Regardless of which party you support, you have to feel a bit of sympathy for Conservative leader Erin O’Toole. At the party convention just concluded O’Toole tried to nudge the party in a more progressive direction—(remember what the party used to be called?) only to suffer a humiliating defeat on the adoption of a resolution that said climate change is real. He lost by a 54 to 46 percent margin, and lest anyone think it was another east-west divide—Ontario Conservatives voted against the statement by an even higher margin—58 percent opposing.
Political polarization on display
O’Toole clearly laid out the situation facing Conservatives, telling them at the beginning of the convention that they would have to present a more progressive face to the voting public or risk being an opposition party for ever. It is a similar situation as the one that faces US Republicans, many of whom openly admit that they may never regain power, unless, in their case, some curbs are placed on the ability of minorities to vote. It shows the extent of political polarization north and south of the border. It makes one marvel at how Brian Mulroney and Stephen Harper were able to gain and hold onto power with this party. Mulroney did it by his charm and powers of persuasion—Harper by imposing a tight regime of command and control. But these are different times, Trumpism has emboldened the extreme right both in the US and Canada and the political chasm has deepened–even in the six years since Harper led the party.
O’Toole has political assets
Back to O’Toole, he actually possesses some political assets—he is an effective speaker and comes across as a sincere, positive person with moderate views. He effectively handled a question and answer session in French and English co-hosted by former leadership candidate Leslyn Lewis (who, regardless of your political persuasion is the kind of person we need in the House of Commons).
He has none of the breathy mannerisms and affectations of Justin Trudeau, who, even to his supporters can sometimes be a bit much. O’Toole possesses authenticity, but here he is—months away from an election, trying to figure out how to develop a platform that includes some kind of a positive message about the environment, when everybody knows his party is deeply divided on the issue. He warned his party that they can’t keep presenting the same face and policies to the public and expect to win, but not enough of them were listening.