, 11.16.2021 02:46 PM

My latest: the Tory civil wars, 2021 version

With thousands of British Columbians facing dangerous flooding, inflation soaring to 20-year highs, and the virus surging again, it’s comforting to know that the Conservative Party of Canada is focused on the timing of a leadership review.

But, really, that’s just business as usual for the Tories, isn’t it? They never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

They’d rather talk about themselves. Not you, Canada.

It’s nothing new, but it’s still plenty weird. They’re the only credible alternative to the worst prime minister in a century. They held him to a minority government, twice, when it looked certain he’d do much better. They have representation in every region and every province.

But their eyes are trained, laser-like, on their own navels.

There they were, again, this week. A Conservative senator from Saskatchewan, Denise Batters, announced the launch of a slick online petition to ditch her leader, Erin O’Toole.

This writer has gotten to know Batters over the past couple years, and can attest to the fact that she is no bloodthirsty Paul Martin-style mutineer. She’s a sensitive and thoughtful person, and therefore harder for Team O’Toole to demonize.

And she’s a fan of irony. “Mr. O’Toole flip-flopped on policies core to our party within the same week, the same day, and even within the same sentence. The members didn’t have a say on that, but we must have one on his leadership,” Batters declared in a statement she released to the media.

This is where the irony part comes in. Said the good senator: “We can’t afford to see our party ripped apart again. When we’re divided, the Liberals win.”

Except, um, publicly calling for your party’s leader to be fired is the dictionary definition of “divided.” That’s what “ripping part” literally is.

Irony meter: Exploded.

Look, this space carries no brief for Ever O’Terrible. He’s remarkably unremarkable, and he prefers to have multiple positions on single issues — carbon taxes, assault weapons, vaccinating his candidates, you name it. The federal Conservative leader is the Chinese food buffet of Canadian politics — an hour after trying him out, you’re feeling hungry again.

But declaring a Tory civil war, right now, is a really bad idea. Three reasons. First, as noted above, it’s a minority Parliament. With the able assistance of The Prime Minister Without A Portfolio, Jagmeet Singh, Justin Trudeau could engineer an election in a snap.

Secondly, as was also noted above, there’s more pressing issues to be pressed. I mean, Senator Batters, have you looked at the footage of what B.C. is experiencing this week? At all?

Thirdly, we in the media positively love every skirmish in every civil war, because if something bleeds, it leads, etc. Writing about political fratricide is a lot more fun than writing about boring old policy stuff.

But you won’t like the result, Team Tory. This writer was a frontline warrior in the Jean Chretien-Paul Martin wars, which went on for years. I personally had a lot of fun, because I’m a walking Irish pub fight. But did anyone else win?

The Liberal Party of Canada sure didn’t. For the political sin of washing its dirty laundry in public, the public put the Grits in the penalty box for a decade.

Will the Conservatives listen to me? Of course not. Nobody listens to me.

Even so, you’d be well-advised to exercise extreme caution, Senator Batters et al. Wars are easy to start.

They’re not ever easy to stop.

— Warren Kinsella was chairman of the federal Liberal war rooms in 1993 and 2000

37 Comments

  1. PJH says:

    I’m listening….and I dont think Ms. Batters approach is correct. Full disclosure: I did not support Mr. O’Toole for the leadership of the CPOC
    No great fan o’ Mr. O’Toole, obviously….but he won the leadership, and should be able to lead the party, good, bad or indifferent, until such time a bona fide leadership review is held
    Why Ms. Batters feels the need to publicly eviscerate Mr. O’Toole at this time is baffling to me, and to others in the party, many of whom were also not supporters of Mr. O’Toole during the leadership race….My two cents….

    • Ronald O'Dowd says:

      PJH,

      This is the second petition and both won’t amount to a hill of beans. Take it from someone who lived it — and also enjoyed it tremendously in 2005 — those were the good old days! But caucus by and large have made a bargain with the leader. So, Erin has nothing to worry about and the party will make damned sure they’ll be no early leadership review. In short, end of story.

      • Ronald O'Dowd says:

        The social conservatives will call it a Faustian Bargin. The rest of us, not so much. I was for MacKay last time and no matter who runs next time, I’ll be for MacKay again. It’s called giving your word and respecting it.

