Canada COMMENTARY: Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has a problem — and it’s Alberta
What happened in London should be a pivot point for Canada — and its politicians
If, after the horror in London, Canadians are being called on to ask questions of themselves and their country, their political leaders should face some awkward questions about their own words and actions.Six years later, the killing of four members of a Muslim family in London, Ontario is a moment of reckoning for Canadians — but also for this country's political leaders.
As far as political predictions go, forecasting a federal election in 2021 seemed like a fairly safe bet. In light of more recent developments, we can upgrade the possibility of a fall federal election to “near certainty.”
For example, this past week sawdelivered in Parliament by MPs who are not seeking re-election — something that would seem rather odd if those MPs were simply returning to the House of Commons after the summer break. The from Justin Trudeau about opposition parties obstructing his legislative agenda certainly seem to be setting the stage for the prime minister to seek an election and to have a ready-made excuse for why he is doing so.
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Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says it was “completely inappropriate” for senior military leaders — including the officer in charge of the department investigating retired general Jonathan Vance — to golf with Vance earlier this month. The Conservative leader also accused the Liberal government, and specifically Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, of demonstrating a lack of leadership through its handling of sexually inappropriate behaviour in the Canadian military.
Furthermore, recent polls showing the Liberalsover Conservatives will do nothing to dissuade the Liberals from seeking to turn their minority government into a majority one.
For Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, the challenges are piling up. The country’s vaccine rollout, once a seen as a political albatross for the Liberals, is now firing on all cylinders. The success of the immunization campaign bodes very well for some significant economic recovery in the second half of 2021. This is all good news for any incumbent government.
On top of all of that, though, Erin O’Toole has an Alberta problem.
It’s unlikely that Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has any intent to undermine Erin O’Toole, and I’m sure O’Toole will have Kenney’s strong support once a federal election campaign is underway.
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Moreover, I’m sure the message Kenney would have for Albertans is that a vote for the Conservatives is a vote for fairer treatment from Ottawa. Indeed, it’s unlikely that Kenney would have pressed ahead with much of his “Fair Deal” agenda — including, notably, the— had the Conservatives prevailed in the 2019 federal election.
While that agenda — and the overall theme of standing up to Justin Trudeau — might play well for the premier’s domestic audience, it poses a significant problem for Erin O’Toole and potentially plays into the hands of the Trudeau Liberals.
Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley was savvy enough to pick up on this. As Alberta’son Equalization have firmed up, Notley has been on whether he supports the process and, more importantly, whether he would heed the result.
O'Toole pulls Conservative MPs from national security committee, alleging Liberal cover-up related to COVID-19
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole told the House of Commons today that he is pulling his caucus members from a national security committee he claims is being used to cover up sensitive documents about Canada’s top infectious diseases lab. "The committee is now being used as a political tool by the prime minister to cover up the Winnipeg lab incident," O'Toole said during today's question period."That's why today I'm informing the government that Conservative members of the National Intelligence and Security Committee will be withdrawing their participation effective immediately.
Not surprisingly, O’Toole has shied away from any sort of firm response. It’s hard to see how he can speak to this matter without falling into a political trap. But he can’t hide from the question forever.
For example, if O’Toole commits to renegotiating Equalization — a program that— he is going to face all kinds of questions about how that would impact recipient provinces. The Liberals will no doubt play up that uncertainty.
There are certainly ways that Equalization can be streamlined and improved (mind you, no such changes would mean any money staying in or returning to Alberta), but Alberta’s premier knows full well the political realities of this issue at the federal level. Kenney was a key member of the Harper government that gave us the current Equalization formula.
There is no way Erin O’Toole wants to be dragged into this political morass right now. It’s probably the case that Kenney never expected his Equalization referendum might coincide with a federal election, or that it could possibly be a Conservative prime minister who’s left to deal with its aftermath.
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On the other hand, if O’Toole downplays the referendum or the extent to which he’s be prepared to plunge into the issue as prime minister, that’s not likely to play well with the Conservative base in Alberta.
Erin O’Toole absolutely needs to maintain Conservative support in Alberta, and recent polls show that support has eroded. What’s worse, there’s the possibility that enough support for the upstart Maverick Party could help the Liberals squeak through in some tight races.
Ultimately, Erin O’Toole is going to be accountable for how his party performs in the next federal election, whenever that happens to occur. The Equalization referendum in Alberta, however, is not of his making and is beyond his control — but could certainly be a factor in the outcome of that election.
It’s probably too late for Kenney to blink on the referendum. There’s probably some truth to the notion that it’s politically advantageous for Alberta conservative premiers to have Liberal prime ministers as a foil, but I doubt that’s what he’s after here.
Given the likelihood that this referendum will not bring about any meaningful change, Kenney and his advisers might find themselves wondering if it was all worth it.
is host of “Afternoons with Rob Breakenridge” on and a commentator for Global News.
John Ivison: O’Toole’s pro-Canada speech may resonate with voters tired of apologies .
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole had a fiery exchange with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during question period on ethics and leadership in the House of Commons during Wednesday’s final question period before the house adjourns for the summer.