Just as some Canadians in the commentariat are saying that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is giving our country “the worst Canadian government ever,” John Ibbitson, an astute observer, says, in the Globe and Mail, that “Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole needs to do a better job.” He’s got a long way to go, Mr Ibbitson says before he can “convince us he is prime minister-in-waiting.“
John Ibbitson deals, first, with the perpetual Conservative problem: the Big Tent is hard (impossible?) to unify on too many issues. “The party,” he says, “has no coherent position on the issues that matter most: helping the economy to recover while controlling the deficit and acting credibly to reduce carbon emissions.” It really doesn’t matter how badly Justin Trudeau is doing on those issues, unless and until the Conservatives can persuade voters that they have practical plans to do better, Canadians will give him the benefit of the doubt.
Mr Ibbitson says, and I agree that “As politicians like to say, let’s be clear: People who oppose abortion or who believe marriage can only be between a man and a woman can be part of the conservative coalition, provided they understand that they may not impose these views, which most of us, including most conservatives, don’t share … [and] … People … [like me] … who believe that private-sector innovation is the best way to bend the curve on global warming can be part of the conservative coalition, provided they understand the state must also play a role … [and, further] … people … [like me, again] … who believe that government should be as small as practically possible and that each individual should be free and responsible for the life they live belong at the very heart of the conservative coalition, provided they understand that inequality and racism hold some people back.“
Then, Mr Ibbitson looks at Mr O’Toole and says that he self-describes (as do I, by the way) as a “a socially moderate fiscal conservative. But he must surely understand that, in courting the social conservative vote during the leadership campaign, only to pivot to the centre as soon as he’d won, he upset a lot of so-cons and left others confused … [and] … On the major issues, he talks about the need to manage the economic recovery more effectively, without saying how. He insists Conservatives must make environmental issues a priority, but has offered no plan to address global warming.” Those are valid criticisms. Both the Conservative base and the larger population is confused about Erin O’Toole. Is he a “True Blue Conservative,” whatever anyone might conceive that to be, or is he a moderate, which has its own range of connotations? “He is in danger,” John Ibbitson says, “of falling into the same trap that ended Andrew Scheer’s leadership: trying to hold onto the base while appealing to persuadable voters by talking about his suburban roots, avoiding clear stands on difficult issues, and trashing the Liberals when they don’t deserve it as well as when they do. It left Mr. Scheer appearing weak and evasive and mean. Mr. O’Toole is halfway there.“
The Justin Trudeau campaign team, which consists, inter alia, of the Prime Minister’s (taxpayer funded) Office, some fairly large slices of the (also paid with our tax dollars) federal bureaucracy, especially the “communications” branches, and probably the largest slice of the Canadian media, (much of which receives both direct and indirect (and often very substantial) government funding), is working hard to make sure that the divisions in the Conservative Party of Canada are on full display and cause the maximum political damage, and even those media outlets that not part of the Trudeau campaign team will run the stories because political dissension is newsworthy.
The Conservatives says that they are ready to do whatever it takes to get Canada back on track. They need to start being specific. They have enunciated some good ideas: getting tough on China by, just for a start, getting Huawei out of our networks and out of our university research programmes and rebuilding relations with India. They are trying to focus on jobs, even as they, very properly, continue to try to hold the government to account for what appears to be major-league corruption, as Pierre Poilievre explains in this video clip. But, evidently, it’s not enough. The recent (almost a week ago) polls show that Canadians voters seem intent on giving Prime Minister Trudeau another chance …
… and his chances of winning a majority will grow as the prospects of a real vaccine rollout programme improve. This, I suspect, is what is causing dissent in the Conservative ranks ~ if a fundamentally decent, honest, capable person like Erin O’Toole cannot make a dent in the political armour or a lazy, unethical, dishonest coward then the problem must be him.
I suspect that someone fairly high up in the Conservative Party, someone who did not support O’Toole in 2020 or in 2017, has been working the phones to e.g. John Ibbitson and Brian Platt and Chris Selley at the National Post. There is always discontent with a leader, even the best one. There is a small opposition faction in the Liberal Party, too …
… but it has been driven out by an absolutely ruthless leadership team that does not tolerate any dissent, at all.
I can understand the frustration in the Conservative ranks: nothing they say or do seems to have any impact on Prime Minister Trudeau’s popularity with some voters ~ especially those in suburban Ontario. The biggest English language media outlets ~ CTV and CBC ~ seem, to many, to have been bought and paid for by the Trudeau Liberals. I don’t quite share that view ~ the CBC is, of course, the government’s own network, but the problem is that many journalists share a single world view. They, mostly, went to the same universities, took the same courses from the same professors, most of whom were/are believers in things like the Freeland-Trudeau Great Reset, which is, really, the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. That, which I would guess less than 1 Canadian in 100 has even heard about, much less understands, is hugely popular in the chattering classes. And who could be opposed? Just read §§7 to 9 in “Our Vision,” in the document. That’s what Justin Trudeau and Chrystia Freeland are selling and the media, most of it, anyway, is buying it, lock, stock and barrel.
What the Freeland-Trudeau team is selling is seductively attractive because it conforms to our liberal beliefs and values: peace, justice, equality and prosperity for all. No one in their right minds thinks those are bad goals. But there ought to be a political question about how we plan to gt there … ought to be, but isn’t.
While there is nothing much wrong with the United Nations’ vision, there is a lot that should be debated about how Justin Trudeau and Chrystia Freeland plan to implement it … should be and could be if Team Freeland-Trudeau will ever bring down a budget. But they will delay that for as long as they can and when it comes, just before a late spring (June) or mid-summer (July-August) election it will be a looooong list of popular spending promises which will go, largely, unquestioned by most of the media.
And that’s Erin O’Toole’s problem: the Liberal agenda is neither published nor asked for … Canadians, the Liberals assume, probably correctly, believe that Liberals are liberal. But, they are not; they are Canada’s illiberal party and have been since 1968, but only rarely does anyone ever say it. The Conservatives are the liberal party but in their own ranks, the word liberal is badly misunderstood and is equated with e.g. progressive and “woke” and so on rather than with the ideas of John Locke, John Stuart Mill, Margaret Thatcher, Condoleeza Rice and Stephen Harper …
… about individual rights and freedoms, and, yes Stephen J Harper belongs on that list: read his book: Right Here, Right Now, it’s all about preserving and promoting pragmatic liberal values.
I believe that Erin O’Toole is the best available choice for the Conservative Party of Canada and for Canada, too. Can he win in 2021? I don’t know. The odds, right now, are against him, and just when he doesn’t need it, some internal, Conservative, opponents have decided to launch an attack ~ it’s as though they want another Trudeau government. Quite frankly, the mind boggles. At this point, a flea-bitten, three-legged, one-eyed dog would be a better choice to lead Canada than Justin Trudeau is, but some people in the Conservative Party seem intent on getting behind their leader only so that they can stab him in the back and give Canada another Trudeau fiasco.