        • Ronald O'Dowd says:

          Bargain…

        • Phil in London says:

          Ron give your head a very long shake …Please!!!!!!

          I remember little Petey MacKay giving David Orchard his word in writing. How did that work out? Is that the kind of word you admire? If so hop back on the liberal bandwagon.

          McKay may be the one out of touch spoiled brat elite snob that can make Turdo look compassionate. He Was out of touch in Harper’s cabinet where he was awarded too damn much compared to merit.

          I’d literally swallow cianide and put a check mark beside the liberal candidate if Elmer’s boy was the only other choice.

          Give me Jason Kenney any day. Give me blockwell Day, give me Paul fucking Martin in a comeback role but please don’t give me this clown.

          • Phil,

            I also remember Orchard and yes Peter broke his word. Hopefully, if he has not already done so, one day he’ll personally apologize to Orchard, as he should. That definitely needs to be done.

            But Phil, ask yourself what Peter’s actions led to: in short, Peter, as co-founder of the CPC and indirectly, moving the ball forward so that Harper could become leader. ( I was against the merger but that is neither here nor there, now is it.)

            As to Peter’s cabinet performance: I would give him a C in Foreign Affairs but at least an A- in Defence. (And yes, I heard the story about Peter, Josée and the good Howard Australians.)

            Point is: people change, grow in experience and temperament. The Peter I see today is a far cry from the Peter I first met when Belinda was taking on Harper.

            I have full confidence in Peter and as far as I’m concerned, no other front-bench candidate can start a significant wave in Atlantic Canada, period.

            I want to see an impressive wave out of AC, à la Mulroney, that then picks up speed in QC, ON and then the West can decide whether they want a majority government. They’ll likely get that with Peter. With Kenney, not so much.

            So, we’ll see if Peter gets in next time. Party members will have their say and to use a Trumpism, we’ll all get to see what happens.

    • Westcoastjim says:

      PJH

      O’Toole only won the leadership because of the bizarre vote tabulation. Leslyn Lewis got the most votes and came in third.

      Plus O’Toole repeatedly abandoned fundamental Conservative policy in his big for power. Now had he won all of his detractors would be proclaiming him a genius as they greedily thrust their snots into the trough – but he didn’t.

      The only reason for the Conservatives not to punt his pathetic carcass high and hard into the night is that all of the alternatives are pathetic. Leslyn? Within 30 days of a campaign being called she would drive the Conservatives into third or perhaps fourth place in the polls. Pierre? Canadians would be incapable of stopping laughing at his histrionic and hilarious fits of passion.

  2. Mr. O’Toole has done something to really get under the collective skins of a number of his party members. It is my understanding that the Conservatives are obligated to have a leadership review at some point after losing an election. I think it should be sooner as opposed to later. He has to address the challengers. For what it’s worth, he doesn’t do anything for me. I suspect he will find a way to hang around, and get trounced again in a couple of years. I guess we’ll see.

    • Ronald O'Dowd says:

      ER,

      Well, the review is scheduled for the convention in 2023 but conventions can be “postponed”. You know, “force majeur”. LOL.

  3. Robert White says:

    Poilievere is O’Toole’s replacement in waiting if a mutiny manifests, but if you keep throwing the leadership under the bus after one attempt to warm up to Canadians then we will continue evidencing leadership review contests whereby the perennial loser is the entire attempt at a Big Tent Party.

    If you cannot fall in behind the leadership the leader will continue to fail serially YoY. One cannot use two captains on one ship. If you don’t like the captain throw her/him overboard. The Conservative Party Canada does not run a smooth sailing ship due to problems amongst the crew of miscreants & scallywags.

    Poilievere is loyal to O’Toole so it appears everyone else should act the same way lest the effort is wasted.

    Liberals would like the Cons to get mired in a weak leadership review.

    One needs to remember that Liberals are the enemy due to their structural inflation which is intractable.

    RW

  4. Ted Hamill says:

    Batters, is she one of Harper’s gifts that keep on giving, one of the batch of totally unsuitable senators that he appointed of the ilk of Duffy and Beyak and that guy Justin beat at boxing? Good for him to leave a permanent stink in the Conservative Party.

  5. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Warren,

    IMHO, here’s the crucial difference: you guys brutally go at it while in power. We go for the gusto while in opposition. Put another way, we act foolish and stupid while the Liberals act like they are insane and blow themselves right out of power. Way beyond a cardinal sin.

