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Canada, similar to other western democracies, has a political cycle that perpetually shifts from the right to the left, and from the left to the right. “It works like the swing of a pendulum, like the upsand-downs of a seesaw,” author and journalist Victor Lauriston famously wrote in Maclean’s on July 15, 1931, “and the result is a curious sort of automatic balance between the Canadian political parties.”

It’s impossible to predict with pinpoint accuracy exactly which way the political pendulum will swing. Issues, ideas, strategies and elections can sometimes produce clear signs and indicators. Situations can occasionally be adjusted or manipulated. Some political narratives are successfully crafted and maintained, while others become toxic and combustible. There are also moments when unforeseen events turn everything on its head, too.

During the height of COVID-19, the political pendulum was clearly swinging to the left. Many Canadians were unable to go to work, or even work at all. Businesses suffered, and quite a few were forced to shut down. Government spending went through the roof in terms of emergency relief funds for individuals, families and companies. The national debt was eye-popping, and the federal deficit ballooned to record highs.

Things have changed the past few months, however. The political pendulum has started to swing to the right.

Canada still has to deal with aspects of COVID-19 for the foreseeable future, and perhaps forever. Several years of social distancing in society, combined with the wider availability of vaccines, have given us a new lease on life. Many people want to return to normal, or simply exist in whatever the “new normal” entails. They’re tired of government restrictions and requirements, and are often euphoric when they’re removed. They’re also largely fed up with politicians acting like drunken sailors on a 24/7 basis, and desire a return to free markets, capitalism and private enterprise.

Our political environment has also transformed during the political pendulum’s shift in winged allegiances.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has looked weaker and more vulnerable than ever before. He was blamed for maintaining COVID-19 restrictions longer than most democratic nations, and taking positions during the pandemic that were comparable to those of Communist China. Provincial governments on the right and left both pushed back heavily against Ottawa’s wasteful spending policies as well as the PM’s pet project, the federal carbon tax. Recent polls from Angus Reid, Leger and Mainstreet Research have shown the Conservatives ahead of the Liberals, and Ipsos has new Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre in front of Trudeau as the best candidate for PM.

Jagmeet Singh and NDP are nearly broke, spent, and plummeting in the polls. The federal leader of Canada’s socialist alternative also became embroiled in an embarrassing situation involving the Saskatchewan NDP. The provincial outfit recently voted against inviting Singh to its party convention this month, and instead asked him to supply a video message. While he’s obviously tried to downplay this stunning development, it hasn’t worked. There’s really no way to put a positive spin on being rejected by the province that first embraced socialism with the CCF/NDP, as well as the party of Tommy Douglas.

The Green Party has also turned into a complete shambles. It began with the wild battle between then-leader Annamie Paul and various Green MPs and activists last year, which spilled into the public arena and left many bad tastes in people’s mouths. The situation continued with Amita Kuttner, where an issue with the interim leader being misgendered with the pronouns “she/elle” during a Zoom conference – Kuttner identifies as non-binary and pansexual – led to an eruption and resignation of then-party president Lorraine Rekmans. Now, the party has cancelled the first round of voting for a new leader. Why? Interim executive director Dana Taylor reportedly said, “we did not have the capacity to deal with it,” while Michael MacLean, federal council representative for Prince Edward Island, suggested there was a “collapse of volunteer motivation and morale.”

It’s interesting to note that the Bloc Quebecois hasn’t suffered the same slings and arrows of its left-leaning countrymen. When you only run candidates in one province, there are ways to avoid the political pendulum’s full effect. Will it finally catch up with them? Time will tell.

This is a huge moment for Poilievre and the Conservatives. They need to make the most of their opportunities to sell the important message of small government, lower taxes and more individual rights and freedoms. They need to consistently point out the political and economic damage the Trudeau Liberals have done to this country in seven years, often with the support of the other left-leaning parties.

And all of this needs to be done before Canada’s political pendulum shifts once more.

Michael Taube, a long-time newspaper columnist and political commentator, was a speechwriter for former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.


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The Conservative Party of Canada has been in a period of political transition since former Prime Minister Stephen Harper lost the 2015 election. Whereas Harper’s ideology was fine tuned and his fiscally conservative approach to governance was appreciated by voters in his three electoral triumphs, his successors have been unable to recreate this magic.

This isn’t to say Andrew Scheer and Erin O’Toole, the two most recent Conservative leaders, didn’t have opportunities to defeat Justin Trudeau and the Liberals in 2019 and 2021, respectively. Both men led in the polls at times. They seemingly had the weak, ineffective PM on the ropes. Alas, neither man was able to capitalize on Trudeau’s mistakes and afforded him time to recover. They also made their own mistakes that they couldn’t reverse, which led to their own political demise.

No-one assumed that either Scheer or O’Toole would have been carbon copies of Harper. That would have been a foolish expectation in both instances. That being said, the successful political blueprint Harper left behind wasn’t properly emulated and, at certain points, seemed like it was barely read.

