Yesterday I joined Kristy Cameron on CFRA’s “Ottawa Now” along with Jason Lietaer & Lindsay Maskell on the “Political Heat” panel. We talked about Ottawa making mask wearing in public mandatory, how that should be enforced, the latest around the newest self-inflicted scandal to strike the Prime Minister & how this government managed to step in it again. You can listen to the audio below starting at the 17:00 minute mark.
This morning I joined Arlene Bynon on “The Arlene Bynon Show” on Sirius XM’s Canada Talks 167, along with Alise Mills. We discussed the appointment of Bob Rae as Canada’s new Ambassador to the United Nations, the interesting timing of the change, the newest ethics investigation of the Prime Minister regarding the choice of the WE Charity to run $900M student grant program & the large blind spot this government seems to have in cases like these. You can listen to it all below.
This space has been a bit quiet for the past week as I’ve been taking some time to recharge my batteries, get outside in the beautiful air and see some family I haven’t been about to see for months due to COVID-19. That’s meant a trip home to my roots, back home in Northwestern Ontario and it’s been quite the elixir for my soul in these hard days.
Part of that time spent was on Canada Day, a day where many other Canadians got together with friends and family in COVID-19 safe ways for the day. For me, it was spent with my family next to the water, my idea of Heaven on Earth. But this year due to COVID-19 and hot, dry temperatures, there were no fireworks here, no big public celebrations, none of the usual celebrations. And while most of us have been willing to make this sacrifice too for the greater good, that doesn’t mean that others haven’t found other ways to celebrate the day. And it seemed to be in that spirit that Jim Bungente of Victoria, BC did something he does every year on Canada Day, something that seems maybe more poignant this year as folks struggle for ways to mark the day. But that lead to an act that is disturbing to some out there:
As I mentioned on CFRA Ottawa on Canada Day, as a Métis person, that holiday in particular is one that I’ve struggled with over the years. I have full respect for those who choose to celebrate the day and even though I may not be the one to be the fullest of throat celebrating that birthday, I understand why others are. And as I also said on CFRA that day, while I may not be the biggest celebrator of the day, I’m still proud to be Canadian because this country keeps getting better and we continue to strive to do so. In this past month of protest on racial equality, we’ve seen plenty of that and that gives me hope.
So when I read a story like that one, I come to it from that perspective and background. I don’t believe that defacing Mr. Bungente’s display is going to help anything, and even Mr. Bungente himself said that he wasn’t upset about the damage. In an interview with CTV Vancouver Island, he made it clear while he was “quite surprised” and “disappointed”, that was about it. He said that he didn’t “want to sensationalize what happened or feed into political polarization in Canada today.” He also said in his opinion the people who did this were like “just angry kids looking for a way to rebel.”
He even goes onto state that he knows there is history here regarding Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples in this country, striking me as an ally more than anything else. In the end, this guy seemed to have the most stereotypical response one could have had, which is some good we can take from the incident. But let’s face it folks, I like wouldn’t be writing this piece if there wasn’t another shoe to drop here and on cue, here comes that shoe from one of the front runners for the Conservative Leadership:
When I saw this Tweet from Mr. O’Toole, it came off as some of the usual schlocky political crap we’ve come accustomed to from this clown car wreck that’s attempted to convince Canadians that it’s a serious campaign to elect the next Prime Minister of Canada. But then I read Mr. Bungente’s words about his feelings, and my stomach turned. Bungente made it very clear how he felt about what happened to him, because he was the victim here. He was clear that he didn’t “want to sensationalize what happened or feed into political polarization in Canada today.” He was also clear in saying that he felt that this was like some “angry kids looking for a way to rebel.”
