The mired and the admired
Erin O’Toole is a dead duck. Despite the fact that the Conservatives won the popular vote in this week’s election, they did not win the seat count. That’s why the Liberals will never bring in election reform as they said they would. First-past-the-post works fine for them. Just as Andrew Scheer became a former leader after the last election, so too will O’Toole. If he doesn’t resign on his own, he will be pushed by the party and it will be as messy as it will be humiliating. The party will follow Oscar Wilde’s dictum, “A good friend will always stab you in the front.”
O’Toole did well on the hustings for a while but his momentum stalled when his platform ran afoul of promises previously made to his social conservatives. The Liberals were suddenly all over him for sins real and imagined. They’re good at spotting and promoting internal trouble. A couple of years after the Official Languages Act had been approved by Parliament in 1969, the government of Pierre Trudeau decided that wasn’t enough, there had to be a vote of reaffirmation in the House of Commons. They were aware there was a schism in the Progressive Conservative Party and wanted to expose it. Former leader John Diefenbaker and sixteen of his PC colleagues voted against. For a party that claims it stands for national unity, the Liberals sure can be divisive.
But if there can be a party of the centre left, like the Liberals, the more important political question is why can’t there be a conservative party of the centre-right? If what’s past is prologue, the future is dim. In the more than seventy-five years since the Second World War, there have been only five Conservative prime ministers. And two of them — Joe Clark and Kim Campbell — served only one year in total.
In the U.S., voters regularly switch between sending a Democrat and a Republican to the White House. Americans like change. Canadians seem to prefer stability. Or are we merely stick-in-the-muds?
Yes. Loyalists will argue that practice makes perfect. That assumes the Liberals will sit still and run Trudeau again. (We would have whipped Pearson in 1968 if he had the curtesy to run again.)