October 02, 2021

Erin Gambled and Erin Lost

The September 20th federal election revealed what happens when a political leader abandons all principle for a perceived quick path to short term electoral gain that then POOF! … goes up in smoke.

You might think I am referring to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s ill-timed election. For Trudeau, what seemed like an “election about nothing” really was nothing more than a naked grab for more power.

In fact, I am referring to the decision of Conservative leader Erin O’Toole to shift from his “true blue” pose of the last CPC leadership contest to “Liberal lite” in the September campaign.

We all know how the campaign ended:  like Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, O’Toole’s CPC ended up with a smaller share of the popular vote.  At last count, the Liberals dropped from a bit more than 33% to 32%, and the CPC dropped from 34% to 33%.  The seat count remained almost exactly what it was, with the Liberals (so far) up 2 seats, from 157 to 159 and the CPC down 2 seats, from 121 to 119. 

But there is much more to the numbers.  To help figure out what happened, and why, I refer you to a two-part series of blogposts I wrote back in March:  Erin O’Toole’s upcoming carbon tax betrayal, part 1 and Erin O’Toole’s upcoming carbon tax betrayal, part 2. 

For me, nothing symbolized O’Toole’s foolish, ill-considered, and failed strategy to pivot to the left more than his “green shift” of last spring.

O’Toole ran for CPC leader as a “blue Tory” against the Trudeau carbon tax, though a warning sign of his insincerity was his adamant support of the Paris Agreement on climate change.  I did warn readers about this during that leadership contest.

Last March, the Toronto Star blew the whistle on O’Toole and his plan to make a hard left turn toward green extremism.

The Toronto Star exposé revealed that O’Toole’s Ontario-dominated strategy team was pushing the left-wing green shift as a deliberate political strategy.

O’Toole’s advisers claimed that the previous CPC campaign of Andrew Scheer had too many votes in the wrong places (Western Canada and rural Ontario) and not enough votes distributed in seat-rich (largely) urban eastern Canada.

The solution:  go green!  Support a carbon tax and related madness. Pander to Toronto. Pander to Quebec.  Then win.

Here was my favourite quote attributed to an O’Toole insider, about how Conservative MPs should accept the strategy:   [they’re] not willing to give up five points (in a Western riding) in order to give that to someone in Ontario for us to win there?” 

In other words, the CPC had “votes to burn” in Western Canada, and burn them they must in order to win over the “green” voters of Ontario and Quebec

Well, on April 15th, O’Toole followed through on this strategy and, without any warning to the CPC caucus, announced that he was reversing his leadership pledge on the carbon tax.

Gone was his opposition to carbon taxes. Let Maxime Bernier and the PPC corner the market on the anti-carbon tax vote: the CPC had votes to burn in the West!

In the end, CPC votes were indeed burned in Western Canada: the CPC lost 13.7% of the vote, two more seats in Edmonton and one more in Calgary. The Liberals are back in Alberta! 

In British Columbia, the CPC shed 70,000 or so votes from the previous election and lost 4 of its 7 CPC MPs in the Greater Vancouver Area. Altogether – so far – the CPC has lost 7 seats in the urban west, with the possibility of another loss in Winnipeg (pending a judicial recount).

What was gained?  The four-seat loss in Vancouver was offset by four new CPC gains in rural Atlantic Canada. 

But did the Western losses give gains in Ontario? The CPC picked up three new ridings in Ontario, but lost two Toronto area MPs, for a net gain of one.  So, down three in Alberta, and up one in Ontario, for a net loss of two seats.

And Quebec?  The Tories went from ten seats to … ten seats.  Zero gain. Nothing. Zilch. And this, after being endorsed by Quebec’s popular premier.

But surely all of this was somehow worth it, right? Fewer votes, fewer seats, and a total abandonment of its principles? Betrayal on the carbon tax… an embrace of “net zero by 2050” … and not a word about affordable energy in the entire campaign?

Team O’Toole’s Ontario-based Red Tory green-leaning elite is in overdrive in its efforts to “spin” this disaster as a victory.