About Time: O'Toole Gets the Boot

By a vote of 73 to 45, Erin O'Toole has been ousted as leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. He had served only seventeen months in the position. Rumors of an anti-O'Toole revolt have been going around for days, along with whispers that O'Toole was working frantically behind the scenes to convince (some would say "bully") members of his caucus to sign loyalty pledges in the hopes of warding off the impending challenge. But to no avail.

The definitive vote was forced by 35 MPs unhappy with O’Toole’s leadership after last year’s disappointing election results. But the root of the anger goes back much further. O’Toole won the leadership claiming to be a “True Blue” conservative — a contrast with Peter MacKay, who despite holding senior cabinet roles in Stephen Harper’s government, was labelled by the O’Toole campaign as a red Tory.

Yet once the leadership was secured, O’Toole took the party in a much different direction. After pledging to scrap the Liberals’ carbon levy, O’Toole promised a version of his own — which he steadfastly denied was a “tax,” despite it applying a surcharge on purchases like gas.

A look back on all of The Pipeline's coverage of O'Toole, from before he was elected leader until today will point you in the right direction. As we wrote in our final piece before last September's federal election (entitled "But is O'Toole Any Better?"), O'Toole had won the "race for Conservative leader running as 'True Blue O'Toole,' a patriotic military man who was going to take the fight to Justin Trudeau. But ever since, he's gone out of his way to remake the CPC in his own Red Tory image." He'd softened his party's position on abortion, guns, conscience protections for healthcare workers, and environmentalism, and generally adopted the characteristic views of the Laurentian Elite, views that were already well-represented in parliament, specifically in the Liberal Party, the NDP, and the Green Party.

Erin, we hardly knew ye.

His flip-flopping on these points were egregious, and on environmentalism most of all. While running for leadership O'Toole had signed a pledge saying:

I, Erin O’Toole, promise that, if elected Prime Minister of Canada, I will: Immediately repeal the Trudeau carbon tax; and, reject any future national carbon tax or cap-and-trade scheme.

But when it came time to for him to actually run for prime minister, he put forward his own carbon tax in all but name, part of a jam-packed, all-in, environmentalist plan that included an electric vehicle mandate, a net-zero by 2050 pledge, and which "finalized and improved" the Trudeau government's Clean Fuel Standard (also known as the second carbon tax). This was a particular own-goal for the leader of a party whose base of support is located in the areas of the country that are most dependent upon the oil and gas industry.

And if it didn't win O'Toole much support among his base, it downright frosted his colleagues in Parliament, most of whom found out about it from the press. They weren't even briefed on this massive change in party policy. It's a good bet that all these months later, a large number of MPs who voted against O'Toole had that fact in mind.

In the end, however, he lost the election, largely because he failed to give Canadians anything to vote for. Especially since he wasn't all that against the Trudeau policies regarding energy and the environment in the first place.

Indeed, throughout his tenure as party leader, O'Toole struggled to find any kind of a footing that would enable him to resist Trudeau's agenda. His feeble response to the Freedom Convoy has encapsulated his problems these past several months, at once desperate to hold onto power and terrified of offending the sensibilities of, well, Liberal voters. For the first time since he became leader, there was energy on his side of the ideological spectrum, and Trudeau's Liberals were off balance. But O'Toole was anxious about being too supportive of what you might call the wrong sort of Canadians, eventually agreeing to meet with some of the truckers, but not the organizers of the protest, which Carson Jerima rightly points out was "a transparent attempt to get credit for supporting the rally and also credit for not supporting it." Of course, no one was fooled.

Au revoir, O'Toole.

As the Wall Street Journal noted yesterday, O'Toole has richly deserved his fate:

Mr. O’Toole’s chief mistake was gambling the September 2021 election on an opportunistic shift leftward. He lost anyway, spoiling the best chance to toss Mr. Trudeau from office. Post-defeat, Conservative Party fundraising crashed...Mr. O’Toole has met with truckers but warned late Monday night that his Conservative critics, some of whom have embraced the protest, offer a “dead-end” and are “angry, negative, and extreme.”