And to that, O’Toole’s team put out a Tweet with messaging that could have passed for a Tweet from the current occupant of the White House, both in tone and in completely ignoring the wishes of those involved. O’Toole and his team saw a story where the victim of vandalism said clearly that he didn’t want to sensationalize it, and they delivered a jingoistic Tweet that turned the sensationalization knob to 11. They took a story where they victim said this was like the work of kids and turned that into a cheap shot at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the first time he was mentioned anywhere in this story at all, blaming him for “dividing the country”. In doing so, O’Toole saw Bungente’s pleas to not “feed into political polarization” and decided to try use a crime against him to force feed Canadians with more polarization like someone force feeding a goose to make fine foie gras.
But maybe worse of all, when Mr. Bungente made a sincere plea to not take this story and turn it into a political football, O’Toole decided this was the perfect time to kick it around like he was a Truest Bluest Pele. And that shows you right there the true instincts of this supposedly True Blue Conservatives. At a time when he could have taken the high road and tried to follow a plea to speak to our better angels as Canadians, he went straight into the gutter to try to help his fading chances of becoming Conservative leader.
Sometimes it’s not the biggest challenges or hardest test that teach us the most about someone’s character and ability to lead. Sometimes it’s the simplest things, the lowest hanging fruit, the ones where the right answer should come most naturally, that tells us the most about those who aspire to lead. With that Tweet, O’Toole failed that test and revealed so much about himself. To paraphrase O’Toole’s Tweet, “we need leadership that can unite us in our common cause of a better future.” We will not build a better Canada by ignoring parts of our history that some would rather forget or glorify. And we will not be able to build a better Canada when those who aspire to high office keep trying to “divide Canadians” by using victims for their own political advantage, against their expressed wishes. Mr. O’Toole failed this test and failed it miserably. I hope that he reflects on that failure the next time he decides to Tweet poetic about building a better Canada because if that’s an example of how he thinks it’s done, then he’s sadly mistaken.
Yesterday I joined Kristy Cameron on CFRA’s “Ottawa Now” along with Katlyn Harrison & Lindsay Maskell on the “Political Heat” panel. We talked about the latest developments in Ontario’s re-opening from COVID-19, if it’s time for Ontario to make mask wearing in public mandatory, how mask wearing somehow became “political”, the debate around the funding of police services & how improving from the status quo might mean changes in it. You can listen to the audio below starting at the 14:00 minute mark.
Leadership races are a test of many things within a party. They test the strength of their organization, the strength of the various bases within them and can test the patience of even more. But for some one of the biggest tests that a leadership race can bring is to test the very unity of the party itself. This isn’t true of all leadership campaigns, but some come down to some very basic tenants and conflicts that can’t help but put the unity of party into question.
For the Conservatives, this was the case in their last leadership campaign, the first after Stephen Harper left. That was the campaign to replace the first leader of that newly re-unified party and many wondered if the coalition that Harper had helped to cobble together could hold under a new leader, or if it would just splinter apart. At the end of the Summer of 2018, that unity was a bit more in doubt after campaign runner-up Maxime Bernier bolted to start his own party, one that held the potential to pull Conservative voters in a new direction. Today we know how that turned out and even though Bernier’s PPC is still alive, it’s hardly the threat to the Conservatives that some thought it could be.
Yet here we are again in 2020, with another Conservative leadership race and the question about the ability to hold the Harper party together remains a live one. And two stories from the past week show us the real threats that could make things different this time. The first came from the Hill Times today, with some interesting quotes from a Conservative MP:
Ahhh, it looks like Conservative MP Stephanie Kusie went there. She says that if Peter MacKay were to win, “it is a threat to the unity of the party.” Of course she is supporting MacKay’s main rival Erin O’Toole, so take those declarations with more than a few grains of salt. Also Kusie is known in the House for her rhetorical flourishes and penchant for hyperbolic language, so again add a few more grains of salt to those declarations. But regardless of how much salt to put aside for these statements, they still shouldn’t be put out of mind. These aren’t the words of a campaign simply trying to use another rhetorical tool to win a race, there is more under the surface here.
