Erin O'Toole Has Lost

February 1st, 2021 | RR

Unless Justin Trudeau shits the bed in epic fashion this year, he will win a majority government in the next election. Erin O'Toole's extraordinary failure as leader will cost the Conservative Party 600,000 votes from the 2019 election. The best case scenario will put the Conservatives at 5.5 million votes and the Liberals at 5.7 million, with another minority. The worst case would put the Liberals closer to 6 million and a majority. All of it will be due to Erin O'Toole's poor leadership and his inability to learn from past mistakes.

Less than six months into his soon-to-be short career as Conservative leader, O'Toole did exactly what Liberals wanted him to do. He went into defence mode against allegations of Trumpism and racism. A week or two later, he cancelled Derek Sloan because of something that was published in an NDP-run online publication. All of it looked frantic, hasty and totally whimsical. It solidified the doubt many of us had in his leadership and in the direction of the party.

It became clear that O'Toole wasn't the guy he sold himself to be. However, I already knew it and I wrote about it before he won the leadership. I just didn't think he would let his true colours show so early.

Andrew Scheer was a stronger leader than O'Toole, despite making a few mistakes. Unfortunately, O'Toole has doubled down on every mistake Scheer made and then some. The few times Scheer bent over to appease Liberal critics, it backfired—but O'Toole must have slept through all of that. It looks like his strategy will involve perpetual apologies and capitulation. Any time the Liberals or the CBC find something to pick at, O'Toole will fire someone or write a long, defensive and explanatory press release.

The cancellation of Derek Sloan was on such weak grounds that it was almost satirical. It was obvious that O'Toole had been itching to expel Sloan for a while and pounced on the first opportunity—without thinking of how ridiculous it looked to fire someone for not knowing the name of a “white supremacist” who didn't use his public name to place a $130 donation to Sloan's campaign. Most of us didn't know who Paul Fromm was until O'Toole made it a spectacle.

After the cancellation, which was supported by a majority of the Conservative caucus, O'Toole released another defensive press release explaining his reasoning.

On the other side of the aisle, Trudeau was “pleased” with O'Toole's actions. The Conservative leader had eaten one of his own, just how Liberals like it. We can count on one hand how many Liberal MPs and operatives have been forced to resign for all kinds of controversial antics, but the number of Conservative casualties keeps growing. Liberals are strongest when Conservatives are divided, but don't let Erin in on that little secret. His strategy is working like a charm, according to the latest opinion polls that put his party at 30%.

Liberals protect their own, while Conservatives try desperately to win approval from everyone but conservatives.

None of it has amounted to anything valuable for O'Toole. According to Angus Reid, O'Toole is less popular than Andrew Scheer was at the same six-month mark of his leadership.  Six months in, Scheer was viewed unfavourably by 36% of Canadians. O'Toole is currently viewed unfavourably by 46% of Canadians. With Trudeau's approval rebounding, the next election will be tougher for O'Toole than the last one was for Scheer. For that, no one is to blame but Erin O'Toole. 

O'Toole's Conservatives are likely to get as many votes as Harper did in 2015, give or take a few thousand. That would be around 600,000 less than Scheer's Conservatives got in 2019. If Trudeau was able to survive SNC-Lavalin, Blackface and the destruction of the Western economy and still get 6 million votes, the next election will be a piece of cake for him and a shit sandwich for O'Toole.

Turnout will be far lower than 2015 and 2019. Disaffected voters from all sides will stay home, giving smaller parties like the NDP and Greens a better shot. Lower turnouts are always beneficial for incumbents, while bigger turnouts spell trouble. Generally, after nearly seven years in power and a sinking economy, an incumbent government finds itself struggling to win a case for re-election, but no other leaders and parties are offering Canadians a better option.

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With an 8% unemployment rate and deep regional divisions, this next election should have been an easy win for Conservatives.