Canada needs a better opposition. The Liberals, long considered Canada’s “natural governing party,” won’t be defeated by mimicry. Unseating them typically requires a formidable Conservative leader. So far, Mr. O’Toole hasn’t shown the right stuff.

Before the vote John Robson wrote:

[O'Toole] stands for nothing but office. And his caucus has had enough because it’s bad being an unprincipled winner, but pathetic being an unprincipled loser.

That's as good a summation of his leadership and its end as anyone could come up with.

What comes next for the Conservatives? John Williamson of New Brunswick has announced his intention to stand for interim leader. He seems like a solid choice. Then there will be a race for a permanent leader, and The Pipeline will be all over it. With Justin on the ropes, now was precisely the right time for the CPC to depose its ineffectual leader. Canada is reeling from fascism disguised as Covid mitigation, and its critical energy industries are suffering from elite contempt and malign regulation; a new strong, forceful, and patriotic leader is precisely what's needed now.

The various aspirants who emerge should take a page from Florida governor Ron DeSantis' book and effectively and immediately form a kind of shadow cabinet or even a government-in-exile against the fleabagging Trudeau to give traditional Canadians something to rally 'round besides the Maple Leaf flag. Hopefully they will have learned from the Erin O'Toole experience, though I wouldn't put it past them to get into office and make all the same mistakes all over again.

Trudeau Holds On and Other Election Notes

Just an update on yesterday's election in Canada, where the vote count is still ongoing, but the result is more or less determined -- it looks like it will be a Liberal minority government... just like last time. It is, in fact, hard to overstate how like last time it is:

Two quick notes to follow-up on my election article this past weekend.

First, it's nice to see the enviro-activist Tory insiders I mentioned --  Ken Boessenkool, Mark Cameron, and Howard Anglin -- wind up with egg on their faces. Their solution to the outcome of the 2019 election, when the CPC picked up the vast majority of seats west of Ontario, winning the national popular vote but losing overall, was to encourage the party to "Go Green," with the intention of flipping seats in the Greater Toronto Area. Well, the Conservatives went all in on their advice, and even so it looks like the Liberals have once again swept the GTA. Nice work, fellas.

Second, as Holly Doan points out, current estimates peg turnout at less than 59 percent of eligible voters, lowest in Canadian history and about 8 percent lower than the 2019 election. Some of this is Covid anxiety of course, but even so, this suggests a dispirited electorate, unhappy with the options available to them. Not that we should be surprised by this -- The Toronto Star reported a few days ago that Conservative campaigns were seeing a notable lack of enthusiasm, especially in Ontario, where some ridings were unable to attract more than a handful of volunteers. For all of the belly-aching about the populist People's Party of Canada splitting the vote and tipping right-of-center seats to the Liberals, had the CPC given voters a reason to go to the polls for them, they could probably have sent Trudeau packing.

In my piece I suggested an approach or two that might have been successful -- namely really representing the views of their base rather than running from them and pushing back on the Liberals' environmental policies for the pain they cause the average Canadian. This approach might still work in the future, especially as Trudeau's policies continue to damage the economy and slow recovery, post-Covid. But I don't think Erin O'Toole is capable of making that case.

My advice to the Tories would be: give old Erin the boot, tear the party down to the studs (a different kind of Great Reset, if you will), and start over by playing to your strengths. It isn't like you've got much to lose.

The Wearin' of the Green

The Conservative Party of Canada are having their (virtual) policy convention this weekend, and one potential inclusion in their new platform is causing quite a stir in that country's monolithically left-wing media. This CBC headline tells the tale: "Conservatives debate whether to declare that 'climate change is real' at policy convention."

The language recognizing the reality of climate change was put forward by the Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier riding association, which added that, "[w]e believe that Canadian businesses classified as highly polluting need to take more responsibility in implementing measures that will reduce their GHG emissions and need to be accountable for the results."

