, 11.07.2019 08:49 AM

A seven-hour caucus meeting creates seven big problems

The Conservative caucus met on Parliament Hill yesterday.  Watching them from afar, it recalled a big therapy session.  But without a therapist in charge.

It went for seven hours, reportedly.  That’s a long caucus meeting.  At the end of those seven hours, seven big problems remain.

  1. They did not dump Andrew Scheer, but nor did they embrace him.  They opted for the worst of both worlds: a weakened leader who many of them blame for their loss, but a weakened leader they decided to keep around.  Make sense to you?  Me neither.
  2. The Andrew Scheer-related problems cannot be fixed, because they are in his DNA.  If you believe, as I do, that his social conservative views killed him in urban and near-urban centres – and with women, in particular – you will also agree he needs to change those views.  But he can’t, because he won’t.  It’s who he is.  A volte-face now on abortion, equal marriage, etc., would only look cynical and dishonest.  And, when you consider that Andrew Scheer was also felled by that hoary old chestnut,  “hidden agenda” (American citizenship, resumé exaggeration, etc.) – a personal-belief reversal would only add to the “hidden agenda” narrative.
  3. They think all of their problems can be solved with a leadership change.  Um, no. In my limited experience, you don’t win (or lose) in politics for a single reason – it’s always a bunch of reasons.  So, too, the CPC: it wasn’t just their leader who failed – so too did their platform, so did their lack of a compelling single message, so did their GOTV and voter ID efforts. Also, star candidates: did they have even one?
  4. They lack an alternative.  With the notable exception of the Trudeau Liberal Party, which bears all the hallmarks of a cult, the Liberal Party of Canada has always had viable leadership alternatives.  When I had the honour and privilege of working for Jean Chretien, we had ambitious ministers (Messrs. Manley, Tobin, Rock, et al.) who kept their ambitions within reasonable limits – and, yes, one who didn’t (M. Martin).  But we had alternatives.  The Conservatives presently have many suitable leadership alternatives, but none who want to be the alternative.  Not good.
  5. They’re fighting in public again.  The Tories only win when they are united (ditto all political parties).  They win when they have strong, strategic leaders who expertly control caucus and the membership, like Messrs. Mulroney and Harper.  They lose when they don’t.  Their history – as suggested in the above cartoon – is one of fratricide, discord, and civil wars.  Which permits Liberals to say: “If they can’t manage their own affairs, how can they manage the affairs of a country?”  As they will.
  6. They gave Trudeau back what he lost.  With the exception of the separatists, everyone lost in the 2019 Canadian federal election: Justin Trudeau lost his majority; Andrew Scheer lost an election; Jagmeet Singh lost Quebec and half his caucus; Elizabeth May lost credibility when – after no shortage of boastful balance-of-power claims by Elizabeth May – she could only add a single Parliamentary seat.  But the Tories’ leadership sturm und drang has given Trudeau back what he lost – a majority in all but name.  There won’t be an election anytime soon.
  7. They’re bleeding.  They are going to lose fundraising support.  They are going to lose grassroots support.  They are going to lose an opportunity to capitalize on Justin Trudeau’s problems – because he’s got problems aplenty, too.  They are, instead, just bleeding all over the place, looking leaderless, luckless and clueless.  And it is going to go on for months.

A seven-hour caucus!

And, at the end of it, they’re in worse shape than they were at the start of it.

38 Comments

  1. Des says:

    I agree with most of this, but I don’t share your overarching view that we are worse off. I will say that we did run a few candidates in a few ridings. Former Olympians (Sylvie Frechette), NHLers (Angelo Esposito), and CFLers (Peter Dyakowski) ran for us in this election. I do, however, believe there is time between now and April to keep an eye at the way things are shaping out. I will be one of those in Toronto making a decision in April on the leader (who I supported as first place on my ballot in 2017). I’m just not hitting the panic button yet.

    • Jim R says:

      Admittedly, I have zero interest in professional and semi-professional sports (putting me in a definite minority), but surely to deity if the only star candidates you can boast of are sports people, then there’s an obvious problem there.

