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 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.
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.