We’re in the very early stages of the Conservative Leadership Race and to call it chippy would a very strong understatement. We’ve seen the early attacks from frontrunner Pierre Poilievre against former Quebec Premier Jean Charest that have been more aggressive than we’d usually see during a general election against an opposing party. The tone has been striking because if that’s how you’re talking about people within your own party, how much harder are you going to go after other parties?
It’s been a bit jarring to say the least, and that was just towards Charest. On the weekend former Ontario PC Leader, former federal Conservative MP & current Mayor of Brampton Patrick Brown declared his intentions to seek the leadership of the Conservatives and it didn’t take long for the Poilievre team to come out guns a blazin’ against Brown too, with work like this:
Look, given his track record, that’s fair to say that Brown would “say and do anything” to win, as his time as Ontario PC leader proved. He made many promises during that run, only to break them one by one, turning his own party against him in a way that many haven’t managed to do before. But to be fair, if you stripped the images from that video and just listen to the audio, that “say and do anything to win” description could very easily describe Poilievre himself. A clear case of “throwing stones in glass houses”, so you’d think that knowing that one of these two might put down the rocks for a while. But nope, instead today we got this exchange on Twitter that just floored the Hell out of me. First, lets start with the first shot:
Ahhh, it seems that Poilievre isn’t the only one with receipts on their opponents, as Brown reminds Canadians of the disturbing saga of the Conservatives 2015 attempt to push a niqab ban and a “barbaric cultural practices” hotline to try to save their campaign. It was an ugly moment in Canadian political history, that Canadians rejected pretty strongly, and Conservatives have been hurt by ever since. Brown points out that Poilievre wasn’t exactly a knight in shining armor standing up against this at the time, an example of “saying and doing anything to win”. To be fair, neither did Brown, but that wasn’t the point. Anyway, all Poilievre had to do was own his history, say he was wrong and move on. Instead, team Poilievre used his own Twitter account to release this shot in return:
So if Brown’s first shot was sent across the bow, Poilievre’s return was clearly aimed at it. He used the word “lie” in different variations nine times in a short message, claiming that Brown was attacking the Harper government and that a “niqab ban” never existed. Not a sign of any contrition there for sure, and in pure Poilievre fashion, he doubled down with gusto while veering into comments that are easily disproved. An easy Google search proves that what Poilievre just stated was not factual.
Back in early October 2015, the National Post reported on a campaign stop in Saskatoon where Harper repeated, if re-elected, his desire “to consider federal legislation modelled on Quebec’s Bill 62, introduced by the provincial Liberal government” earlier that year. He went onto say that legislation “would prohibit public servants from wearing niqabs in provincial offices.” In that same event Harper pointed to the Quebec example, saying that “The Quebec government has been handling this controversy in a very responsible manner and we will do exactly the same things.” Harper said those words mere weeks after his government lost its appeal of a lower court ruling that struck down a ban on wearing niqabs at citizenship ceremonies. If there was no niqab ban moved by the Harper government, would a court have been able to strike it down? Courts can’t defeat things that don’t exist, so the fact that the courts did shows that it did in fact exist.
But when it comes back to Poilievre’s retort, and that attempt at a drive-by revision of history, things weren’t done yet. Nope, it turns out that Brown’s team were ready and came back with these receipts of note:
Wow, another shot to the bow and both ships are now taking on water. The fact is true that some members of the current Conservative caucus realized how bad that niqab ban policy hurt their party, let alone how bad it was. To both of their credits, both Tim Uppal and Melissa Lantsman apologized for their words and support for that policy at the time. That probably should have been able to stand on its own and be a credit to those MPs who took the stands they did when they did. Yet now, the person they are backing for leader says that the very thing they apologized for so sincerely never happened, didn’t exist and is a figment of Patrick Brown’s imagination. I doubt that those well-meaning MPs appreciate being put in that position now, but that’s the kind of thing when someone “says and does anything to win”.
All this is to say that none of that exchange will do anything to bring their blue team together or make anyone feel great about their future. If that was the only potential harm to come from all of this for any one candidate or their party as a whole, that would have been fortunate. But, of course, that’s not the case and I couldn’t help but notice this thread of Tweets that came out from the National Council of Canadian Muslims:
“An attempt to misrepresent what actually happened”… Hmm, there’s a short word one could use to describe that, one that Mr. Poilievre seems to be fond of firing at his opponents. Strange, huh? As they pointed out, this exchange of Tweets came in the context of today, which means after such tragedies like the London terror attack and the Quebec City Mosque attack. Those are the kinds of flames the Conservatives were playing with in 2015, which is why it was so right for MPs like Uppal and Lantsman to apologize for their parties’ part in that. The fact that the NCCM felt the need to even make that statement speaks to how the Conservatives are not just hurting their own party, but others around them, which such crap as they grasp and claw to take their blue throne.
Real leadership demands accountability, and true leadership is shown when leaders admit their failures and own them. True leaders don’t play whataboutism and deny the basic facts of history, just because they don’t suit their current needs. If Conservatives think that the Canadian public isn’t paying attention to episodes like these and that they won’t be remembered come the next election, they should ask Erin O’Toole how that worked out for him. These are the kinds of episodes that do long term damage to a party and how they are seen by the public. They don’t just go away, and they stick in their minds, just like the niqab ban did. This also shows what can happen when you try to win at all costs, and have no concern about salting the Earth as to pursue that win. I’ve said many times already that the caucus the winner inherits on Day 1 likely won’t look the same on Day 30, and when you see this crap playing out in real time, you can see why I do. And just think folks, there are still 6 months to go until the winner is announced. We’ll see whose ships are still afloat by then, and how many have been driven under the waves by continued cannon balls to the hull.