  2. Des says:

    *a few star candidates, LOL

  3. the real Sean says:

    1. I honestly don’t follow why he is a weakened leader. Most votes+more seats+most money raised=stronger.
    2. Doesn’t matter. Harper had the same problems but far more amplified.
    3. Good point re. platform. A great political book suggests that Tory victories require waking up the so called three sisters – Maritimes, Quebec and the West and then Ontario will follow. Getting creamed in the Maritimes was a serious problem. Goodies for Quebec are always necessary. That’s always key to a Tory victory. Also good point re. star candidates.
    4.Bingo.
    5.Its OK for political parties to fight in public as long as its brief, the trajectory of such infighting is going in a predicable direction and the public isn’t paying attention. The best time for it is right now. No one cares immediately after an election except for eccentric political junkies who surf oddball websites like this to get their fix.
    6. Not sure about that. Harper was in way more trouble with the membership after the loss in 2004, but he was ready to go to the polls right away. Lets see what Scheer does. Singh will prop up the Libs for a year or so anyways and allow Scheer to be a good oppo leader.
    7. Don’t agree. Lets see the FR numbers early in the new year. I’d be willing to wager the Tories will be well out in front.

    • Chris says:

      1. Scheer is a weakened leader because his advisors let the party’s Get-Out-the-Vote mechanisms fall into disarray. He was no help to the local campaigns.
      2. Scheer has been defined by his adversaries (ie. a suspicious social conservative who can’t give simple unambiguous answers to questions.)
      3. It was an uninspiring platform. He offered nothing to non-Tories.
      4. They have lots of options. Ambrose, McKay, O’Toole.
      5. They chose not to do anything about leadership until their April 2020 convention, thereby guaranteeing half a year of public fighting.
      6. There will be no election for at least two years because the NDP is deep in debt and the 2015 Liberal rookie MPs are 22 months away from their gold-plated pensions.
      7. The Tories were out in front from February 2019 until halfway through the election campaign. The Tories were out in front for four months after Trudeau’s India trip. Fat lot of good it did for them.

      Does Andrew Sheer want to become a respected Joe Clark-like senior figure in a future Tory government, swallow his pride and do what’s good for party and country? Or does he want to become a Tim Hudak-like figure, hanging on for a second fight, losing a second winnable election?

      • Fred from BC says:

        “Or does he want to become a Tim Hudak-like figure, hanging on for a second fight, losing a second winnable election?”

        I never knew much about Hudak, being all the way out here in BC. What I did notice, from reading newspapers and online sources, was that the general consensus about him seemed to be that he was a nice enough guy, but just lacking ‘something’…and didn’t seem to realize that he wasn’t ever going to win government. His apparent blunders and poor decisions along the way aren’t necessarily what did him in (look at Trudeau’s record so far)…it was that intangible ‘something’ again.
        Poor leadership skills, perhaps? Lack of confidence? Overcompensating for his perceived weaknesses? Just too much of a ‘nice guy’ to be taken seriously? Whatever it was, Andrew Scheer seems to be in an eerily similar situation.
        I’ve been convinced by someone here to give Scheer another chance (or at least enough time to prove himself *worthy* of another chance)…we’ll see what he does with it, if the membership doesn’t take him out in the spring.

  4. joe says:

    What would you prefer? A thirty minute speech from Justin with Gerry Butts in the room taking notes?

    More parties should have meetings were diverse views are entertained.

    A series of long meetings is exactly what the Conservatives should have. In my opinion the Liberals, NDP, and Greens should do the same.

  5. Retired says:

    Warren, down here in Miami with a bunch of other Canadian neigbours. We were chatting about this.

    One pal from Brampton said Singh is not liked because people in general can’t handle any more taxes. And Singh was promising more. Meanwhile, Scheer = Ford and many people are already struggling. Ford’s cuts to elderly homecare was a massive issue in West GTA he said.

    Scheer needs to go.

    He won’t win even if Ford loses to a new centrist OLP leader.

    Harper, while not charismatic, had a certain gravitas to him.

    Conservatives need to get Scheer out as leader ASAP.

    No one likes Trudeau, but we had mucher higher taxes on one side, and big cuts on the other.

    People held their nose and voted Trudeau (and just hoped he would stop being a bully and a fool).

