With many members angry about policy reversals, and some MPs adopting the ‘woke’ rhetoric of the far-left, the CPC is clearly facing an internal civil war, creating opportunities for splinter parties to siphon some of the disgruntled conservative vote.
The Conservative Party of Canada brass has been trying everything they can to take votes from the Liberals.
And by ‘trying everything they can,’ I mean becoming more and more like the Liberals…
Sure, there’s the usual criticisms in Opposition and accusations of corruption against the government, and there are certainly lots of political targets to criticize, considering Trudeau’s incompetence and dishonesty.
But when it comes to the overall approach of the Conservative Party, they appear to be moving away from anything that is actually ‘conservative.’
Now, when some people read that, they assume a person is saying they need to move in a heavily social conservative direction. But that’s not what I’m talking about.
The CPC was quite successful under Stephen Harper for many years, years in which the party balanced the views of social conservative members, libertarian members, nationalists, and social moderates.
The CPC needs all of those groups to win.
As of late however, the CPC has moved beyond balancing those different groups to seemingly embracing a more left-wing, and in some cases far-left narrative that completely plays into their opponents hands.
In doing so, they risk not only further demoralizing their already demoralized supporters, but creating further opportunities for the PPC, the Maverick Party, and a potential new party from Derek Sloan, the ousted social conservative MP who Erin O’Toole once bragged about defending before booting from the party under an appallingly horrendous pretext.
Michelle Rempel Garner & Garnett Genuis
To begin with, there appears to be some sort of divide between Michelle Rempel Garner and Garnett Genuis, over the issue of an apology from the Pope for Residential Schools.
On Twitter, NDP MP Leah Gazan ripped Genuis:
“Conservative MP @GarnettGenuis just voted against @CharlieAngusNDP Unanimous Consent motion to implement TRC Call to Action 58 calling on the Pope to issue an apology to Survivors, Families & communities for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the residential school! #Disgusting”
Conservative MP @GarnettGenuis just voted against @CharlieAngusNDP Unanimous Consent motion to implement TRC Call to Action 58 calling on the Pope to issue an apology to Survivors, Families & communities for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the residential school! #Disgusting pic.twitter.com/tMSjdhMIKb
— Leah ProudLakota (she/her) (@LeahGazan) June 8, 2021
Interestingly, Michelle Rempel Garner replied to Gazan’s Tweet, not with a defense of her CPC colleague, but with what seemed to be an attempt to win Gazan’s favour:
“If it helps, Leah, I voted in favour of the papal apology in 2018 and I stand by that vote today. All parties have a role in atonement and making things right, and that is my word to you.”
If it helps, Leah, I voted in favour of the papal apology in 2018 and I stand by that vote today. All parties have a role in atonement and making things right, and that is my word to you.
— Michelle Rempel Garner (@MichelleRempel) June 8, 2021
This wasn’t a one-off:
After Genuis said on Facebook that “The Pope apologized in Rome in 2009,” Gazan again criticized him:
This was Gazan’s response:
“No @GarnettGenuis the @Pontifex has NOT apologized! History will remember you as someone who fought against the @HumanRights of #Indigenous peoples and did not support the #TRC #CallsToAction including Call 58. Your colonial story time is over! #WeSeeYou #Shame”
No @GarnettGenuis the @Pontifex has NOT apologized! History will remember you as someone who fought against the @HumanRights of #Indigenous peoples and did not support the #TRC #CallsToAction including Call 58. Your colonial story time is over! #WeSeeYou #Shame pic.twitter.com/gh30ncyyKw
— Leah ProudLakota (she/her) (@LeahGazan) June 9, 2021
Rempel Garner then replied with a fire and clap emoji, seen as a sign of agreement with Gazan’s response to Genuis:
“Michelle Rempel Garner @MichelleRempel
Replying to @LeahGazan
Again, that’s a CPC MP agreeing with an NDP MP claiming another CPC MP will go down in history as an opponent of the human rights of Indigenous People, and then calling his remarks “colonial story time.”
Here’s the thing:
Genuis was correct to claim the Pope apologized in 2009, because the Pope did in fact apologize in 2009:
I have excerpted the following CTV News article at length, because it is important to note how many are acting as if all of this didn’t happen and are claiming the Pope never addressed this:
“Pope Benedict has said he is sorry for the physical and sexual abuse and “deplorable” conduct at Catholic church-run Canadian residential schools.
The Vatican says the pontiff expressed his sorrow and emphasized that “acts of abuse cannot be tolerated” at a meeting Wednesday with representatives of native Canadians.
“Given the sufferings that some indigenous children experienced in the Canadian residential school system, the Holy Father expressed his sorrow at the anguish caused by the deplorable conduct of some members of the church and he offered his sympathy and prayerful solidarity,” a statement from the Vatican said.