Well, that’s about to change. The new Conservative leader, Pierre Poilievre, will help protect Harper’s legacy, create his own political footprint and hopefully guide them back to power when the next federal election is called.

Poilievre has been an MP since 2004. He’s an intelligent, media-savvy politician who served as a cabinet minister for Harper in two portfolios, Employment and Social Development and Democratic Reform. Poilievre, like Harper, is also a staunch defender of modern Conservative values à la Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. He supports smaller government, lower taxes, greater individual rights and freedoms, a more muscular foreign policy and giving power back to the people. He champions fiscal prudence and free speech, and opposes fiscal irresponsibility and cancel culture.

This type of platform would have been enough to win the Conservative leadership. Poilievre, to his credit, also looked beyond the party’s traditional voting base and focused on non-Conservative individuals and communities.

He used outside-the-box issues (for Conservatives) like affordable housing and cryptocurrency, for instance. He created videos with common sense messaging about the escalating costs of food and crippling mortgage payments that appealed to Canada’s middle class. His critiques of elites and “gatekeepers” in society appealed to young voters, political independents and, believe it or not, the apolitical.

Canada’s political analysts, especially the left-leaning ones, attempted to label Poilievre’s campaign as “far right” or “extreme.” They disliked his straightforward, no-nonsense political messaging as pablum for red meat Conservatives. They were furious about his support for the basic principles of the pro-trucker Freedom Convoy, and claimed without foundation that he was trying to divide Conservatives and Canadians. They promoted the campaign of his main political rival, Jean Charest, a left-leaning Red Tory who was a former federal PC leader and Quebec Liberal premier, as the true voice of traditional, moderate Canadian conservatism.

Guess what? It didn’t work.

Poilievre overwhelmingly won on the first ballot. He earned 68.15 percent of the vote based on the weighted points system the Conservatives use for leadership races. (Each political riding was assigned a certain number of points. The maximum number was 100 points for a riding with at least 100 party members. In ridings with less than 100 members, one point was allotted per vote cast.) Charest was light years behind in second place with 16.07 percent, followed by Conservative MP Leslyn Lewis at 9.69 percent, Independent Ontario MPP Roman Baber at 5.03 percent and Conservative MP Scott Aitchison at 1.06 percent.

He also earned 70.7 percent of the popular vote – and, most impressively, 330 of the 338 electoral ridings. Long story short, it was one of the most definitive victories in a party leadership race in Canadian political history.

After all the fantastical, made-up claims that the Conservatives were on the verge of splintering or fracturing, this result proved the party membership was more united than ever behind his leadership. While winning a federal election is a different task than a leadership race, he’s more than up to the challenge.

Poilievre assembled a strong team in the leadership race, and will undoubtedly build an equally strong team as Official Opposition leader. He’s a strong orator and communicator who impeccably understands the ins and outs of politics. He has a solid strategic mind and true understanding of the political mindset of many Canadian voters. His wife, Anaida, who was born in Venezuela, is intelligent, kind, energetic, hard-working – and a significant political asset. He’ll work hard to grow the non-traditional Conservative vote just like Harper did, because that’s the only viable route to victory in Liberal Canada.

The future looks bright for the new Conservative leader, the Conservative Party – and Canada’s conservative movement. Which means this frustrating period of political transition may be finally drawing to a conclusion.

Michael Taube, a long-time newspaper columnist and political commentator, was a speechwriter for former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.


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If there existed a political “Ten Commandments” carved in stone tablets, the very first one on the list would likely be “Thou Shalt Not Alienate Thy Base.”

After all, it’s hard to win an election when even your own side doesn’t like you.

Sounds pretty basic, right? Sounds like a concept any leader worth his or her salt would understand.

So why is it then Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole seems intent on making himself as unpopular as possible with his grassroots base?

I mean, just think about what he’s done since taking over the leadership.

For one thing, on a whole range of issues from carbon taxes to gun rights to deficits, O’Toole has blatantly abandoned conservative principles and values to take on policy stances that are essentially indistinguishable from what the Liberals offer.

How could his conservative base, which tends be ideologically-oriented, not feel snubbed by this? The sense of their betrayal is likely even more acute, since during the Conservative Party leadership race, O’Toole had branded himself as a principled conservative and as a champion of the party’s grassroots.

Talk about false advertising!

At any rate, I guess if O’Toole had won the last election, all would have been forgiven.

But, of course, he didn’t win and now discontent with his leadership is simmering within the Conservative Party’s ranks.

In response to this growing anger the wise move for O’Toole, it seems to me, should be for him to offer some sort of olive branch to the base, just to reassure grassroots party members that he’s willing to win back their support.

Instead, however, for some inexplicable reason, he has decided to try and bully his base into submission.

Just recently, for instance, O’Toole, pour encourager les autres, booted Senator Denise Batters from the Conservative caucus after she had the audacity to launch a petition calling for an earlier than scheduled leadership review.

In announcing her expulsion, O’Toole sounded a tough note saying anyone “who’s not putting the team and the country first will not be part of this team.”