  6. It’s an easy decision. Do they want upside and to be seen as the logical-government-in-waiting? They can’t do that now with Scheer and won’t be able to with him in the future. It’s that simple.

    They need Ambrose and they need her yesterday!

    • Douglas W says:

      Ambrose is perceived as a pal of Justin’s. She ain’t runnin’.

      • Ronald O'Dowd says:

        Douglas,

        Those who believe that are really reaching. If you want a fine example of cross-party friendship, Michael and Lawrence Cannon immediately comes to mind.

        Who your friends are doesn’t count. What really matters is who can win the West and Ontario and thy name is Ambrose.

        • The Doctor says:

          Exactly. She has cred across the country, and that’s what ‘s needed. Scheer is toxic garbage in our three largest greater metropolitan areas and in the areas generally where there are the most votes and seats. Why is this even being debated?

  7. Chris S says:

    It’s better to let the whole membership decide about the fate of the leader anyway. I’m afraid I can’t agree with much, if any, of this. Nobody should have gotten the impression that Scheer was in imminent danger of losing his job. That seems to have been largely a media-driven false narrative and an excuse for not talking about Trudeau’s diminished status as Liberal leader and PM and the damage the Liberal brand has suffered. Right now, more than a Conservative leadership change, Canadians need a unified second party in parliament to hold the governing party in check. In the event of the failure of this government within the next year, which remains a strong possibility, there simply won’t be adequate time for the completion of a new CPC leadership race anyway. Scheer deserves a chance to show what he and his enlarged caucus can do as parliamentarians for a few months at the very least.

    • Nicole says:

      Wait so Peter McKay was paid by the media to make his comments? Because he’s the one who triggered this and it wasn’t shut down very well by the others.
      Scheer cannot let go of his socon principles and it kills him with women, especially those 45 and under. A new leader is needed and someone like Rona Ambrose should be leader of the CPC very soon. She will be the next PM if the CPC is smart enough to make it happen.

  8. Douglas W says:

    Diefenbaker couldn’t see the writing on the wall. Neither can Scheer.

  9. Bill Malcolm says:

    When you label yourself as a Conservative, you automatically exclude hope for a better future. All you do is praise the past and outdated social mores, because “it was better then”. Not much of a draw is it? Reactionary daydreaming out loud and tut tuts about “the way things are going”. What a fantastic way to draw in young people to your vision! Oh wait, you have none but advocating hard work nose to grindstone, avoiding unions because they’re socialist, trust employers to look out for your best interests ha ha, and other completely blank and dispiriting nonsense.

    So Conservative “vision” is limited to fiddling around with existing policy and withdrawing the few plums government had offered citizens, and instead preaching austerity, when miraculously that way savings from program cuts can be used to fund tax cuts for the rich. Who are always cherubic altruists intent on spreading their wealth and creating non-union jobs for the serfs, of course! Conservatives never were much for logic.

    Such an appealing political platform. The utter dullness of such an approach is what got Scheer diddly squat, along with his mien and inability to answer questions on the trot. He was completely incapable of expanding an answer already given with new analogies that might explain the point further. All he did was repeat the same words like an automaton. It really was a poor show. I mean the man’s a major downer in any case, and a Big Fibber to boot. So when he cannot be mentally agile enough to answer policy questions clearly, he struck me as someone who’d never been in a real argument with friends over some point or another – a social regressive retreating from human contact. A dullard. Just what we all wanted.

    There is nothing about conservatism that appeals in any case to most people, well 67% of them couldn’t be bothered to vote for them despite Trudeau’s major failings. And the many who did vote Conservative were acting more like a regional party, claiming the West was being ignored, and what’s climate change anyway, let’s dig up and process ever more poison.

    At least Progressive Conservatives could do progressive things by dint of their name. Mulroney managed quite a few. Today’s Conservatives are stuck in old ways and somehow proud of that. They have succumbed to the circuitous illogic of the Preston Manning school of regressive thought. So Harper was a great office manager, and that about summed him up beyond his ideology of putting down the masses. Hundreds of programs shut down when he came in, the austere schoolmaster with a birch to paddle the backsides of recalcitrant spoiled Canucks.