The CBC's report is hysterically transparent, spending some time gawking at delegates who would dare to oppose this change in the platform -- one attendee said "she couldn't support any green policies until the health and safety concerns of 'industrial wind turbines' are better understood," although the writer assures us that this isn't a real issue.

The story then pivots to a discussion of Conservative leader, Erin O'Toole, who is famous for taking every position on every issue and saying whatever he needs to say to get good press:

O'Toole has promised the party's election platform will contain a climate change plan that could cut greenhouse-gas emissions. To attract new supporters — especially millennials — O'Toole has said he wants a made-in-Canada net zero approach that sees government partnering with and pushing companies to bring their emissions down, and carbon pricing that targets only industries, not individuals. "You're going to see a very detailed plan... that will, I think, make our commitments probably faster than Mr. Trudeau without a running-out-of-control federal carbon tax that he's already promising."

Sounds like witchcraft to me.

It's likely that some kind of green language will ultimately end up in the CPC platform, and it will probably get O'Toole a nice pat on the head for not being as backward as his party's voters. But in the end that will just be used as a pretext for the Liberal's positioning getting even more radical, and it won't help him, or his party, come election time.

Meanwhile, Canadian businesses and Canadian workers will be the ones who suffer.

Leslyn the Green?

We are living in a time of unprecedented mediocrity in our governing class and consequently the voting public have lately been searching for leadership outside of the traditional channels. That is what happened in 2016, when a batch of Republicans presented themselves as the next Mitt Romney only to be steamrolled by Donald Trump, largely because he represented the concerns of actual voters rather than those of the consultant class. Independent Senator Bernie Sanders nearly did the same thing in the Democratic Party twice.

Even so, outsider candidates by their very nature tend to have thin political resumes, and that should put us on our guard. One need only consider the example of Chief Justice John Roberts, appointed by George W. Bush after a mere two years as a judge and having apparently spent an entire life studiously avoiding taking hard positions on anything. Well it worked -- the Democrats had nothing to pin on him, and he got on the court, but neither did the Republicans have any real reason to trust him. The recent abundance of headlines beginning "Roberts Joins Liberals" should serve as a warning to all of us.

In that spirit, I want to call your attention to a recent piece by Dan McTeague at Canadians for Affordable Energy examining the environmental policies of current Conservative darling Leslyn Lewis. Like a lot of conservatives who pay attention to Canadian politics, I have found Lewis to be a breath of fresh air because of her unwillingness to apologize for her beliefs. As J. J. McCullough put it in a recent WaPo write up,

Lewis... is black, female, unapologetically Christian and unafraid to embrace sharply ideological causes. She has taken explicit aim at progressive tropes such as “identity politics” and speaks openly of wanting to impose moderate — though still dramatic — “pro-life policies” to rein in Canada’s regime of broadly unregulated abortion.

Even so, McTeague has zeroed in on some of Lewis's energy priors which had escaped my notice:

As part of the environmental policy section of her leadership platform, Lewis commits to reducing regulation around energy projects (good!), but she also insists on supporting green technology and tax credits for businesses with green plans. Indeed, subsidies for green energy companies are central to her environmental strategy.

She has thought this through, and in a very significant way: prior to running for office, Lewis practiced as a lawyer, specializing in environmental and energy law. Just last year, in 2019, she completed her PHD in law at Osgoode Hall in Toronto. In her PhD thesis, titled, Attracting Foreign Investments for Green Energy Projects in Sub Saharan Africa, Lewis focuses on third world countries that are at a disadvantage when it comes to green energy, as they often cannot afford the patents to build the green infrastructure, and thus have to rely on oil and gas. Lewis laments the “dependency” on oil and gas in ways we have been hearing for years from the Canadian left. With her PhD in hand, it is unlikely that any candidate in Canadian history has been more intellectually prepared to dish out massive subsidies to the green lobby.

Surprising and concerning. Read the whole thing -- there's a lot more in there -- and then maybe spend some time looking over Derek Sloan's leadership campaign site before you make your final ballot ranking decisions.

Erin O'Toole, Environmentalist

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.