A brief foray into Canadian politics before I retreat back into the haze.
Canada has a new Conservative Party of Canada leader.
47 year old Erin O’Toole, currently an elected Conservative Party member of Parliament for an Ottawa, Ontario, area riding, has been elected as the new leader of the once and again, no longer progressive, Conservative Party of Canada. O’Toole won the race on the 3rd ballot as, apparently, he was the preferred choice of the more socially conservative voting-in-the-election members of the Conservative Party.
The Globe and Mail, which purports to be Canada’s national newspaper, reports:
“Erin O’Toole has won the race to be the next leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. Results were delayed by several hours due to envelope-opening machines accidentally slicing thousands of ballots that then had to be replicated by hand.
The counting went to the third ballot with close results between O’Toole and former cabinet minister Peter MacKay. In third and fourth place, respectively, were Toronto lawyer Leslyn Lewis and MP Derek Sloan.
O’Toole is an Ontario member of parliament who spent 12 years in the military and 10 years as a corporate lawyer. He won with 57 per cent of the vote, after running a pointed, message-driven campaign and embraced becoming the inheritor of Stephen Harper’s party.”
Quoted from The Globe and Mail morning update, August 24, 2020. The article is here. The morning update should not be behind a paywall.
Given the reason for the delay, and the fact that the machines in issue weren’t new – -they’d been used (or at least the problem causing machine had been used), we’re told — I should make fun of the gang of CP functionaries who ran the election. (Think of the movie “The Gang That Could’t Shoot Straight”. You can find good clips on YouTube.) However, I won’t. The CP doesn’t need my help to repeatedly shoot itself in various parts of its metaphorical body, starting with the feet.
The “Stephen Harper’s party” description is important. It was and is a dog whistle to the more socially conservative members of the Conservative Party and conservative voters in Canada; those further to the right on the Canadian political spectrum.
CTV News reports:
“O’Toole, an MP from Ontario, defeated Peter MacKay, clinching 57 per cent of party support, after picking up down-ballot support from Leslyn Lewis and Derek Sloan supporters.”
It is at least possible that Peter MacKay, a leading figure in Canadian conservative politics since the mid-1990s, was seen, at least by the Conservative Party grassroots, as too much a member of, and reminder of, the conservative movement’s chequered, less than stellar, past.
I’m going to usually use CP as the stand-in for Conservative Party from now on.
MacKay, ostensibly the most socially progressive, finished second, losing on what is, formally, his 4th attempt to become the leader of the CP, Canada’s major conservative party. He has now lost in 3 attempts to become leader of the CP. He was the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party when it merged in 2003 with what was then known as the Canadian Alliance, a more right-wing conservative party, and gave way to Stephen Harper, the leader of Canadian Alliance.
It’s worth mentioning that an earlier, briefly held, name of the Harper-led Canadian Alliance produced the acronym CRAP.
Mackay eventually became a high ranking member of the decade long Stephen Harper-led CP gov’t. MacKay, then hailing from Nova Scotia in eastern Canada, lost in his next attempt to lead the Canadian conservative movement: again to a person who was seen to be, and was, more socially conservative than MacKay. He lost in the CP leadership race which occurred after Harper resigned when the CP lost the 2015 election to the Justin Trudeau-led Liberal Party.
After the fall of the Harper gov’t in 2015, MacKay, still seemingly obsessed with becoming Canada’s PM – perhaps even more so than the once, briefly, but never again, Progressive Conservative PM Joe Clark – relocated to Ontario to shill for business on behalf of a law firm employer; and, one assumes, to concurrently become more attractive to conservative voters in Ontario. In order to win the most seats in the Canadian Parliament, a party has to either (1) win most of the available seats in one or the other of Ontario or Quebec to make up for the weakness in the other or (2) be successful enough in both that the total number of Ontario and Quebec seats negates the number of seats the conservative party wins elsewhere in the country, usually in the prairie provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
From the CTV News report:
“MacKay was narrowly leading after the first ballot but he finished the race in second, while Lewis came in third with a strong showing, and Sloan finished fourth and was the first to drop off the ballot. His down-ballot support was reallocated to the remaining candidates but was not enough to decide the race.
That prompted the third-ballot round where O’Toole picked up considerable support from Lewis supporters.