Had O'Toole kept his tough guy, anti-cancel culture attitude from the leadership race and shown some defiance in the face of accusations about racism and Trumpism, he would have rallied conservatives from every corner of the country. Instead, he let them all down and deflated their enthusiasm. With Liberal turnout expected to be low, it would have been a perfect opportunity to challenge Liberals in every Ontario and BC riding. It may not have amounted to a Conservative win, but it could have produced another fragile Liberal minority. Now, we're likely looking at a Liberal majority.

O'Toole stuck with the same failed strategy of trying to scoop up disaffected Liberal votes, while sacrificing the “true blue” votes that made him leader.

Rumours Of Discontent In Liberal Ranks

The only thing that could change O'Toole's fortunes is some discontent in the Liberal ranks. In the last week of January, with the resignation of Julie Payette and the killing of the Keystone XL pipeline, even the mainstream media was taking some unexpected shots at Trudeau's leadership. Inside the Liberal ranks, there has been some deep-seated discontent for months—and much of it might be seeping out into the world of Canadian journalism.

Since the last election, despite other provincial leaders seeing “Covid bumps” in their popularity, Trudeau's poll numbers have been weak. For a short period in 2020, at the height of the pandemic, Liberals were in majority territory—but all of that has since been squandered by Trudeau's poor leadership and his inability to avoid scandals.

The WE scandal was the first crack in Trudeau's Covid armour, followed by his failure to secure a vaccine supply, an investigation into Julie Payette's toxic workplace and the murder of the Keystone pipeline.

In his first phone call with Joe Biden, expectations were high that Trudeau would fight for the pipeline, but he didn't. Instead, he told Canadians that it was time to move on. This happened just days after Julie Payette resigned, following the final report about her conduct at Rideau Hall and reports that she was not properly vetted by Trudeau—and that she would still be receiving a $150,000 annual payout after leaving the role. On top of that, Trudeau is still under fire for failing to secure an adequate supply of the Pfizer vaccine.

Many inside the Liberal Party have failed to see a successful path forward under Trudeau's leadership, but an internal revolt or leadership review could do far more damage, putting some Liberals between a rock and a hard place.

Sadly, many disaffected Liberals would be more inclined to vote for the NDP or stay home on election night.

Somewhere along the way, O'Toole failed to learn that he can't win elections without small C conservatives. By appeasing Liberals and trying to prove he isn't a white supremacist, Erin O'Toole is throwing away conservative support for a tiny number of Liberal votes that won't help him win an election. That small fraction of centrist Liberals that O'Toole is trying to win over won't give him a majority if he can't keep the small C conservatives.

The Cernovich Strategy

Guerilla journalist and American flamethrower, Mike Cernovich, has suggested that the best strategy for Republicans is to go left on economics and right on culture. This is essentially the opposite of what Canadian Conservatives have been trying to do. Since the end of the Harper era, the CPC has tried to move to the right on economics and to the left on cultural and social issues. If past success and current opinion polls are any indication, Mike Cernovich is correct.

When it comes to issues of patriotism, identity politics, defunding police, cancel culture and social justice, a slight majority of Americans lean to the right on those issues. The same is probably true for Canadians. When it comes to economics, Americans and Canadians are drifting further to left.

Moving Canadian conservatives to the left on various economic issues has been suggested by some Poletical contributors in the past. On issues of spending and balanced budgets, conservatives could benefit by moving to the left. On fundamental cultural issues, conservatives can hold the line and stand up for police, military, patriotism, free speech and tighter immigration.

"Liberals protect their own, while Conservatives try desperately to win approval from everyone but conservatives."

Cutting foreign aid and using the savings to fund free college and stronger healthcare is a good place to start.

There isn't a lot that can save Erin O'Toole from himself, but future leaders will hopefully learn from his mistakes and learn from the absolute obliteration the big C party will face in the next election. For those who pushed for a new leader because they thought Andrew Scheer was weak, congratulations. You replaced him with a leader who is even worse.

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