By Jonathon Van Maren
When asked what he thought of one of the UK’s interchangeable prime ministers between Blair and Boris (I forget which), Christopher Hitchens memorably replied: “I don’t.”
That’s the perfect way to sum up the attitudes of most Canadians to current Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, who is thus far providing an eye-wateringly potent answer to the question: “Who could be worse than Andrew Scheer?” The problem with Scheer for many conservatives was that he had convictions without the courage to act on them; the problem with O’Toole is that he has no readily apparent convictions at all.
The convictions he does have are nearly indistinguishable from those of the Liberal leader. He just announced that he would be voting against a bill brought forward by Saskatchewan MP Cathay Wagantall to restrict sex-selective abortions, a practice over 90% of Canadians oppose. O’Toole, of course, has never spotted any common ground he isn’t willing to trample across on his way to the party’s left flank, where he can spend his time assuring everyone that he is as pro-choice and as sexually liberated as Mr. Trudeau is.
O’Toole is another one of those Conservatives who is certain that the path to victory involves hectoring conservatives for not being liberal enough. For example, he apparently understood his Conservative convention speech not as an opportunity to rally the base, but to lecture his supporters on climate change and other issues. Plenty of conservatives agree with him; not a single one of them enjoys being spoken to that way. Combine his total ineptness with handling the base with his yawning lack of charisma, and it is easy to see why Trudeau is itching for a spring election.
The Liberals went through Stéphane Dion and Michael Ignatieff before they found a winner. It looks like the Conservative Party will go through the same grim cycles before producing a leader capable of winning (or at least of being noticed.) Trudeau has been hammered by every imaginable scandal from sexual misconduct to blackface, not to mention a botched pandemic response that has premiers rolling out lockdowns while they wait for the feds to get it together. The moment is perfect for a Conservative leader to take advantage of the situation.
I suppose we’ll have to wait until we have one.