Basically, his message seems to this: “It’s my way or the highway and if you don’t like it, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

Yet, if he thinks such heavy-handed action will stifle dissent, he’s likely in for a rude awakening.

In fact, it could make his situation even worse, since he’s turned Batters into a martyr, someone who disaffected Tories can now rally around.

On top of that, keep in mind, angry party members have effective ways of protesting against an unpopular leader.

For example, they might start redirecting their party donations to right-wing advocacy groups, or they might stop volunteering for the party or they might stay home on election day or they might end up voting for the People’s Party.

So, in a way, O’Toole’s decision to openly antagonize his base is like a military commander ordering his artillery to bombard his own supply lines.

It just doesn’t make strategic sense.

Mind you, some might say, O’Toole’s acting no differently than former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who also jettisoned certain conservative principles and who also ruled the party with savage discipline.

Yet, O’Toole is no Harper.

True, Harper didn’t always give the party’s ideologues everything they wanted, but he always treated his base with respect.

And for that, he won the loyalty of the rank and file.

That’s a lesson O’Toole should heed.

At any rate, the one possible explanation for O’Toole’s behaviour is that there’s actually a method to his madness, that he actually wants to dig out the party’s ideological roots, that’s he hoping hard-core conservatives will abandon his party.

Indeed, it has been suggested to me that O’Toole’s overall game plan is basically to water down the party’s ideology until it’s nothing but an idealess, wishy-washy, non-confrontational, conservative-in-name-only political entity; a Conservative party, in short, that lacks conservatives.

This he hopes will make his party more appealing to the media and more attractive to Liberal voters.

If that indeed is O’Toole’s plan, then he is taking a mighty big gamble.

As American conservative activist Morton Blackwell once noted “you cannot make friends of your enemies by making enemies of your friends.”

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.


One (1) political party. When does it lose?

When it becomes two (2) political parties.

The Conservative Party of Canada is at that point. This week, a Conservative MP non-entity, Marilyn Gladu, basically declared that she was forming a new party within the Conservative Party.

She didn’t call it a “party,” admittedly, and she insisted that it wasn’t a challenge to the leadership of Erin O’Toole. But it is a challenge to O’Toole’s leadership, such as it is.

And it is indeed a group of politicians breaking with the party that got them into Parliament. Gladu calls it a “caucus,” but to voters, that’ll be a distinction without a difference.

Gladu said up to 30 Members of Parliament and Senators are part of her shiny new political organization. Their mandate?

They’re against vaccination mandates. (We suspect they’re against man-dates, too, but that’s a discussion for another day.)

Again, Gladu and her 30 fellow Troglodytes wouldn’t describe themselves as “anti-vaccination,” of course. But that’s what they are – they’re against public health policies which were promulgated to prevent another four million humans from dying a horrible death.

It is safe to assume, and those of us in the media have, that these 30 one-time Conservative MPs and Senators are unvaccinated.

They’re getting busy, too.

“We have had a few meetings, and we’re planning to keep meeting, but we haven’t officially kicked off the caucus as a caucus. We’ve just been saying that that’s sort of seeming what it is turning into,” Gladu told the Canadian Press.

Forget about the fact that vaccines have proved to be astonishingly, historically effective in preventing Covid-19. Forget about the fact that unvaccinated people are overwhelmingly the ones filling up ICU beds in hospitals – thereby straining our health care system, and crowding out people waiting for other life-saving treatments and surgeries. Forgot about all that.

This is an opinion column about politics, and the political fact is this: when one (1) political party becomes two (2) political parties, it isn’t going to win elections anymore. If you can’t run your own little bitty political party, nobody is going to think you can run a great big country, are they?

Nope.

That’s where Erin O’Toole is at, and he is decidedly the author of his own misfortune. Unlike Ontario Premier Doug Ford – who kicked out unvaccinated MPPs, and said unvaccinated mouth-breathers wouldn’t be allowed to run for his party – Erin O’Toole tried to suck and blow at the same time. He’s done it before, too, with carbon taxes and gun control and social conservative crap.

But Canadian voters noticed. During the election, O’Toole’s Conservatives equivocated on an issue that is literally existential. They tried to be on both sides of a life-and-death issue, and voters rewarded them with another loss to the worst Canadian Prime Minister in a Century.

The irony is that Conservatives have been here before, and learned precisely nothing. Preston Manning, Stockwell Day and Lucien Bouchard giddily blew up the Conservative Party a couple decades ago, and my boss, Jean Chretien, said: merci, messieurs!

It is only when Stephen Harper came along, unifying the various conservative caucuses – creating a single new Conservative Party in His own image, you might say – that they started to win again. Because Harper knew conservative-minded voters prefer one choice on Election Day. Not ten.

Will Erin O’Toole survive this latest challenge to his leadership? Probably. He and his team will issue another sly page of talking points, claiming to be interested in consensus and against bullying and icy sidewalks and whatnot. He’ll say his one (1) party is the party of principle, blah blah blah.

Except they’re not principled. They’re morons, and they’re morns who are going to lose.

Again.

[Kinsella is the CEO of the Daisy Group.]

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.