Archbishop Gerard Pettipas of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, who attended Wednesday’s meeting, says it was an important moment.
Until today, the Church as a whole had never apologized for the abuse that aboriginal students suffered at the hands of Catholic missionary congregations.
“What we’ve been trying to do is to bring about healing and reconciliation between the Church, the government of Canada and our First Nations people,” he told Canada AM shortly after the meeting.
“There was a feeling that despite the apologies that were offered by the oblates and some bishops, that the Catholic Church as a whole has not recognized the part that we played.
“As a gesture of reconciliation… it was important to hear from the one person who does speak for the Catholic Church around the world, to hear him say ‘I am sorry. I feel for what you people have suffered. We hope that we can turn the page and move toward a better future together.'”
Chief Edward John of the Tlazten First Nations says he hopes the apology will help “many people move forward.”
“We heard the prime minister’s apology a year ago in June. And today, to listen to the Holy Father explain his profound sorrow and sadness and to express that there was no room for this sort of abuse to take place in the residential schools, that is an emotional barrier that now has been lifted for many people,” he said.
Phil Fontaine, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said he appreciated the apology from the Church.
“I think His Holiness understands the pain that was endured by so many and I heard him say that it caused him great anguish,” said Fontaine, who attended the meetings, on Wednesday.
“I also heard His Holiness say that the abuse of the nature that was inflicted on us has no place in the Church, it’s intolerable and it caused him great anguish.”
“What I heard,” Fontaine added, “it gives me comfort.””
Again, why would Rempel Garner be agreeing with an NDP MP ripping into her colleague on an issue where – purely on a factual basis – her colleague was correct.
Genuis said the Pope apologized in 2009. Above, you just read a news story from 2009 in which it is clear that is what took place, something acknowledged at the time by top Indigenous leaders.
Why would a Conservative MP be supporting a false narrative against her own colleague?
Note, this isn’t to say Genuis is doing great either, as he now faces questions about whether he and another CPC MP used Parliamentary resources to produce a video that featured someone talking about being ‘counselled against ‘gay sexual behaviour,’ which will be a bad look for the CPC if true.
That said, the issue between Genuis and Rempel Garner wasn’t about that, it was about the Pope and an apology, and on that Genuis has the facts correct.
However, it is another Tweet from Rempel Garner that is generating the most surprise among some Conservatives.
In a reply to a Tweet from Amira Elghawaby, who often writes for the Toronto Star and Press Progress, Rempel used language that is generally only seen from the far-left:
“. . . one of my biggest regrets in my public service was being silent during the 2015 general election campaign on the wrongness of the barbaric cultural practices tip line, and the proposed niqab ban. Those policies were wrong . . .”
Yes & look at the climate they’ve created.”
". . . one of my biggest regrets in my public service was being silent during the 2015 general election campaign on the wrongness of the barbaric cultural practices tip line, and the proposed niqab ban. Those policies were wrong . . ."
Yes & look at the climate they've created. https://t.co/9BqZsb4lW5
— Amira Elghawaby (@AmiraElghawaby) June 9, 2021
“Yes. I humble myself and ask forgiveness, and seek to make things right.
I have privilege; I am cis/straight/white. But I am also a woman who works in a system dominated by white maleness.
But no excuses. I will do what I can. That is all I can do, but it is much.”
Yes. I humble myself and ask forgiveness, and seek to make things right.
I have privilege; I am cis/straight/white. But I am also a woman who works in a system dominated by white maleness.
But no excuses. I will do what I can. That is all I can do, but it is much.
— Michelle Rempel Garner (@MichelleRempel) June 9, 2021
The willingness to be critical of the snitch line is reasonable, as that was a terrible policy. That said, it was also a response (albeit a horrendous one), to a real concern faced by many women about being mistreated by those who believe they find ‘justification’ for that in Islam or in other religious practices.
That is of course ignored by those trying to claim that such a policy led to hateful attitudes, a claim which simply doesn’t stand up to reality.
Yet, it’s the second part of Rempel’s Tweet that raised the most eyebrows:
“I have privilege; I am cis/straight/white. But I am also a woman who works in a system dominated by white maleness.”
That is an explicitly left-wing, even far-left style of messaging.
It plays into the far-left critical race theory framing of society and power, and goes all-in on identity politics.
It must be said, there is no ‘win’ for Conservatives in embracing that. The goalposts will simply move again, and playing into a neo-Marxist conception of the world will leave nothing for the CPC to conserve.
If the CPC moves in that direction, they will face not only electoral defeat, but the complete defeat of anything resembling ‘conservatism’ in the country.
Conservatism is supposed to be about individual responsibility, a strong Canadian identity, and holding people accountable based on their actions, rather than their race or gender.
