Erin O’Toole and the Multiverse of Madness

Paul Wells: Historically, when conservatives lose, they begin to consider sweeping changes. The question O’Toole faced was always whether he could keep the party together.

A strict rule of journalistic etiquette holds that reporters must not grant sources anonymity in order to speak ill of political opponents. Follow me now as I trample on that principle. I will be ably assisted by a member of the Conservative caucus, here unnamed, with whom I spoke on Monday night.

This parliamentarian strongly supports the removal of Erin O’Toole as leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. What you will have heardThey have company. Party leadership will certainly be the main issue at Wednesday’s caucus meeting, if O’Toole can hold out that long.

Replace O’Toole? With whom? “I don’t think it matters. Not me. Anything would be better than this. I’m to the point of preferring a name out of a hat.

Why? The “last straw”, said this parliamentarian, was “the clumsy response to this convoy of truckers”. The conservative leader spent last week and the weekend looking for an attitude before the arrival of thousands of protesters in the country’s capital: from studied incomprehensibility to various shades of support Y concern.

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“No matter what position you have” on truckers, “he had it too,” the MP said. “No one believes the guy anymore.”

It is in the nature of straws that they only break the back of already tense camels. The truckers’ protest follows last week’s partial launch of an internal report on the 2021 election defeat that “it could have been written by Fred DeLorey,” a longtime Nova Scotia Conservative who was the party’s national campaign manager and is a staunch supporter of O’Toole. The report “contained gems like ‘universal praise for leader performance’… It was a completely stripped down view of what happened.”

What is the head count in a leadership review? “We got 30 percent,” the fraction of the Conservatives’ national caucus required by Conservative MP Michael Chong Reform Bill, which is now law and has been ignored by other parties but has been invoked, on its own terms, by the Conservatives. The Reform Bill lays down rules for the hitherto informal process of turning on and eating a leader, and means the rebels in O’Toole’s caucus need another 24 votes to reach a majority. “If we’re not there, we’re close,” my source said.

Are you sure that closing only has horseshoes? Most leaders would find their mandate unmanageable if they were challenged by nearly half the caucus, this MP thinks. O’Toole may well try to hold off and punish the rebels, “as we saw with his clumsy attempt to politically assassinate Shannon Stubbs”, an MP and reputed internal critic of O’Toole’s who has faced allegations of inappropriate workplace behavior by former employees.

I’ll be leaving my anonymous source behind soon, but perhaps only after discussing a few more issues with him or her. First of all, this parliamentarian believes that only the Chong Reform Law makes this sudden and fast crisis possible. And that the party leadership unknowingly pushed the rebels to act quickly, starting with Chong. last week’s columnist John Ivison quoted Toronto Area Urban Parliamentarian trying to put O’Toole’s opponents on the horns of a dilemma: They could wait for a review vote at the party convention in 2023, or they could invoke the Reform Act now. “We are a rule-of-law party and we have two processes in place: the caucus process and the process of chartering the party at a national convention,” Chong said. “To short-circuit that, having an expedited ad hoc third option doesn’t follow these processes.” This received a lot of attention in the caucus. Perhaps Chong thought he was making sure the party would wait until next year. There is no such luck.

Then on Monday, Rob Batherson, chairman of the Conservative Party and, like O’Toole, a veteran of Tory politics from Nova Scotia, appeared to dismiss a small number of recent votes in the riding associations calling for an early review of the leadership. “I’m not too worried,” Batherson said to hill times. “To date, it’s a pretty small percentage.”

Now it is a higher percentage.

I won’t risk guessing what comes next. I didn’t know this would come. I’ll just point out that historically, when Conservatives lose several times in a row, they start to consider fairly radical tactical and philosophical changes. Often these conflicts have had elements of geographical divisions and cultural clashes, as well as ideologies.

In 1948, the Conservatives elected George Drew, a dashing Upper Canada College turned premier of Ontario, husband to an opera singer’s daughter and then to the daughter of the balloon and mailThe publisher of ‘s, as leader of John Diefenbaker, a small-town Saskatchewan, all jowls and eyebrows. Drew spent the next eight years watching from the daunting position of Leader of the Opposition as Mackenzie King and Louis St. Laurent ruled. By 1956, Diefenbaker was looking great to the Conservatives, and he quickly became a leader, winning the largest parliamentary majority in Canadian history two elections later. But by 1967, Diefenbaker’s party had lost again, and another Red Atlantic conservative group led the involuntary removal of him and his replacement by a very different leader, Nova Scotia Premier Robert Stanfield.

If there is a trend from this point on, it is that after the Dief coup, the party’s east/west, inside/out swing becomes more pronounced, threatening and even shattering the unity of the Conservatives. Brian Mulroney, the son of small-town Quebec and Dalhousie University, won a majority to match Dief’s in 1984, but by 1987 his coalition had begun to collapse, and by 1993 his party had. Reform, the Bloc and the remaining Progressive Conservatives fought for another decade, and only Stephen Harper has managed to beat a Liberal leader among all Tory and Conservative leaders since 1988. Harper wanted to leave a viable, united and competitive Conservative. party as the legacy of him. It’s pretty clear that the jury is still out, at best.

The big confounding variable in internal party culture since 2015 is Trumpism, seen as toxic by party brass but gleefully consumed in large numbers, via Fox News and Facebook, by nearly everyone who votes for the party. or donate to West Toronto. A large part of the party is tempted to flirt with this current, when they are not afraid to confront it or simply agree with many of its postulates. This is all a very long discussion for another day.

But there is no guarantee that the party will remain united. In fact, it has spent almost half of the last 35 years divided. The question O’Toole faced was always whether he had great enough political talent to hold the party together when it took a decade of humiliation plus Stephen Harper and Peter MacKay to bring it together in the first place. The same question will await any name that comes out of the hat.

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