I’ve seen a lot of comments lately about how this has felt like a very long January, and I can’t help but concur. Between Omicron, snowstorms, deep cold and now the antics of the past week that have descended on Ottawa, a lot of us have been looking forward to seeing the backside of the first month of the year. But just as it felt like tonight might be a bit quieter and fading into February, really big news has hit social media about the Conservatives and their beleaguered leader. And folks, both bits of news help to explain one another. First piece came from David Akin of Global News, with a particular number that jumped out at me:
Yep, money is one thing that helps to make the political world go around, but it also tells us a lot of stories. When you’re raising a lot, it speaks to your power and organizational prowess. When you’re not raising as much, it’s a sign of trouble and that you’re bleeding support. For the Conservatives, who have had the strongest fundraising machine in Canadian politics for over a decade, it takes a lot to mess that up. Yet as Akin points out, the Blue Team raised just $3.09 million from 22,318 donors in the final three months of 2021, their worst fundraising quarter since the third quarter of 2011, which was right after their big majority win. This is big for a few reasons, and that point of comparison is important. Usually the last quarter of the year is the one of the best fundraising quarters for most parties, as people who give are wanting to earn tax credits to collect on in a few months. It’s one of the easiest asks in fundraising.
What’s one of the hardest asks? The first quarter right after a majority government is formed, especially when that quarter is not the fourth quarter. The fact is that at time, donors feel the least need to give. You’re further away from the pay off of the tax return, and the party is in least need of your money, as the next election is a whole four years away. Yet somehow Erin O’Toole and his team managed to take what should have been a great time to raise money (fourth quarter in a minority government) and had the worst outcome in over 10 years, on par with one of the worst possible times to raise money. For most parties, that would be bad. For the Conservative who are practically a money-printing machine at time, that’s terrible boarding on unforgivable. That might also help explain these couple of tweets that we saw earlier today from the Conservative’s Twitter account:
Hmmm, someone doth protest too much? Given what’s been going on, with Mr. O’Toole trying to save his job and following Pierre Poilievre’s lead in just about everything, including on the convoys in a shameful way, you could tell that he’s in big trouble. Between his Saskatchewan and Senate caucuses rebuffing his attempts to remove Senator Denise Batters from the caucus, he has been on shaky ground for a while now. But is the ground so shaking that it’s about to collapse under his feet? Well according to the Globe and Mail, it’s giving way:
Folks, this is quite big and a few big points to make here. Firstly, this group of caucus members took the first chance they got right after their caucus retreat last week. Something that happened in that room and the days after clearly shook something loose because it didn’t take long for those 35 MPs to take the formal step of signing a letter calling for a leadership review. That move accelerates things, requiring a leadership review vote by all Conservative MPs as early as Wednesday’s mornings caucus meeting. If he loses the vote, he would be toast. After everything that O’Toole has done to try to contort himself into pretzels, he could be out of the Leaders office before the end of the week (and maybe even before the convoy crew is cleared from Wellington Street in front of Parliament). Boy, did that escalate quickly.
Secondly, according to the good reporting of Bob Fife and Marieke Walsh, those looking to remove O’Toole have at least 63 MPs of the elected 119 Conservative members needed to vote him out. The fact that these members have apparently triggered this vote tells me they have the votes to make it work. The old saying that “You can’t go for the King and miss” is very true here, because if these members failed to boot O’Toole here, they would be in deep doodoo within their caucus, if it managed to hold together at all. That tells me they aren’t taking this step half-cocked, that they know who they have onside and know they can win the day. That is bad for O’Toole.
Thirdly, O’Toole clearly knows this because according to the same reporting, Conservative Whip James Bezan was making calls on Sunday and Monday to potential dissident MPs, warning of repercussions if they tried to remove O’Toole. That would be a pretty normal thing to see, as a leader tried to shore up their position. The problem though with that approach this time is that over the past couple of months one thing has become clear; this caucus isn’t afraid of O’Toole. He has no carrots to use to bring people onside, nor does he have any stacks, as the Batters episode and Poilievre driving their narrative has come to show.
The events of this week involving the convoy have just further demonstrated that O’Toole is not in charge of the Blue Convoy right now, so how can he possibly expect to use that kind of forceful persuasion now when he hasn’t been able to in ages? I understand he has to try, but that doesn’t mean it’s likely to succeed. Amazingly the reporting also notes that O’Toole has been advised to use his own supporters to force the caucus vote on his leadership to try to cut this down at the knees. That is an amazing risky gambit and is the equivalent of pushing all of your chips into the middle, hoping that your pair of 7’s is enough to win the hand. Either way, if that’s the point you’ve gotten to, you’re already in a terrible position. Or as my dad always like to say when I was a kid “if you’re stuck on thin ice, you might as well dance”.
Regardless, this week that was starting off all about the tension on the street in front of Parliament but with this turn of events, that focus will now be partially shifted to a conference room in the Sir. John A. MacDonald building on Wednesday morning. Sure January has been a very long month so far, but depending on what happens over the next few days, Erin O’Toole’s February will either feel just as long, or could be over far quicker than he ever would have imagined. Crazy days folks, stay tuned for more.
UPDATE #3: January 31, 2022 @9:43 PM – I’m feeling like the DJ Khalid of #cdnpoli tonight because here comes another one, this time with Conservative MP Garnett Genuis taking aim at Mr. O’Toole on Twitter. That’s the kind of statement you can’t take back, and usually means that somebody has to go. Things appear to be spinning out of control pretty quickly now that the dam has broken:
UPDATE #2: January 31, 2022 @ 9:11 PM – As the night continues, the hits just keep coming, this time from one of the biggest names in the Conservative moment, Jenni Byrne. The movement is moving fast, and there is no mincing of words tonight:
UPDATE #1: January 31, 2022 @ 8:45 PM – More details coming out about this move to boot O’Toole, and amazingly it appears to be coming from one of the best things he did; getting his party to give unanimous support to pass the Conversion Therapy Ban. And Andrew Scheer wants to be given back the keys to Stornoway, on a temporary basis (insert your own jokes here). Wow man, wow!