Canada Mandryk: Prairie COVID-19 surge may be bad news for O'Toole elsewhere

17:41  18 september  2021
17:41  18 september  2021 Source:   leaderpost.com

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Conservative Party of Canada Leader Erin O’Toole balked when asked what he thinks about the way Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has handled the COVID-19 pandemic.

After Thursday’s debacle, one can only imagine O’Toole’s reaction to the same question about Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe.

In a nutshell, this explains why Kenney and Moe have kept a low profile in this 2021 election. Neither are assets for the federal Conservative campaign … although there are a few nuanced differences in the situation for each prairie premier.

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In Alberta, where federal conservatives (be they old Progressive Conservatives, Reform Party, Canadian Alliance or the Conservative Party of Canada) have consistently run ahead of the provincial conservatives. And for Jason Kenney, these are not the best of times.

Kenney now lingers near the bottom of Angus Reid polling on premiers’ popularity and again faces what appears to be a legitimate challenge from the NDP and Leader Rachel Notley — something inconceivable after Kenney drew together Alberta’s coalition on the right into one seemingly indestructible political force.

Of course, this was before his handling of COVID-19 that saw Kenney retreating Wednesday to a policy change and an apology to Albertans.

And after Kenney’s pronouncement, he may be driving anti-vaccination, anti-mask, anti-passport Alberta conservatives toward Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada or the Maverick Party (running 17 Alberta candidates). That is the kind of help that O’Toole and his Alberta candidates surely don’t want. Best not to wake some of those resting in that big conservative tent.

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Again, Alberta Conservative candidates can afford to shed a few thousand voters here and there.

But where Kenney’s handling of the pandemic may be a bigger issue for O’Toole is in ridings elsewhere in the country where races are tight and votes lost to the PPC might make a difference.

Asked 11 times on Thursday to comment on Kenney’s plan and handling of the pandemic, O’Toole danced around it.

And now Justin Trudeau’s Liberals are running advertisements of O’Toole saying earlier in the pandemic that maybe other Canadians have something to learn from the UCP and praising Kenney for Alberta’s early reopening. (In no small irony, the NDP has countered with ads of Kenney and Trudeau sitting together as Trudeau congratulates the Alberta premier for reopening in time for the Calgary Stampede.)

Moe hasn’t been quite as caught up in the 2021 federal campaign wash and has gone out of his way to avoid becoming embroiled in election issues.

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And what is different is that the Saskatchewan Party runs at least even with — or perhaps ahead of — the federal Conservatives in this province and that Moe has remained among the most popular premiers in Canada ( or at least he was, before his bungling of the fourth wave ). It It will be interesting to watch Moe’s popularity in the months ahead.

But like in Alberta, Conservative candidates here don’t really need the premier’s support. And where Moe might be needed — in the north or a couple city seats — he wasn’t all that popular even before Thursday.

As for the national scene, while Canadians elsewhere know Kenney and have a vague idea of what’s going on with the COVID-19 numbers in Alberta, they don’t pay attention to Saskatchewan and its COVID-19 problem and don’t even really know who Scott Moe is.

Given this, it’s best for O’Toole if Moe simply stays home and keeps Bernier’s Purple People at bay. G iven how much time Bernier has spent in this province and that he plans to spend election night in Saskatoon, it will be be curious to see whether Moe has accomplished that.

But what’s even more curious is whether big COVID-19 problems on the Prairies are going to register with voters in the waning days of this campaign.

It seems something near impossible to measure. We likely won’t even know on election night.

Suspicions are, however, what’s going on here can’t be good for O’Toole.

Murray Mandryk is the political columnist for the Regina Leader-Post and Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

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This is interesting!