    Conservatism as practised in Canada is a dead end of nihilism. That’s what that bunch of bozos don’t seem to get. They need to do what they’re constitutionally incapable of – being in favour of the citizens and offering a better outlook for them than being the biggest gang of party-poopers around.

    • Eastern Rebellion says:

      Somebody voted for them. I believe they had more votes than any other party. And while are at it, perhaps you were a fan of the last regime here in Ontario? You know the ones that went from $136 billion to $308 billion. What a wonderful legacy we are leaving to those young people you were talking about. I’m sure when they are giving up 70% of their income in taxes to pay for the interest payments on that debt, they will very thankful to us for bequeathing that wonderful legacy to them. Its seems some are very quick to criticize the “old economy” of hydrocarbon extraction. That economy actually paid something, more than anyone can say about the so-called “green economy”. Oh, and many of those jobs were unionized, by the way.

    • Fred from BC says:

      “When you label yourself as a Conservative, you automatically exclude hope for a better future. All you do is praise the past and outdated social mores, because “it was better then”.

      …and that’s where I stopped reading, right there. If you really believe that tired old left-wing BS, why should anyone take you seriously enough to read more of it?

    • The Doctor says:

      Among other things, Bill, your post completely ignores the difference between fiscal vs. social conservatism. There are tons of Tory voters in Canada who are socially very progressive, pro-pot, pro-choice, pro-gay marriage etc.

      A related point is that another split within conservative movements is libertarian conservatives vs. social/authoritarian conservatives.

      Your post attacks a distorted, reductionist caricature, not a reality.

  10. Eastern Rebellion says:

    It’s a bit early to be running an obituary column IMHO. Scheer has to focus on smoothing the ruffled feathers in caucus, and getting the group back on track. In any event, nothing is going to happen until the leadership review next April. I’m not sure there are that many star candidates anymore. In case everybody hasn’t noticed, running for office now is akin to a trial by ordeal. Under the current circumstances, why would someone who is successful in business or academia want to run for the CPC? Why would they want all of the details of their personal life exposed, and why would they want to have to exlain and defend their beliefs constantly? And in addition, be made to feel they are constantly under attack for doing so. I also don’t think the Liberals will wait that long to go back to the polls. If the CPC have divisive leadership campaign, and end up with a compromise leader, I suspect the Liberals will smell blood and feel they can call an election and win another majority.

  11. Gilbert says:

    It’s disappointing that the Conservatives didn’t win, but there’s no need to panic. Voters in Ontario need to understand the state of the province’s finances when Doug Ford took over, and the Conservatives need to give more attention to the issue of climate change. It seems they underestimated the importance that voters attach to it in Ontario and Quebec.

    They also need to make it clear that if Alberta and Saskatchewan suffer, the transfer payments they send to Quebec will decrease. I think the Conservatives had good ideas, but they didn’t communicate them so effectively. They let the Liberals and the media set the narrative instead of doing it themselves. They’ll be more prepared next time.

  12. Mike Jeffries says:

    I agree Scheer cannot be repaired. He has been defined in the minds of Canadians as a old fashioned social conservative from another era.
    If the CPC wants to expand its base and win they need a blue Tory leader — a Thatcherite! One who understands the right of individuals to run their own lives, as free as possible from the micromanagement of the state. Thus the silly question of “is gay a sin” becomes irrelevant!

    • Pedant says:

      Oh what I would give for a Canadian Thatcher! The closest thing to that Canada ever saw was Mike Harris. Kevin O’Leary might have been that but he is way too smarmy and arrogant. If you think about it, the Quebec dairy cartel is somewhat akin to the public sector union mobsters that Thatcher disposed of. Of course a Thatcherite agenda wouldn’t win much in Quebec, but I can imagine a good number of GTA upper middle class residents who would sign on.

      • Mike Jeffries says:

        “ wouldn’t win much in Quebec”?
        Quebec needs to decide if they want Canada or not. If they think separation is cheaper then then decide. Enough to Ottawa pandering to them.

        • Mike,

          Quebec only stays because of the Western cash. If the West can rightly modify equalization (which I’ll believe when I see it) , we’re gone. IMHO, modification won’t happen cause it’s not in the hypocritical interest of the recipients — and that’s not just Quebec.

