the dice for another rookie leader 18-24 months before his next election campaign.
First, let’s talk about expectations. Liberals called snap elections based on promising poll numbers in hopes of securing majority rule. They failed. Six weeks ago, if you told conservative mental confidence that the choice would result in an outcome almost hilariously identical to the one you left behind, most would have been delighted.
Conservatives have a bad habit. They go into a choice with reasonable expectations, get a kick start, and then let the excitement go to their heads. They reset those initial expectations to something much less likely, and when the campaign produces exactly the results they predicted all along, they declare the whole thing a disappointing failure.
I will note here that this complements the liberal temperament, which interprets completely mediocre results as a signal from the trumpet-wielding messengers of God’s blessing. his mandate. Only the Liberals would see two successive minority governments with declining total popular votes as clear evidence that they, the worthy elected, have been unreservedly elected to lead the nation to paradise.
Conservatives could use a little more of that energy.
The outcome of 2021 and 2019 is essentially the same, but the terrain on which these wars were fought was not.
Andrew Scheer lost a winnable election. Erin O’Toole held the line on much more difficult terrain. Remember, liberals have spent the pandemic shoving thousands of dollars directly into Canadians’ pockets. They enjoyed a rally effect around the flag as a result of the crisis. And they ensured an adequate supply of vaccines.
Furthermore, the Liberals enjoyed a significant distance from the 2019 scandals.
Meanwhile, Erin O’Toole, elected to leadership just a year ago, has had few opportunities to appear in public thanks to COVID, and fewer opportunities to build a national profile. He has enjoyed less practice in interviews and in front of the media, and he lacks the political capital to consolidate his grip on his caucus.
This does not excuse conservatives for running an imperfect campaign. His obsequious behavior toward Quebec, especially in articles like Bill 21, didn’t pay off much. The party was inexcusably caught on the pistol record, a wedge problem so absolutely predictable that not anticipating it is nothing short of political negligence.
O’Toole should have ordered vaccinations for his candidates, not just as a matter of smart policy, but also as a simple matter of public health and safety. If one were to accidentally bring COVID to a long-term care facility, their group would forever be cast as a collection of grandmother killers. Why take the risk?
Lastly, it’s hard to imagine that Conservatives were not materially hampered by the worsening COVID situation in Alberta.
There are strategies to reexamine, policies to modify. Most importantly, O’Toole needs what every new leader needs: time to improve.
Still, there is nothing terminal about O’Toole or his performance. Improvements can be made here without throwing the entire party into civil war because some feel O’Toole fails a conservative purity test. (The progressive left has plenty of lessons in store if you want to see how they end.)
Conservatives should have seen this election as the first of a two-election strategy. Fundamentally, the urbanites who have the key to the government don’t trust you conservatives. They are concerned about the conspiratorial lunatics in their group and base, and they are concerned about who actually holds the reins of power in their party. Your mistrust is fair and it will take time to repair it.
If you abandon your mild-mannered, moderate, and centrist leader at the first opportunity because you didn’t break 905 on your first try, and replace him with someone who will chase Maxime Bernier’s fading social movement like a labradoodle running behind the wheels of a mail truck, you will end up confirming all the existing fears and stereotypes this crowd already has about you and your group.
It is a trap. Be smarter than that.
In the meantime, I have good news for you.
Justin Trudeau won’t get more popular in the long run. Stop worrying about your own numbers for a minute and look at theirs. The worm began to change with the SNC-Lavalin scandal in 2019 and, with the exception of some short-term popularity spikes around the pandemic, the trend line is clear. Its big red balloon hasn’t burst, but it has been leaking air for years.
Liberals squandered extraordinary amounts of money, political capital, and general goodwill to secure another minority government that will not last long. If you’re a smart Tory, you’ll be thinking of one thing: “Good.”
Liberals are temperamentally unable to recognize a de facto loss. They will not show humility or correct course in any way.
They will not control the committees in the next parliament, so watch this space to learn more about what the heck was going on with the two scientists fired from the National Microbiology Laboratory with clear connections to China. There is information that the Liberals literally sued the Speaker of the House to prevent it from being made public, a lawsuit that was dropped when the car was written. A majority government would have isolated liberals from whatever is there; a minority will not.
Support for the pandemic is set to come to an end next month, after which it will be liberals who will have to deal with the economic downturn and the fallout from historic government spending.
And where did all those expenses go? After the WE scandal, how sure are you that there isn’t another charity, company, or lobby group with liberal connections that hasn’t received special consideration? How optimistic are you about the impact of inflation or house prices in the next two years? How confident are you that our allies will begin to take Canada seriously as partners on an increasingly volatile world stage?
In other words, what evidence is there that external events over the next 18 to 24 months will conspire to reverse the trends now approaching a philosophically spent party led by an increasingly unpopular leader?
Give the liberals their minority, smile and hold on. Let the liberals eat every bite of cake that comes their way.
Time is on the CPC’s side. Conservatives don’t need a perfect leader. They need a credible one, and that credibility can only be created with patience. O’Toole needs to demonstrate a track record as the leader of a viable mainstream party. Give him the space to do it.