Attempting to become just another big government party will further validate the Liberal-NDP worldview, leading Canadians to vote for the ‘authentic’ version rather than a crass imitation.
“Sincerity – if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”
It’s a funny quote, but there is much truth to it.
The most successful politicians are the ones who are either truly sincere in their beliefs, or so good at faking sincerity that it’s impossible to tell the difference.
Two of the most successful Canadian politicians in the 21st century, Stephen Harper and Jack Layton, are both examples of this.
Many forget that Harper was given lots of leeway by the CPC base – especially when he ran large deficits during the financial crisis – and he was given that leeway because he was seen as someone who was sincere in his conservative beliefs. So, when Harper did ‘non-conservative’ things, many felt that he was doing so out of necessity, rather than out of a desire to turn the CPC into a Liberal-lite party.
Notably, Erin O’Toole does not get the same leeway, because O’Toole seems insincere when it comes to limiting the role of government, and instead seems to be more of a big government advocate.
Jack Layton was also seen as sincere by many Canadians, and the more Canadians saw of him the more popular he and the NDP became. I once saw Layton speak in person, and it was quite interesting. When he spoke about poverty his sincerity was obvious. When he started talking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, you could immediately see him become much more careful, scripted, and less sincere. Overall though, Layton gave off the impression of sincerity.
The sincerity of current federal leaders
That brings us to the current federal leaders.
Jagmeet Singh is by far seen as the most sincere – as evidenced by his high personal popularity numbers.
Yet, that personal popularity doesn’t translate into electoral support?
Because Singh is seen as sincerely naïve on many issues.
For example, most of his campaign ads featured him walking around, talking to people, with nice music, and then him saying ‘better is possible,’ with zero policy detail whatsoever.
Even in an era when short soundbites and emotion predominates, Singh was incredibly vague.
Justin Trudeau, on the other hand, was seen as sincere with his controversial (at the time) plan to legalize marijuana and run deficits. This gave him an image of someone who was willing to say what he thought regardless of the consequences.
That image helped Trudeau win big in 2015, but has been collapsing ever since.
In contrast to Layton – who became more popular the more Canadians saw him – Trudeau has gone in the opposite direction losing the popular vote in the past two elections, having resorted to the same microtargeted negative campaigning that he once railed against.
In the 2021 campaign, the Trudeau Liberals ended up with the lowest popular vote total of any party to form government, ‘breaking’ the record they set in 2019.
Trudeau stayed in power largely due to a ruthless campaign, and due to the weakness and insincerity of his chief opponent.
And that brings us to Erin O’Toole.
O’Toole has quite a serious sincerity problem.
The problem is of his own making.
To win the CPC leadership, he campaigned as a ‘True Blue Conservative.’
After winning, he turned in the other direction.
By embracing a carbon tax, deficit spending, and moving to a more Liberal-style position on guns, O’Toole caused the Conservative base to lose trust in his sincerity. This – in contrast to Harper – leaves O’Toole with little room to try and rebrand the CPC without generating massive backlash.
O’Toole is also viewed as insincere by much of the broader public, with many on the left ironically believing that his ‘shift to the centre’ is fake.
It’s why O’Toole’s position has become so tenuous.
If the base doubted him, but he had high popularity overall, he would get lots of leeway.
By contrast, if he was relatively unpopular among the public, but had the trust of the party base, he would be relatively secure, at least for another campaign.
With out either, O’Toole is in a desperate spot. If he tries to shift back to the right, few will believe him. If he shifts further to the left, he’ll lose more support to Maxime Bernier & the PPC.
O’Toole’s main tactic for trying to stay in power has been to claim that yet another election is just around the corner, in effect using the argument that the party must be constantly election ready, rather than having another leadership race.
But that argument may be in serious jeopardy.
With growing speculation that the Liberals & NDP are going to strike up a deal to keep the government from falling for as long as three years, and with talks between the parties already taking place, Canada may be set for a further shift to the left, combined with relative security for the Liberals – a de facto Liberal majority.
This would of course be terrible for the country, as it would shift us even further towards centralized big-government spending immense amounts of money and crippling our economy in order to ‘save the planet.’
It would also present the Conservatives with a clear choice:
Continue shifting closer to the Liberals & NDP, thus ‘vindicating’ the big-government worldview, or decide to start building a principled case for limited government and individual freedom.
You’ll notice how even when the Liberals lose elections, they continue to push their ideas. They kept on pushing the carbon tax, and now even the CPC has capitulated. They’ve been pushing deficit spending and big government, and again, the CPC has capitulated.
Yet, under O’Toole, when the CPC feels an idea is ‘too conservative,’ and they lose an election, they quickly attempt to jettison those ideas – or even jettison them right in the midst of a winnable election, thus further depressing their supporters.
As the public watches this, they see the Liberals/NDP confidently pushing their ideas, and the CPC seeming scattered, unsure, tentative, and unwilling to push any clear alternative.
Who will people vote for in that situation?
As much as the CPC tried to complain about so-called ‘vote-splitting’ with the PPC, the Liberals could just as easily say the same about the NDP.
Combined, the Liberals & NDP won about 51% of the total popular vote, meaning a large portion of the public has bought into the big-government mindset.
Countering that will require courage and principled leadership, advocating for smaller government, more individual freedom, and sound money, even in the face of ‘unpopularity’ and inevitable attacks from the establishment press.
If the CPC instead decides to keep complaining about vote-splitting, keeps acting entitled to conservative votes without pushing real conservative ideas, then they will continue to splinter and weaken themselves, at a time when Canada desperately needs opposition to the Liberal-NDP agenda.
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