Conservative Members are expecting their party to fight for them, stand up for Canada and a balanced perspective on Canadian history, and push back against the excesses of the far-left, not give in to the same excesses themselves.
There are more issues for the CPC, with the Sarnia Lambton Electoral District Association releasing a letter criticizing Erin O’Toole on his response to Quebec’s attempt to change the Constitution:
“BREAKING: @erinotoole has “greatly upset” @CPC_HQ members in regards to his handling of Quebec Premier @francoislegault & @yfblanchet constitutional demands according to letter distributed among party’s 338 EDA Presidents, National Council, and Caucus #cdnpoli #canpoli”
BREAKING: @erinotoole has “greatly upset” @CPC_HQ members in regards to his handling of Quebec Premier @francoislegault & @yfblanchet constitutional demands according to letter distributed among party’s 338 EDA Presidents, National Council, and Caucus #cdnpoli #canpoli pic.twitter.com/aCq5IBuYpH
— Clinton P. Desveaux (@ClintonDesveaux) June 10, 2021
The criticism of O’Toole for pandering is one that many in the CPC have been making, and the saddest thing about it is that it isn’t even working for O’Toole.
Conservatives continue to trail
You may be thinking, “well, this shift could be worth it if they’re beating Trudeau, right?”
Well, even with that as the litmus test for the “move left” approach of the CPC, it’s a total failure.
According to the LeanTossup model, there is a 47.9% chance of a Liberal majority, with a 45% chance of a Liberal minority.
There is just a 6.5% chance of a Conservative minority government.
The Liberals average 35.8% in the polls according to the model, with the CPC at 29.4%.
The model projects the Liberals to win 169 seats, with the CPC at 111.
Another model shows the Conservatives in trouble as well.
According to 338Canada, the Liberals average 36.1% in the polls, compared to the Conservatives at 31.1%.
The Liberals are projected to win 167 seats, compared to the CPC at 114.8.
The 338Canada model gives the Liberals a 46.1% chance of winning a majority, and a 94.7% overall chance of winning the most seats.
And, to raise the issue that the Sarnia Lambton EDA said about O’Toole and pandering in Quebec, the 338 model puts the CPC at a horrendous 16% in Quebec, with the Liberals at 38% and the Bloc at 29%.
Additionally, some private polling data that I’ve seen has shown a small, but noticeable rise in support for the PPC and the Maverick Party. This could be a blip, or it could be a shift of some conservative voters giving up on the CPC entirely.
Now, the argument that some make for the CPC shifting left is that they will ‘trade’ right-wing voters for centrist voters.
But it doesn’t work that way.
You don’t get to physically move a right-wing voter in the West and magically gain a centrist vote in the East.
Further, the type of person who would be willing to vote Conservative in the West likely has many similarities to someone willing to vote Conservative in the East, so if you lose one you may lose the either.
Additionally, for every right-wing voter you lose, you have to then find an additional voter to overtake the Liberals, and that doesn’t even account for the Liberals gaining voters from parties further left (as they likely will from the lone Atlantic Canada Green Party MP Jenica Atwin crossing the floor to the Libs).
So, pandering and shifting to the left appears to have accomplished only the demoralization of CPC members, without doing anything to weaken the Liberals.
It has also created an opportunity for splinter parties, and that brings us the last part of the column.
As I mentioned early on, the way the CPC booted Derek Sloan was about as dishonest and ugly as it gets in politics.
And doing that to somebody (particularly after posturing as their top defender), will generate a natural desire for revenge.
Couple that with the fact that Sloan represents the views of many social conservative Canadians, and the fact that many CPC members are increasingly disgruntled by the party shifting to the left, and there is a clear vacuum.
And that brings us to this:
Regardless of whether you are a Sloan fan or not, the production values and message in this ad are likely to appeal to many Conservative Canadians.
This also seems like someone who is clearly working on building a political party or movement, as it would take a team and resources to produce this – including purchasing and operating a drone for the ad.
Another problem for the CPC is that when Sloan goes on TV, he doesn’t come across as an extreme person. Sloan has a core social conservative base, and relatively good communication skills, meaning he is likely a bigger threat to the CPC from the outside than he would have been on the inside.
The key lesson here is that the more the CPC brass acts as if they can take their voters for granted, the more people will revolt against that kind of arrogance, and look for potential alternatives.
You can’t simply slap ‘conservative’ onto something and expect all conservatives to support it. It’s basic game theory. If you shift far enough left in pursuit of centrist or left-wing votes, you shift out of the realm of consideration for many conservatives, thus losing those votes.
There has to be substance, and some sort of coherent world view that resonates with the conservatism millions of Canadians share.
If that isn’t there, the CPC will continue to become less and less unified, and will splinter as other parties fill the void.