          • Mike Jeffries says:

            “we’re gone”!
            What part will be gone? If Canada is divisible so is what is now called Quebec divisible. The present provincial boundaries will not necessarily become the country of Quebec! And btw Alberta is bankrupt!

          • Ronald O'Dowd says:

            Mike,

            Of course they will because Canadians have no stomach for a civil war in Quebec and domestic terrorism across English Canada. Either Quebec or Alberta goes first and then the other follows. And no one will be carving up Alberta either.

            One day Canadians will ask why and historians will say it all started with four numbers: 1-9-8-2…

  13. Robert White says:

    The CONs had a seven hour caucus meeting to autopsy the failed hours they spent on the election. They started out with a second rate plan & platform running with a ‘dullard’ & hope that dullards without a plan or platform could win an election.

    If politicians that lacked personalities scored hirer than those that actually have personalities we would have seen an election win. Conservatives can only win an election with the right plan and the right leader to front the plan for the party.

    Ambrose is not the CON saviour for Steven Harper’s one hit wonder of a political party. The only way to power for the Conservatives will be through Liberal self destruction.

    Dalton McGuinty could become Liberal PM ahead of the laggard CONs if he set his mind to it.

    I still think I could work wonders with the dullard Scheer if I could talk to him for ten minutes. Classical Conditioning worked wonders for Professor Emeritus Ivan Pavlov so it should work wonders on Andrew Scheer if history is a guide.

    RW

  14. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    What Trudeau should but won’t do — because he simply doesn’t have the guts — is offer JP an independent Senate seat. That would be a move in the right direction by tacitly admitting catechismic error. But he’s not smart, or politically sophisticated enough, to do exactly that.

  15. David says:

    As for Andrew Scheer, I don’t think he’s electable as PM for many reasons. He’s entitled to his views, but you have to govern for all of Canada, not just a select few. When he speaks in public, he looks awkward. Doesn’t have that “it” that makes you want to join in on his cause and follow him into the future. The people around him did a bad job running the campaign.

    The CPC caucus meeting made it look like they still don’t get it. “It was just our communication that went wrong in the campaign”. Just like in 2015 when they lost the election. It’s about electability, and Scheer just isn’t. The old saying “those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. They are on the road to becoming Canada’s permanent Official Opposition Party. They have to be a more appealing option in places east of Manitoba, especially Ontario. They’ve gone away from the centre-right and moved further right, which is not where Canadian society is and never has been.

    • Chris says:

      The center was (and still is) wide open, just begging for some adult, decent, non-preachy leader to pour his party into (could be Conservatives OR post-Trudeau Liberals). The Tories stayed to the right because of their inflexible, un-interesting leader and his backroom boys.

    • Fred from BC says:

      “They’ve gone away from the centre-right and moved further right”

      They have? What exactly did you consider to be “further right” in the CPC platform?

      I could have sworn that Scheer was doing his best imitation of a
      ‘Progressive Conservative’ (aka Liberal Lite). I think he was just indistinguishable from the Liberals, policy-wise.

      • Ronald O'Dowd says:

        Fred,

        What counts is do they like you enough to vote for you? Harper in 2011, Yes. Trudeau in 2015, Yes. Trudeau, incredibly, in 2019, Yes. Scheer, No from the get-go. Trudeau didn’t save Trudeau. Scheer did that all by his awesome self.

        • Fred from BC says:

          I agree, Ronald. Scheer seems as hapless to me as Stephan Dion did; and yes, I realize how smart and accomplished Dion was, but he just didn’t *look* like a leader, did he? Ditto for Scheer. Someone earlier mentioned ‘gravitas’, and they were correct: you either have it, or you don’t.

  16. Kevin says:

    The Conservatives had a solid, bread-and-butter, platform focussed on affordability for ordinary folks, starting with a tax rate cut for lowest bracket; yet they were vilified for “appealing to the rich.” They had a creative, outside-the-box environmental plan that apparently not a single member of the media actually read. They had a young and approachable leader who was nonetheless a parliamentary veteran known and respected enough by his peers to have served as Deputy Speaker & later Speaker; yet he is being vilified as some unknown and risky entity. My take-home from this is that the media narrative is significantly detatched from reality.

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