Back in March I drew your attention to an article by Canadian Tory insider Ken Boessenkool which argued, in the wake of an election which saw the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) pick up 26 seats, that the party needed to go all in on environmentalism.
Vote for us, the Conservatives said, and we’ll cut your taxes.
Vote for us, the Liberals said, and we will address climate change.
This worked wonders across western Canada, in rural Ontario, around Quebec City, and in a smattering of ridings in Atlantic Canada. But new polling for Clean Prosperity conducted by Conservative pollster Andrew Enns from Leger suggests climate change was a key reason why the Conservatives failed to gain ground in the 905.
I pointed out at the time that this was specious reasoning, since the Conservatives are less likely than ever to win in the Greater Toronto area because of the collapse of the New Democratic Party as a viable electoral (and vote-splitting) force, not to mention the fact that the polling he cited was done by the carbon-tax activist group Canadians for Clean Prosperity. It isn't that surprising that their conclusion was Canadians Love Carbon Taxes!
Shockingly, Erin O'Toole, purported co-front runner in the CPC Leadership race, seems not to have read my post. (He must have skipped his press clippings that morning). That is, he sounds like he's going all in on the Boessenkool theory. At last week's leadership debate, his opponents hammered O'Toole's plan to introduce a "national industrial regulatory and pricing regime" as being a carbon tax-like scheme that would harm consumers and the oil and gas industry alike.
O'Toole [replied that] the party needs a serious environmental platform for the next election. "I'm the only one who has a detailed plan. It's disappointing to see Mr. MacKay attack that. If we're not clear on the environment in the next election ... we're not going to be able to get pipelines built," O'Toole said.
It's a surprising tack for True Blue O'Toole to take. His whole campaign is built upon contrasting himself with Mr. Progressive Conservative, Peter MacKay, but here he is going all in on alienating the west. Maybe he figures he can get away with it because they have no where else to go -- what are they going to do, vote Liberal?
But O'Toole is counting his chickens before they're hatched. He isn't leader yet, and western Canadian party members can still give that title to someone else, perhaps Derek Sloan or Leslyn Lewis.
Hopefully they do something to make it clear to O'Toole or MacKay or whoever wins that the party's base can't be ignored.