By every estimation and instinct, Erin O’Toole strikes me as a decent guy.
He’s a year younger than I am, currently represents an electoral district with 115,000 taxpayers who are 95% white and overwhelmingly Christian, and finished third for the conservative leadership race back in 2017 when Andrew Scheer wiped the convention floor with him.
And I know precisely what you’re thinking: is this really the best dude in a country of 35 million people that the CPC could find to represent Canada at a time when the majority of voters went conservative during the last federal election and are clearly looking for someone to carry the mantle of right-wing traditionalism and old-school fiscal responsibility when needed most during a pandemic?
Well, it sure ain’t this guy.
But that’s what you get in today’s political dystopian landscape where power is concentrated in the hands of two patriarchal parties who keep serving us up a coalition of horribly flawed, career sycophants who bolster piss-poor decisions shrink-wrapped with predictably lame sound-bites and generational excuses. It’s much like Rogers and Bell – in this land, you get the same angst over and over and over again regardless of your age, colour or creed.
Sure, he’s got the “traditional” tools of the trade: a liberal arts education (political science), a law degree from Dalhousie, and over a decade of flying enough planes and helicopters during his time with the Royal Canadian Air Force to adequately convince us of his patriotic verve and altruistic penchant for community service mixed with sentimentally driven historical purpose (see: the breakfast to commemorate World War One veteran Samuel Simpson Sharpe).
But he also chose to rely on the familiar 2016 Bannonesque tactic of lowest-common denomination; capitalizing on the voter’s painfully limited attention span by deploying Jeff Ballingall’s Ontario & Canada Proud propaganda websites: all in the name of right-wing advocacy. You know, that clever Facebook opportunist who found a way to channel anger and rage by convincing desperate people to donate money during desperate times to desperate causes.
From the outset, I believe the average neo-con canuck understood that Derek Sloan and his fundamentalist religious beliefs made him a non-starter long before his racist blathering against Dr. Theresa Tam or the fact that he genuinely believes homosexuality is a choice. And they definitely understood that Leslyn Lewis and her intractable rejection of the carbon tax and myopically wonderful four-stage abortion plan wasn’t going to cut it when her gender and skin tone failed to provide the token power necessary to legitimize an otherwise laughable field of unimpressive, mediocre candidates. You know, where only two players were ever serious contenders during a controversial, mysterious ballot-warping nomination process that still hasn’t been properly explained. All that’s missing is the Benny Hill music.
You can heap blame on COVID all you want; what transpired earlier this week has yet to be clarified and fully understood across a mainstream media that’s devoted itself to erasing all notion of conspiracy or collusion. Malfunctioning machines and sliced envelopes are clearly a normal facet of life and the sooner we get used to it, the better – no need to call the RCMP or launch a public investigation for #ballotgate. It’s enough to make you laugh maniacally.
But with Peter MacKay, it seemed as though this pathetic excuse for an organized party would finally choose a capable (albeit wart-riddled) stalwart who could tout the value of economic justice over social conservative values. Someone who could trumpet the value of diplomatic moderation and agenda-driven centrism as key tenets in the quest for progress against an incumbent government after half a year of economic atrophy and existential woe. And sadly, the opposite ended up happening. Sure, he wasn’t perfect, but MacKay was likely the party’s best shot at reclaiming the pendulum that had long shifted away from their favour. Even if we accept the notion that hardliners would have dumped Sloan and Lewis for their hard-line stances after the first two rounds as predicted, it still doesn’t explain how the presumed favourite lost a race that many had already accepted as a fait accompli.
And how in the world did the fringe candidates merit over 35% of support in the first round? In doing so, they exposed how philosophically bankrupt the CPC truly has become. Instead of a party of unity rallying around a maverick capable of holding Justin Trudeau and the Liberals to the flame, they’ve now effectively enabled him to continue his ideological pursuits in a country that doesn’t mirror his joie de vivre.
Instead of a pitbull with roots firmly planted in the bygone era before the “great party merge” and one that held a true Red Tory heart as a former attorney general whose connections alone far exceed the pedigree of his opponent, they ended up with an old-school chihuahua whose slogan (A Call To Take Back Canada) sounds more like living in the past than to bringing together the future of this country. They could have gone a svelte neapolitan but preferred to settle for a glorious vanilla that will likely end up tasting like soap. This is 2020, and yet I feel as though I’m delivering commentary better suited for 1984. This isn’t political evolution, it’s moral decay.
So brace yourself if you’re part of the blue team: things aren’t going to change anytime soon…and you have yourselves to blame for it. This isn’t how a serious political party turns the corner towards a brave and bold new future but instead chooses to sabotage itself by ignoring the reality of life for what it is today.