Opinion | Erin O’Toole chases Jason Kenney and Doug Ford in a race to the bottom

How many dead horses can Canada’s Conservative movement ravage before it becomes irrelevant to mainstream voters?

On Parliament Hill, Erin O’Toole’s conservative party may well be on a mission to root out the first-time buyers’ remorse Canadians may feel about handing Justin Trudeau a third term.

It wasn’t enough that conservatives took blows from both sides of the vaccination mandate debate by sitting on the fence during the federal election campaign.

Now the O’Toole caucus, or at least some of its vocal elements, would wage a losing battle over the mandatory vaccination protocol to be implemented in time for the reopening of the House of Commons next month.

The decision to ban anyone who is not fully vaccinated from entering the parliament as of November 22 was taken behind closed doors by a small group of parliamentarians representing the main parties, including the Conservatives, on the economy board. internal.

On that basis, the Official Opposition may try, as some of its members would, to turn the issue into a matter of parliamentary privilege and bring it to the floor of the House at the earliest opportunity next month. But even on that battlefield, the end result is not in doubt.

If it ever comes to a full House vote, the only question will be whether some Conservative MPs choose to break ranks and join their New Democracy, Green, Bloc and Liberal colleagues in supporting the mandatory vaccination protocol.

At the end of the week, it’s unclear if O’Toole, who has said his party would abide by the rules, has the moral authority to convince his group to approve a fight where everyone loses.

He can always console himself with the idea that there will come a time when the pandemic and the party’s mixed messages about vaccines will fade from the radar. In the next election, the issue is unlikely to bite the conservatives again.

But the same cannot be said for the economy. And here again, the Conservative team seems hell-bent on making Trudeau and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland look like the adults in the room, because partly lost in the controversy over conservatives’ reluctance to comply with mandatory vaccinations was their amateur approach to the inflation debate.

As my colleague Heather Scoffield pointed out in a column earlier this week, it is ridiculous for conservatives to claim that Trudeau is responsible for rising inflation rates.

If that’s what O’Toole and his shadow cabinet really believe, then they’re out for lunch. If not, then they are taking the voters for fools.

The accusation only serves to diminish the credibility of the Official Opposition. The fact that the conservative attacks are backed by conspiracy theories promoted by MP Pierre Poilievre about the Bank of Canada compounds the damage.

At this rate, the party will soon squander its financial management credentials.

Before blaming Trudeau for inflation, O’Toole might have considered how badly the same approach has worked for his Alberta ally.

This week, a report commissioned by the Jason Kenney government debunked some of the prime minister’s favorite hoaxes.

Two years and $ 3.5 million later, the province’s investigation into anti-Alberta energy activities found no evidence of an incomplete global conspiracy led by a fifth environmental column to undermine the province’s oil and gas industry. Where the prime minister argued that misconduct was being committed, the report found only the legitimate exercise of freedom of expression.

As for Kenney’s repeated claims that Trudeau’s climate change policies are designed to destroy the province’s livelihood, they apparently didn’t make much of an impression on the investigation. His most scathing criticisms are directed at the Alberta government itself.

Not that this necessarily matters to Kenney, as he leads a charge against another federal windmill, this time in the form of equalization policy.

In earlier lean times, federal conservatives tended to look to strong prime ministers in Ontario and Alberta to fill a leadership vacuum.

Peter Lougheed and William Davis were dominant conservative figures during the reign of Pierre Trudeau.

Ralph Klein and Mike Harris acted similarly as counterweights to the federal liberals during Jean Chrétien’s tenure.

But Kenney’s star has fallen to precipitous depths in his own province, and the Doug Ford administration has essentially stepped out of some of the most existential political debates of the day. The throne speech read in the Ontario Legislature earlier this month even failed to mention climate change even once.

While federal Conservatives seem increasingly rudderless, Canada’s top Conservative Prime Ministers in Alberta and Ontario are more likely to drag the Conservative movement to anchor it. On both levels, it is as if the tail is leading the dog.

Chantal Hébert is an Ottawa-based freelance contributing columnist covering politics for The Star. Contact her by email: [email protected] or follow her on Twitter: @ChantalHbert


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