  6. Sean says:

    Rank and file party members who imagine that the public gives a damn what they think… are DEAD… WRONG…

    If you want people to listen to your opinion… go join a book club at your public library or sign up for a philosophy course at your local community college… don’t waste your time joining a modern political party.

    It’s all about the leader and no one cares about the internal workings of political parties anymore.

    Line up behind your leader or STFU and park your vote somewhere else if its really that important to you.

  7. Pedant says:

    To say the least, I wasn’t impressed when O’Toole joined in with the leftists in admonishing the Air Canada CEO’s lack of French.

    Rampant inflation and a housing crisis, and he’s joining with the leftists in meddling in the affairs of a private company, FFS! And yes, Air Canada is a private company (albeit publicly traded). The government’s stake is only 6%.

    It was a perfect setup for him to elevate himself and say something along the lines of:

    “It is not the job of the government of Canada to lecture a private business on the language skills of its CEO, and frankly I find it obscene that we are even dicussing this when millions of hardworking Canadians are struggling due to the soaring cost of living and the housing crisis.”

    Imagine how much applause and “hell yeah! damn straight!” reactions he would’ve gotten from the working class across the country??

    What is it about the current Tory war room that they can’t seize these moments?

    • Robert White says:

      French Canada and Quebec culture are treasure of Canada to myself. My self-identity is an amalgam of French culture, English culture, and First Nations culture.

      If I was the BIG cheese we would have official trilingualism whereby Cree would likely be the third language of Parliament, and Canada. In brief, Quebec language, and the French spoken word is of paramount importance to federal leadership ambition.

      There should be no more alienation of Quebec or French Canada. Quebec and the French language is not something mutually exclusive to my own existence as a CANUCK.

      RW

      • Pedant says:

        I live in France, bilingual, and lifelong francophile (though more of the continental variety).

        I still couldn’t give a shit whether the CEO of Air Canada speaks french. That’s for Air Canada’s board of directors and shareholders to deal with, if they consider it an issue.

    • Pedant,

      I’m with you up to a point. Sure, the priorities you emphasize are clearly the ones the leader should be pushing. Absolutely.

      But this bilingual thing with Air Canada CEOs has gone back at least five CEOs and as the so-called national carrier, common decency suggested quite a while back that the CEO should be at least fluently bilingual. It’s similar to all that nonsense surrounding SCOC appointments. Why some think you can name a justice who doesn’t understand a word of French is way beyond me.

      But again, you hit the nail on the head about priorities, as Dion would say. Fortunately, our B OF C governor is tapering — and well he should be. Get to zero as fast as possible and then inflation will be reduced. Otherwise, forget it.

      (I digress but as far as the FOMC is concerned, as the explicit authors of human misery, they make me think fondly of firing squads.)

      • Pedant says:

        Ordinarily I don’t criticize politicians for talking about issues that are objectively “less important” since there will ALWAYS be something else more important and people can deal with different issues at once.

        The Air Canada thing was just so idiotic, to have all the high-ranking members of the three main parties, plus a good portion of the media, whinging about the language skills of the CEO of a private company when we’re in the middle of the biggest inflationary wave in 30 years.

        re: SCOC – that’s a tricky one. I agree that bilingual skills would be helpful there, and since it’s a public institution that is supposed to serve the public interest it’s certainly not unreasonable to raise the issue. However, the kind of nuanced comprehension required for legal analysis requires a native-like level of fluency which, if made a mandatory requirement, would essentially block anyone who wasn’t raised in a bilingual household. Which would basically mean most of our SC justices would come from the island of Montreal. I don’t think that’s going to fly.

        • The Doctor says:

          I get the feeling that some people instinctually regard Air Canada as akin to a Crown Corporation, when of course it ceased being anything like one a long time ago. I think it’s that attitude that’s partly driving the rhetoric. I agree, where do you draw the line? Rogers? Telus? CP Rail? CN Rail? The list of potential targets is large.

    • JH says:

      For the most part CPC’s HQ crowd have become elitist and self-serving. You’d almost think they were Liberals. I’m a PMSH kind of guy, so say piss on them all. But then again, they don’t care what people like me think, so we’re relegated to the political wilderness.

