Last March, Peter MacKay was the clear front-runner within the race to steer the Conservative Party of Canada — the previous Conservative cupboard minister led in polling and was racking up endorsements.
But Alberta Premier Jason Kenney broke with the bulk on the proper, endorsing MacKay’s chief rival Erin O’Toole, calling him “true blue” — a pacesetter who, in Kenney’s view, might go on to win key components of Canada in a federal election.
O’Toole, in fact, went on to win the Conservative management. But as O’Toole charts a course ahead for the Conservatives — and with Canadians divided over pipelines and Kenney navigating a number of simultaneous crises — is the premier an asset or a legal responsibility?
Melissa Caouette, a political strategist with the Canadian Strategy Group, informed CBC’s West of Centre podcast that conservatives are profitable with large margins in Alberta and Saskatchewan on the expense of votes within the Greater Toronto Area and in Quebec.
“It probably does make sense from an electoral math perspective for O’Toole to move a little bit more to centre, and I think there’s still a path to victory if he does so,” Caouette mentioned.
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West of Centre38:25So lengthy and thanks for all of the votes
Expanding the bottom
Rob Russo, former parliamentary bureau chief with CBC News, informed West of Centre that the historical past of conservatives prior to now 30 to 40 years suggests those that succeed preserve their base whereas increasing it.
“You don’t have to go too far back. Stephen Harper expanded his base,” Russo mentioned. “He made people who might not be comfortable voting Conservative, and particularly voting for him, feel a little bit more comfortable doing that.”
Former prime minister Brian Mulroney did the identical, Russo famous, increasing the bottom of Conservative voters into Quebec.
Russo mentioned O’Toole might even take a web page out of Ronald Reagan’s playbook, making a wave of so-called “Reagan Democrats” — Democrat voters who left their social gathering in the course of the 1980 and 1984 presidential elections.
Questions stay as as to whether such methods are even possible in a world of polarized politics upended by the pandemic.
But former Conservative strategist Tim Powers, who’s now chairman of Summa Strategies, informed West of Centre that holding the established order will not safe O’Toole the win within the present local weather.
“O’Toole wants to win. So, he’s got to take what some traditionalists describe as risks,” Powers mentioned. “I know this is one that causes tension — not just in Alberta and Saskatchewan, but also out east — is climate policy.”
Powers mentioned O’Toole would wish to seek out widespread floor amongst youthful millenial voters and concrete voters in Ontario, for whom carbon pricing is a truth of life.
“The other point, though, is that economic policy. I do think conservatives still do find common ground on economic policy from Victoria to St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador,” he mentioned. “And economic policy doesn’t have to just be carbon pricing.
“So I feel O’Toole is that. I feel he is making noises about all of that. And I feel that is solely sensible, as a result of danger will get you a win. Holding the established order is not going to.”
At the wake, at the funeral
Shortly after being sworn in, Joe Biden signed an executive order to revoke a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, effectively killing the $8-billion US project.
Kenney called the move a “intestine punch” and urged the federal government to press the U.S. to reconsider, suggesting Canada impose trade and economic sanctions should they not do so.
O’Toole, for his part, said the pipeline cancellation was “devastating” and called for an emergency debate in the House of Commons. Russo saw the Conservative pushback as the party performing due diligence.
“They put up a spirited efficiency in query interval and peppered the federal government, after which they backed away,” Russo said.
A poll released Tuesday by the Angus Reid Institute indicated that a majority of respondents in B.C., Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada felt it was time to accept the decision on Keystone XL and focus on other issues.
The somewhat divergent approaches to the pipeline’s cancellation almost made it seemed as though “Kenney was on the wake, the place Erin O’Toole was on the funeral,” Powers said.
“Kenney bought into the whisky and had the entire excessive rhetoric and tales, whereas O’Toole was the extra sombre pressure,” he said.
“O’Toole additionally would not need to proceed to be the pressure of dropping battles, the place the general public has already determined one thing, or a choice has been made by an exterior pressure.”
Though O’Toole may have accepted defeat on Keystone, Russo said there are other opportunities to show that he cares about pipelines.
“That’s on TMX and Line three and getting these accomplished,” he said. “But extra importantly for Mr. O’Toole, as an Ontario MP, is Line 5 … it gives gasoline for Ontarians, it gives jet gasoline for Pearson International Airport.
“He sees a future for the oil industry in Canada in terms of exports and imports, where it’s going to directly affect the consumer.”
Caouette mentioned she did not assume fissures would emerge on points between Kenney and O’Toole within the run-up to the following federal election, however a possible O’Toole victory would truly put the premier in an ungainly place.
“The one thing he has right now with respect to drumming up and maintaining support of the public is fighting with Ottawa,” she mentioned.
“All of a sudden, when you have another one of the family in that spot, it becomes a lot more difficult to be as critical.”
Asset or legal responsibility?
Kenney’s endorsement of O’Toole was considered as a serious increase given the premier’s important function within the social gathering, given his outreach function throughout his time with the Conservative Party, which was largely credited with broadening the social gathering’s base.
But as O’Toole appears to be like forward to an election — presumably this 12 months — does Kenney think about to his technique?
“Kenney helps in terms of keeping the base assured that there is a real conservative in Ottawa, but beyond that I think it’s really up to O’Toole,” Russo mentioned.
“There are avenues of opportunity for him in terms of the pandemic and the economic fallout from the pandemic.”
Powers mentioned O’Toole cannot have Kenney absolutely offside, particularly if Kenney has future ambitions in federal politics.
“But if [Russo] is right that a lot of this election may swing on pandemic management, then Erin O’Toole has to be careful how he aligns with Jason,” he mentioned. “Because there’s a fairly harsh critique around Kenney, as there is around most political leaders around this.”
Caouette mentioned O’Toole ought to view Kenney as a legal responsibility, however that might change.
Kenney is dealing with a lot criticism, Caouette mentioned — whether or not justified or not — and is dealing with a basically completely different set of points in comparison with when he entered Alberta politics.
“Frankly, I don’t know that he has the time to dedicate to that, given what he’s facing here in Alberta. I don’t think that the growth for the Conservative Party is an increase in pro-Alberta sentiment across the rest of the country,” she mentioned.
“I think that that message, whether it’s resonating, is being heard pretty loud and clear. I don’t think that’s where O’Toole is finding his expanded base.”
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