Let’s face it, MacKay is viewed as the relatively more social progressive figure in that party and he’s being viewed as a threat to the more hardcore right wing of the party, along with the social conservatives that hold a lot of sway. Add to that the idea that some of his opponents want to paint him as being of “the East”, therefore to be viewed with a suspicious eye, it adds layers of potential danger here if he were to win and unable to bring everyone on board.
Of course, that’s assuming that anyone could keep that coalition together and still be able to challenge for government, which is a seriously open question. There are many potential obstacles to keeping that voter block together, and it’s the second story that came out late last week, pointing to another ominous cloud on the horizon for the Blue Team going forward:
Now let me be clear when talking about this, I don’t see Wexit Canada being a threat in the next election, nor in the future. I don’t see them winning seats nor being a political force beyond anything that the PPC was in the last campaign. But this new of Jay Hill taking on the role of Interim Leader is nothing to sneeze at. Seeing Stephen Harper’s former Government House Leader talking about Canada as a failure is striking. Seeing a guy who used to get elected in his old Reform days saying “The West Wants In” to now say “The West Wants Out” is noteworthy to say the least.
As Hill made the media rounds over the week to talked about how seeing Justin Trudeau become Prime Minister again was the straw that broke his back, basically turning his argument into “if I don’t like who wins, I want out”. It’s an argument that doesn’t serve their cause well because there are structural issues with Canada that are legitimate and that need addressing, which is what a party that was truly about making their region better would be pushing for. Instead his argument seems to come back to how his party wasn’t in power and boo-hoo to the rest.
Ironically, that has been part of the tone of the Conservatives since the campaign too, essentially equating their policies with “the West” and the Liberals policies as from somewhere else. We saw the same thing when the Buffalo Declaration came out, which was heavy on the “boo the Liberals won” while being very light on dealing the real, legitimate structural issues. But putting that aside for the moment, Hill going to Wexit Canada, along with some of the sovereigntist noises made by some Conservative MPs every now and again, speaks to the potential danger here in this moment for the Conservative Party. If the “Easterner” from Nova Scotia Peter MacKay wins, do many of those social conservatives or western Conservatives throw in the towel on this party and join up with Wexit instead? Furthermore, if the “Westerner” from Bowmanville, Ontario Erin O’Toole wins, will that keep those people in the tent and if so, for how long?
In the end the threat to the Conservative Party here isn’t that Wexit Canada takes a lot of seats away from them, at least not in the short or medium term. Similar to the challenge that the PPC posed in 2019, the threat right now is that Wexit Canada will siphon away enough votes to see the Conservatives lose seats in the West where they shouldn’t drop them. If any MPs decide to jump ship from the post-Leadership campaign Conservatives to Hill’s new venture, then that challenge gets even worse and the problem gets even bigger. That was something that didn’t happen when Bernier left, but I think is more likely in this scenario because Wexit is more about a movement and idea than about one man. Where the PPC was all about Bernier, Wexit has more to it to motivate potential Conservative MPs to join that team.
If that were to actually happen, the consequences would be big for the Canadian political landscape. If the Conservative Party seriously splintered in its heartland, that would render them completely unelectable nationwide. That would also help the Liberals and NDP hold onto or gain new seats in the West, thanks to the division of votes. And ironically if you believe Ms. Kusie, it could be the election of the guy who helped to create the current Conservative Party with Stephen Harper that could tear that creation apart.
Now do I believe that will actually happen? I’m skeptical to say the least and I’m firmly in the camp of “I’ll believe it when I see it”. But that being said, I do feel safe in saying that the odds of this scenario playing out are better than they were when Max Bernier bolted. We’ve seen this similar story before, when a group of former Conservative MPs from Quebec, including Lucien Bouchard, created the Bloc Quebecois. Could we see a bit of history repeating here? We’re not there yet but the events of the past week surely to raise the possibilities here and truly do leave open questions about if the Big Blue Tent can continue to stand.