Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday February 2, 2022
Pierre Poilievre sounding like the next CPC leader
If you were just waking from a long pandemic nap and you turned on the television and saw Pierre Poilievre in action, you might conclude that he was the guy who’s in charge of the Conservative Party of Canada, the guy who wants to be the next prime minister.
Here was Poilievre on Twitter declaring a grocery store crisis: “If you walk into a store and you see empty shelves, thank Justin Trudeau. His … vaccine vendetta against our hard-working truckers is going to drive up the cost for our people, drive people out of work, and leave us with empty shelves.”
Or Poilievre mocking the prime minister almost every day during question period about inflation, and coining the clever hashtag #JustinFlation. His persistent needling of Trudeau and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland must surely get under their skin.
Like him or not, he looks more and more like the go-to guy for the Conservatives, the one who wants to be the next prime minister. Whereas Erin O’Toole, who is officially the leader of the party, the leader of the opposition, and officially the go-to guy, looks more and more like a bystander.
Even with a governing Liberal Party that often appears listless, and a prime minister who seems disengaged, O’Toole and the Conservatives have been spinning their wheels in second place.
Once again last week, O’Toole struggled to straddle the divide between the millions of Canadians who are vaccinated against COVID, and those who oppose vaccines and mandates.
First there was his initial, rambling response on the truckers convoy to protest a vaccine mandate. But as the so-called “freedom convoy” came closer to Parliament Hill he switched positions — again. As more and more of his MPs expressed support for the protesters, O’Toole gambled and opted to side with them.
“Truckers were our heroes at the start of the pandemic,” he said on a Twitter post days before the national war Memorial became a parking lot, a Nazi flag was paraded around Parliament, and a statue of Terry Fox was defiled. “Now Trudeau and his Liberal allies want to smear and demonize them.”
That message is aimed as much at the Conservative party as voters. Members of his party and his caucus are restive.
A second riding association — this one in Conservative heartland Alberta — has voted in favour of expediting a leadership review of O’Toole. They want the review by mid-June, instead of waiting until the party’s national convention in 2023.
The Saskatchewan caucus defied O’Toole by keeping Sen. Denise Batters in its fold. O’Toole had banned her from the national caucus after she launched a petition to turf him in November. She blamed him for the “significant losses” in the election, and linked the defeat to his Liberal-light about-face on carbon pricing and gun control.
It is never a good sign for a party leader when the caucus, or parts of it, openly defy him. And the results of a Leger poll published last week certainly won’t help O’Toole. On the question of who would make the best prime minister, the Conservative leader is in third place — behind Trudeau and the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh.
Chalk that up to a risky campaign that failed, and an inability to craft a position that would satisfy voters who overwhelmingly support vaccine mandates and those party members who see them as infringements on freedom.
That’s a one-two punch that will make it very hard for O’Toole to get up off the mat. And Poilievre looks like he already wants to get into the ring. (St. Catharine’s Standard)