We’re coming to the end of the first week of Parliament and it’s been nice to see the place up and running again. But there has been another development that hasn’t been as welcomed to see and is honestly more of a concern for things going forward. And if I had to highlight it in a certain way, I guess this tweet is probably a good example of what I’m seeing:
This tweet from Conservative leader Erin O’Toole has been making the rounds since last night, and it’s a good example of the tone and language being used by the Conservatives post-election. It’s been much harder edged, bordering on Trump-ish and totally non-constructive. Another example is what we saw from their finance critic Pierre Poilievre earlier this week, and there have been plenty others through out the week you can point to.
But O’Toole’s tweet is especially egregious for a few reasons. First off is this claim that MPs working in the hybrid set-up aren’t working, which is particularly insulting. In my experience under this hybrid set-up, MPs are actually working harder and longer hours, mostly because there isn’t an excuse not to. When you can vote electronically wherever you are in the country, you lose the excuse for missing a vote. In normal times, MPs miss many votes because they are either in the riding, or somewhere else on government business. But today? Nope, those excuses all melt away because you can do it from wherever.
The same goes for MPs availability to meet with constituents, or stakeholders, or anyone else for that matter. Because MPs aren’t travelling as much, that gives them more available time in their schedules to meet with people and discuss their issues. That also opens the window to more meeting times during the days, as you don’t need to work around normal office hours to make things work. And folks, most MPs are taking advantage of that extra time.
Many of these MPs haven’t been slacking during hybrid Parliaments, they’ve been working harder. So for O’Toole to throw around the lazy language that going hybrid is equivalent to “not going to work” is not just wrong, it’s highly insulting to not just Parliamentarians, but Canadians in general. A large number of Canadians have been working from home since the pandemic started and I’m sure they would be quite offended to hear that Erin O’Toole believes that people who are working from home are “not showing up for work”.
Also I’d note on this whole line of attack from O’Toole that he is basically saying that the only way MPs are truly doing work is if they are in Ottawa, which is complete horseshit. In normal times, MPs who are doing their jobs are work very long hours. When they are at home they’re not sitting on their thumbs and doing nothing watching TV in their living rooms. But with this language, O’Toole is suggesting that the only legitimate work done by MPs takes place in Ottawa. I’ll admit it’s also an interesting approach to take for the leader of a party that had the “worst attendance record at House of Commons COVID-19 committee”. Maybe Mr. O’Toole might want to spend time worrying about some in his own caucus rather than pointing condescending and accusatory comments at others.
But in effect what Mr. O’Toole is doing here is worrying about his own caucus, namely keeping them onside and keeping his own bloody job. To that end we saw that O’Toole brought Jeff Ballingall, the man behind Canada Proud, back into the fold to help him hold onto his job. Remember that Ballingall was a part of O’Toole’s leadership campaign team, the one where O’Toole ran as the “true blue” Conservative to win the leadership. Of course, after winning the race O’Toole tried to pivot back to the centre, to the great chagrin of those on the right that he was courting just months before. But this change of tone, this language and these tropes have the fingerprints of Ballingall’s past work all over them. When you look at the track record, this is more a hallmark of his work, words and views than O’Toole’s own original ones.
So it appears that what O’Toole is now doing is trying to save his job by trying to pivot back to that “true blue” position in an attempt to save his leadership. In essence, he’s changing his messaging to suit that audience, knowing that he’ll face their wrath in a vote long before he’ll potentially face the wider Canadian electorate again. And if he pulls this trick of, the flip-flop-flip, he’s likely to try to flop back again just in time for the 45th General Election, whenever that comes.
All of this is to say that for the next few months (or at least until he passes a leadership review vote), we should assume that Erin O’Toole’s words and actions are not about what’s best for the country, for public health, for the best operation of Parliament or even what he truly believes deep down. Nope, it’s all about saving his job, he’s fancy government-funded housing in Rockcliffe Park and his leadership. Regardless of how you feel about the guy personally, what is becoming increasingly clear is that he’s willing to say just about anything if it gets him where he wants to go, no matter how hypocritical or dissonant it makes him sound. He’s can apparently worry about that later because its operation “Save Erin’s Butt” over in the OLO, and nothing else but that seems to be on the agenda.