      • Pedant says:

        Your comment reminded me of this classic moment from early in Harper’s tenure:

        https://www.cp24.com/stars-blast-harper-s-assertion-that-canadians-can-t-relate-to-artists-1.327698

        I remember well the illuminati and the privileged Westmount / Rosedale / Point Grey set going nuts that Harper criticized rich people at fancy galas complaining about taxpayer grants.

      • JH,

        Nice one.

        If you really are, a PMSH type of guy at heart, you won’t let this lie. Every day I wait for Harper to speak publicly like Mulroney did. All former PC and CPC PMs have already earned that right and frankly, it would do a lot of good to, at the very least, thoroughly shake up this ineffective OLO. Trudeau is laughing so hard, I’m surprised he hasn’t dropped dead. Meanwhile, I doubt we’ll ever hear from Clark or Campbell but it would be helpful, although Joe is not too fond of this party.

        • JH says:

          RO’D
          Knowing PMSH I expect he’s biding his time. Counter-productive now with the shite hitting the fan from all sides and Justin’s Journos doomed to repeating PMO Pablum and dumping on CPC because they have nothing else to write about and that’s how they maintain access. If they didn’t obey, Katie would cut them off at the knees.
          I expect we’ll hear from PMSH when he judges the time to be opportune.

  8. Douglas W says:

    O’Toole, in capable of getting the job done in September.

    Still wants to hold onto his job.

    Still can’t connect with Canadians.

    Too bad he doesn’t have enough sense to step down.

    • Douglas,

      Warren, like pretty much always, hit the nail right on the head: we can’t change leader in a minority parliament. The Trudeau Liberals with their willing acolyte, Jagmeet, will engineer an election and this time, Himself is bound to finally get his majority and then he can shaft Singh, instead of us for a change. Sad and beyond pathetic but there it is.

    • RKJ says:

      Douglas,

      I fully agree with your points. O’Toole was on his way to victory then blew it with tone deaf traits relating to the assault gun issue and C-19 vaccinations. I also agree he doesn’t seem to have the sense to step down. He’s the perfect Liberal kicking boy – no one listens to him already, regardless of what the liberals do.

      • RKJ,

        No question that Erin blew it royally on Assault-Style-Weapons and C-19 MP Vaccinations. But in my book, the only important question is…who in the OLO and the party were summarily fired after this unfortunate spectacle??? NO ONE, that’s who.

        • RKJ says:

          Unfortunately Ronald, the Opposition Leader Office staff are chosen by the Leader – O’Toole wears this completely. If he didn’t have the sense to understand going mute on assault guns would not go away as an issue, he completely lacks the common sense to lead the party and the country. Disruption in his own caucus is now showing. We can’t teach away wilful stupidity.

          Sadly, for Canada, we’re left with Mr. Blackface.

        • Douglas W says:

          Libs are not in fear of O’Toole.

          Which is why the CPC needs to find someone who knows how to win.

  9. Gilbert says:

    Erin O’Toole needs to show he has principles and not just follow polls. I don’t think the Conservatives need a civil war. It’s counterproductive. Regarding Air Canada, the CEO should use some French while speaking in Montreal. It is after all an official language. On ne doit pas ignorer la langue française!

  10. Phil in London says:

    I was a reformer under Preston Manning and was very active in our riding at a time when many in the PC party were frankly arrogant about being the best party to lose to Liberals.

    Cooler heads on all sides prevailed and a shotgun wedding led to a number of years of very respectable conservative government under Stephen Harper.

    Apparently that movement was more Harper smart than conservative smart.

    Today 20 plus years later I’m very much a more moderate conservative but I’m convinced there needs to be another divorce of blue factions. This gang ain’t ready to govern and too stupid to realize they need to move toward the middle.

    Maybe 4 right wing rump parties could be better?

    • Phil,

      You know how it pains me to say this but there’s no way in hell we’ll ever win again if we don’t stay united. That’s why I’m back because there is no greater political priority in Canada than to kick the Liberals’ sorry asses to the curb and neither a new PCP, Reform or Alliance party has a hope in hell of ever doing that. It’s the enemy, of my enemy, is my friend. I simply can’t abide the Liberals any longer. Christ, I’d even put Harper back in there if that’s what it took to kick SmugAssTM once and for all to the Outremont-Westmount curb.

      • Phil in London says:

        Ron, I agree, staying united is the only way that blue beats red.

