I supported Erin O’Toole in his quest for the Conservative Party leadership in 2017 and again in 2020. But I share the Globe and Mail‘s columnist Andrew Coyne’s disappointment at both the carefully contrived language and, worse, the sentiment that Mr O’Toole showed in caving-in, no other word for it, to Québec Premier François Legault’s intention to proceed with the odious Bill 21.
Bill 21 is, quite simply, unacceptable to most Canadians; it discriminates, unfairly, on the basis of ethnicity and religion.
I understand that Mr O’Toole’s campaign team hopes to win more seats in Québec by pandering to some people’s fear of the “other.” I don’t want to take the analogy too far, but what some (certainly not all) Québécois and Québécoise want ~ to have their laïcité apply to everyone (except Christians) ~ leads, inevitably, in one frightening direction:
The Trudeau Liberals may be totally devoid of principles but they are not politically stupid. The reasons that Justin Trudeau stands against Bull 21 has nothing to do with either principle or Québec; they are related to all the ‘hyphenated-Canadians’ who live in the suburbs in and around Greater Toronto and Vancouver and around most Canadian cities:
Some people in Québec are afraid that the “other,” the “stranger” will further dilute the French fact in Canada, including in Québec, and some of them believe, mistakenly, that someone who wears a hijab or a yarmulke or a turban …
… threatens their secular way if life. Meanwhile other people in Bonavista, Brampton and Burnaby fear that white racism and Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are on the rise and that the flames are being fed by the Government of Québec.
Of course, the people of Québec have the right to make such laws as they believe will make their lives better. The Government of Canada used to have the power to disallow provincial laws that it considered to be wrong ~ but that power has not been used in many decades and the current constitutional convention seems, to me, to dictate that the power cannot be used again. It will, therefore, be up to the courts, ultimately to the Supreme Court of Canada, to settle the issue and I am confident that, eventually, the highest courts in Québec and in Canada will decide that discrimination based on religion or race is wrong. Mr O’Toole should have said that, up front.
Erin O’Toole is not going to make big gains in Québec. Unlike Brian Mulroney and Jack Layton he does not have deep roots in Québec: both Yves-François Blanchet and Justin Trudeau do. The Québécois and Québécoise usually vote for a “native son” (or daughter) when one is available … that’s just a fact. If the CPC wants to make big gains in Québec without losing its Western Canadian base then it needs to recruit Caroline Mulroney. But, for now the key to electoral success lies in the suburban communities around Halifax, Fredricton, Québec City, Ottawa, Toronto, Windsor, Winnipeg and Vancouver and they are filled with people who, rightfully, fear what Premier Legault proposes …
…and theirs are the votes Erin O’Toole needs to send Justin Trudeau packing and to give Canada good, honest government. He and the Conservative party must learn to win and then govern without Québec; that doesn’t mean acting against Québec, but it does mean not trying to buy votes there. François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec may be more conservative than either the Québec Liberals or the Parti Québécois and he may even campaign for O’Toole but my guess is that his active support is only worth an extra seat or two, if even that.
Erin O’Toole just took a disappointing step in the wrong direction … but it’s not too late to rectify the error.