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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.