        That means park the Peter McKay is great bullshit and get behind the guy that was chosen OVER McKay. If “McKay” is the answer the question has to be “Who else can we choose to lose to turdo?”

        That faction feeling betrayed and being a pain in the ass to this leader are not going to fall behind Elmer’s Boy, because they believe that the PC party of Joe Clark, Jean Charest and Petey were a fifth place party in the commons and would remain one today.

        IF O’Toole were only fighting other parties he might not have half the struggle to map out a path to victory. McKay couldn’t win a leadership that was handed to him (again) as a front runner in a pandemic era leadership campaign because he was a shallow flake like the other guy you want him to run against.

        FFS O’Toole had the difficult realization that a true blue campaign would have buried the conservatives, possibly becoming third party or at least less seats than the Dippers and Bloc combined. NO ONE was going to elect a hard ass right wing party as the pandemic evolved. He recognized that and moved to the middle.

        That pandemic evolution overlapped his tenure. I think people need to remember the liberals were headed to a majority as the writ dropped.

        The failures of the campaign were getting caught off step on gun control and vaccines. These moves catered to the very people that now want him out. Those morons are not going to vote for a Peter McKay they are going to want to elect someone to the extreme right of Pierre Pollivere.

        McKay is an actor much like the clown prince. Let’s not confuse his lack of substance, his unwillingness to stay on when Harper retired (leaving him heir apparent) and his out of touch lifestyle with some sort of electoral dynamo.

        I don’t know why conservatives seem to think that they can simply choose a leader and march to victory. They don’t have a great track record; they first chose Joseph Clark over Brian Mulroney when Bob Stanfield folded up his tent. The Alliance members were smart enough to replace their very competent Preston Manning with a shiny toy leader in Blockwell Day. Meanwhile PCs chose to AGAIN elect a failed old dud named Joe Who to combat that choice and both watched Chrétien eat their lunch. When Clark finally had his Kevorkian moment and realized he was never going to win, that braintrust turned to McKay. Mr. Harper who you seem so leery of was what the party needed a policy wonk that took no bullshit and got his alliance MPs to fall into line. He also more or less said fuck the PCs who don’t want to be tory first and he WON. I’d take Harper again in a heartbeat.

        Newsflash, we may not like the left wing parties but they have traction with the electorate who are only too happy to vote Liberal if it means no conservative government. You need to first get elected to move the middle. Harper understood that. This Playing rent a leader ain’t gonna get you there.

        O’Toole has made mistakes but that potato farmer ain’t going to hit the ground scrubbed clean and ready to go. He will take that 119 seats and cobble it into a 35 seat rump that loses many western seats to someone who hopefully isn’t Mad Max Bernier but who can speak to their brand of conservatism.

        What’s worse if you elect a red tory, you will lose that western base PERMANENTLY. You won’t win shit with that scenario.

        • Phil,

          MacKay is my choice in the next leadership race but he’s no political God. As for right now, I’m not advocating for a leadership change even though a blind, deaf and dumb monkey would have had more political common sense on weapons and vaccines than O’Toole does. Like I said, where’s the caucus resolution supporting Erin and asking him to continue? Where, indeed…

          As for who believes what, there are no political certainties in politics so no predetermined outcome can be credibly predicted under any party leader. My view, yours or anyone else’s is an I think thing and nothing more.

          Maybe you’re right, maybe you’re wrong but Harper’s so-called move to the middle was short lived given his conduct and policy decisions in the 2015 campaign. In short, Harper blew the party right out of the water, not that which passes more or less for a prime minister in 2021. Harper played Russian roulette and blew his damned political brains out.

          Meanwhile, Harper is hardly in my top five but I will say this: choose any of those provincial yoyos now in power and you can forget Ontario and Quebec. Those people are quite simply anathema to central Canada and they bloody well know it but hey, that won’t stop them from running next time either. Given a choice between only Harper and those provincial peons, I’ll take Harper but with reservations. LOL.

  11. Robert White says:

    Wasn’t there a French waiter in Orwell’s _Down and Out in Paris and London_ 1933 related to you, Pedant?

    Now that I know you live in France I’m thinking stereotypical ‘French waiter’ temperament.

    Read Orwell’s Down & Out you’d like it for sure I can tell.

    Robert

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