In his speech, O’Toole said that there is a place in his party for all Canadians, regardless of race, religion, economic standing, education or sexual orientation. He also thanked his opponents as well as the tens of thousands of Canadians that voted for him.
MacKay, the candidate who ran with the most progressive platform in the race … offered his congratulations to O’Toole on social media, saying ‘it’s time for the party to come together, and to focus on what’s most important: ensuring our country gets moving in the right direction again.’”
Given his apparent position as the most socially progressive of the candidates, It is likely that MacKay intended the “our country … moving in the right direction” to be a significant pun; that is, a warning to O’Toole not to pander to populism; to the more socially conservative – regressive, if you prefer, portions of the conservative movement; not to move the CP too far to the right whatever “too far” might now, and in the foreseeable future, mean. MacKay was, undoubtedly, warning the broader conservative audience that too much movement to the right would not help the party’s prospects for success in upcoming elections.
MacKay, a perennial conservative bridesmaid, will have to once again reconsider his political future. He is not, currently, a member of Parliament.
There is some subtle populism, or tone deafness, in O’Toole’s “hello citizens and soon to be citizens of Canada, I’m your new hurley ball and piñata, to kick, hit, strike, piss on, curry favour with, and generally distrust” speech. It should raise some eyebrows – two for those people who have two – that in 2020 in Canada, the new leader of Canada’s major conservative party, and of the party with the second most seats in Canada’s parliament, should feel it necessary to say, in his inaugural speech “that there is a place in his party for all Canadians, regardless of race, religion, economic standing, education or sexual orientation.”
All of those characteristics, other than economic standing and education, are prohibited grounds of discrimination in Canada. So, if the CP did, does, and is to notionally reflect Canadian values, there has to be ”a place in his party [version of the Conservative Party] for all Canadians, regardless of race, religion … sexual orientation.” O’Toole didn’t specify what what place is; however, we should assume it is something more than dishwasher and less than javelin catcher.
That leaves “economic standing” and “education”. The recitation of these items as significant criteria should be seen as as a form of populist dog whistle to the poorer or less educated Canadian voter.
Some might wonder why O’Toole found it necessary to say something that should always be true about about any truly Canadian political party. Did he mean to imply something about the CP as it was before him. O’Toole was a practising lawyer in Ontario. It should be a safe assumption, notwithstanding the joke implicit in the word “assume”, that O’Toole ought to have understood what he was implying, even if his speech was given early in the morning. Again, I think it safe to assume that he’d given some thought to what he might say, if elected as CP leader, earlier that day when he wasn’t quite as tired. If not even earlier than that.
From what I can tell, O’Toole did not promise anybody better, cheaper, Guinness or a pot of gold at the end of any rainbow. Of course, if he had, he’d have had to acknowledge that the rainbow represents social ideals generally at least somewhat at odds with social conservatism, notwithstanding his inclusive reference to “sexual orientation”.
Now that the Conservative Party has a leader with a patently Irish first name and surname, it’s even more interesting to mention the source of the nickname used for members of the Conservative Party and the party, itself: Tory (for an individual member and the party) and Tories (for more than one member. Wikipedia
has a succinct explanation:
The word Tory derives from the Middle Irish word tóraidhe; modern Irish tóraí; modern Scottish Gaelic Tòraidh: outlaw, robber or brigand, from the Irish word tóir, meaning “pursuit”, since outlaws were “pursued men”. The term was initially applied in Ireland to the isolated bands of guerrillas resisting Oliver Cromwell’s nine-month 1649–1650 campaign in Ireland, who were allied with Royalists through treaty with the Parliament of Confederate Ireland, signed at Kilkenny in January 1649; and later to dispossessed Catholics in Ulster following the Restoration. It was also used to refer to a Rapparee and later applied to Confederates or Cavaliers in arms. The term was thus originally a term of abuse, “an Irish rebel”, before being adopted as a political label in the same way as “Whig”. [Footnotes omitted]
There are rumblings of a the possibility of a federal election in Canada later in 2020. It remains to be seen whether O’Toole will earn political ‘hosannahs’ from conservative voters, and centrist voters willing to ‘swing to the right’, or will end up as just another political ‘ho’ whose sources of principal and principle are rarely distinguishable, or distinguished. (Puns intended.).
Cheers and goodbye, again, for now,