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God, guns, gays and abortion

August 24, 2020

I was supposed to be going for a walk with a friend yesterday afternoon. He wasn’t at our rendezvous when I arrived, so I left the radio on while I waited for him. There was a call-in show on CBC and the subject was the Conservative leadership race, the result of which was to be announced later in the day. Two things callers said caught my attention.

The first made me smile, when a caller muddled the names of the front runners and said, “Peter O’Toole or… (pause) I can’t remember the other name…” The host helped out by supplying the correct names: Peter McKay and Erin O’Toole. And of course the reason I smiled was because I might actually consider voting Conservative (not that I actually would) if the party elected Peter O’Toole as its leader – even though he’s dead.

The second caller was an 80-year-old south Asian immigrant, who said he’s voted Conservative in the past, but not for a while. He commented that it was long past time for the no-longer-Progressive Conservative Party (my words, his by implication) to get over and stop banging on about “God, guns, gays and abortion. The country,” he said, “has long since moved on.”

Indeed it has.

If you’re not up to date in the latest political news in Canada, here’s a recap.

Justin Trudeau’s minority Liberal government (with the support and blessing of the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois) has been doing a pretty good job of helping Canadians who’ve lost work or otherwise been severely impacted by the pandemic. One of the steps they took was setting up a program to provide financial assistance to the many thousands of students who would not be able to get summer jobs to help with the cost of their studies. It was announced that this program would be run by the WE Foundation.

Soon afterwards it was revealed that members of Trudeau’s family had been paid hefty speakers’ fees by said foundation. Conservative heads began duly exploding. “Scandal! Scandal! Scandal!” they cried. Then it turned out that finance minister Bill Morneau had “forgotten” to refund the charity $41,000 for a trip his family took to Kenya with the foundation. Oops. As soon as he “remembered” he paid them back. “Off with his head!” the Conservatives cried.

Before I go any further, let me make one thing clear: No one in the media or the Conservative party has suggested that the WE Foundation would have any difficulty in successfully delivering the program and helping students. The foundation was a first-rate choice.

In the face of the kerfuffle, the WE Foundation withdrew. The program to help students has been abandoned. Tough luck, kids.

Parliamentary committees have been established to get to the bottom of this terrible “scandal”. (Hmm. Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper gagging government scientists was a scandal. No parliamentary committee was ever established to get to the bottom of that. Trudeau and his minions attempting to pressure then attorney general Jodi Wilson-Raybould ruling on SNC-Lavalin was a scandal. Is this total lack of awareness of optics a scandal? Hardly. Try telling that to the Conservatives.)

Morneau’s head has been sacrificed with his resignation last week. His replacement as finance minister is deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland, one of the most popular politicians in Canada and certainly the most popular Liberal. (As a friend commented when her move to finance was announced, if Freeland is taking over Morneau’s job, who’s going to do Trudeau’s?)

At the end of the week Trudeau announced that he was proroguing Parliament until September 23, conveniently shutting down not just the House of Commons, but all parliamentary committees. He will, he said, come back next month with a throne speech detailing his government’s plans to continue helping Canadians during the pandemic. He’s playing a high stakes game of chicken, more or less daring the Conservatives to try to oust him on a confidence vote.

Another federal election? We just had one last year. Another one? Oh, for fuck’s sake.

Oh, well, I thought when this happened. At least Trudeau will still have the main thing going for him this year that he had last year: the choice between him and the dimpled devil.

Oh, wait. The Conservative leadership race that’s been going on forever is actually climaxing this weekend? Oh, I suppose I should pay some attention. (Ergo listening to the discussion on CBC radio yesterday.)

The front runners were, as mentioned, Peter McKay, a former Harper cabinet member (enough said), and Erin O’Toole, an Ontario MP and also-ran from the last Conservative leadership race, who bears a bit of a resemblance to Mr Potato Head.

Late last night, after the counting machines that had broken down had finally counted the ballots, Mr Potato Head was declared the winner.

As this Maclean’s profile of O’Toole states: “The cuddly, moderate candidate of a few years ago is now a more aggressive ‘true blue’ character with a bone to pick… his second run has been characterized more by a rivalry with Peter MacKay and contortionist flirtations with social conservatives than by the detailed policies he is proposing.

I learnt yesterday, listening to the radio, that during the French-language leaders’ debate Mr Potato Head scored points with Quebecois farmers by stating firmly that he would never go after their guns. As if anyone anywhere has ever threatened to send the army out to disarm farmers. But Tories do like to pretend this is a thing.

So, guns? Check. Oh, and O’Toole was the chosen (and groomed) candidate of arch Conservative and Alberta premier Jason Kenney.

In fact, in this interview O’Toole gave to the Toronto Star earlier this year, the new leader of the Conservative party might as well have been Kenney’s ventriloquist’s dummy.

Erin O’Toole is promising a climate-change plan, vowing not to remove rights from women and the LGBTQ community, and is pledging to fight back against what he calls “foreign-funded sources of influence.”

Speaking to the Star in Calgary, O’Toole said that “in this time of major disruption globally” he plans to “push back and fight” against what he sees as foreign-funded interests, attacks on both “traditional work” and people providing for their families.

Not planning to remove “rights from women and the LGBTQ community”? Well, isn’t that reassuring? As for the Harper/Kenney conspiracy theory about “outside agitators” trying to kill Alberta by killing the tar sands? Oh, just fuck off, will you? I’m sick to death of hearing about it.

So, Kenney’s puppet is moving into Stornoway (the official residence of the leader of the opposition). Is Mr Potato Head ready, in less than a month, to try to bring down the Liberal minority government and force a federal election? God, I hope not. But if he does, Trudeau still has two things going in his favour. The first is the fact that most Canadians are unlikely to want the Conservatives in charge of the purse strings when people still desperately need financial help. The second is the fact that the majority of Canadians (those not living in Alberta or Saskatchewan) want real action on climate change. (Not that the Liberals have delivered much, but the Conservatives would deliver nothing.)

We shall see

From → Columns

One Comment
  1. krysross permalink

    I’m with you on not needing another election.

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