The current CPC leader lacks the charisma and credibility necessary to even maintain strong support within the party, let alone the country as a whole.
It’s no secret that the Conservative Party of Canada is divided.
This division exists for three key reasons.
First, like any party, the CPC is composed of various disparate groupings which want different things, including fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, libertarians, and the O’Toole loyalists.
Second, the party failed in the last campaign, and while victory can cover up the many differences between the groups in the party, defeat exposes them.
Third, the party not only failed to win the election, but failed after having thrown out many of their principles and reversed many of their core policy positions. This has deepened the divisions between the party factions.
The key takeaway here is that the strategy of CPC leader Erin O’Toole not only failed to deliver victory, but has made the party far more divided.
Combined with O’Toole’s lack of charisma and weakened credibility, and it’s not a surprise that he has been reduced to using threats and punishment to try and maintain his position.
Anecdotes confirmed by facts
Since the election, there has been a dearth of polling, which isn’t a surprise.
As a result, the impression that Erin O’Toole has lost much of his support within the CPC has been based on anecdote.
For example, the CPC seems to be in an ongoing civil war that can be witnessed on social media, with various factions fighting amongst each other, with the two biggest factions being Principled Conservatives who want the party to actually offer a vision that is diametrically opposed to the Liberals, and the O’Toole Loyalists who want to shift the CPC into a Liberal-Lite direction.
After all, in the last election campaign the CPC ran on carbon taxes, another decade of deficits, and then adopted the Liberal position on guns.
Since the CPC defeat in the 2021 campaign, a few CPC MPs have tacitly criticized O’Toole, or hinted that a leadership race should take place sooner rather than later.
Then, when Conservative Senator Denise Batters called for an early leadership race, O’Toole removed her from the CPC Caucus. There are also reports that O’Toole and top CPC leadership have threatened to remove any MP who makes a similar push.
However, the CPC Senate Caucus decided against removing Batters, demonstrating O’Toole’s limited credibility among CPC Senators.
Also of note, Conservative MP Shannon Stubbs faced media reports of a toxic workplace culture, and O’Toole called for her to be investigated. What is interesting about that is Stubbs has been one of the MPs most critical of O’Toole.
In short, all the anecdotal evidence has pointed to O’Toole being in a weak position, and having to resort to fear in order to try and maintain his job.
But now, a poll from Angus Reid – who were relatively accurate in the 2021 general election – demonstrates O’Toole’s dangerously precarious position, providing clear evidence where there was previously only anecdote.
O’Toole’s popularity within the CPC collapses
The most immediate challenge for O’Toole, and the clearest evidence of how much his flip-flop has cost him his credibility, are his numbers within the party itself.
In late September of 2021, 91% of CPC supporters approved of O’Toole, while just 8% expressed disapproval. That was a result of the ‘rally-round-the-flag’ effect that generally takes place during elections, as many disillusioned Conservatives saw him as a preferable alternative to Justin Trudeau.
But now, O’Toole’s approval rating among CPC supporters has collapsed to just 59%, a drop of a whopping 32 percentage points.
His disapproval has also surged to 31%.
To put it mildly, these are horrendous numbers for O’Toole.
Nobody can win a general election if they can’t even win the support of two-thirds of their own party members.
A closer look at the numbers reveals even more weakness for O’Toole.
Just 8% of CPC supporters have a ‘very favourable’ view of him, while 51% have a favourable view. This means O’Toole has few strong supporters, and many tepid supporters.
By contrast, even Justin Trudeau has more strong supporters within his own party – 17% – than O’Toole does.
And, while O’Toole commands the support of just 59% of CPC supporters, Trudeau has the support of 81% of Liberals, Jagmeet Singh has the support of 91% of NDP voters, and Yves Francois Blanchet has the support of 87% of Bloc voters.
Thus, O’Toole is in a league all his own, and not in a good way.
O’Toole’s support collapses among the broader Canadian public
O’Toole’s severe decline in support isn’t limited just to the CPC.
Among the broader Canadian public, O’Toole is down to a 24% approval rating, a step drop from the 38% he reached close to election day.
Considering the CPC won about 34% of the popular vote, the gap between the popularity of the CPC and O’Toole’s popularity is quite vast.
O’Toole’s horrendous numbers make Trudeau look popular by comparison, as the divisive PM has a 38% approval rating, compared to 54% who disapprove of him. That puts him 14 points ahead of O’Toole.
Jagmeet Singh and Yves Francois Blanchet have approval ratings of 52% and 46% respectively.
Liberals surge, Conservatives fall
On election day, the Conservatives won 33.74% of the popular vote, compared to the Liberals at 32.64%.
But now, the poll shows O’Toole’s collapsing popularity is taking a toll on overall CPC support.
The CPC is down to 29% in federal vote intention, with the Liberals at 35%.
While O’Toole claims he must remain in place in case a snap election happens, a snap election at this point would likely result in the Liberal majority, in large part because O’Toole’s deep unpopularity is weakening his party.
Low charisma, low credibility
To succeed, leaders need either charisma or credibility, preferably both.
Yet, one is usually enough to win.
For example, Stephen Harper lacked charisma but had credibility, especially among the CPC base.
Brian Mulroney had both charisma and credibility in his initial election campaign, winning a massive majority.
Justin Trudeau has charisma (as evidenced by the transformation of the LPC into a personality cult), while lacking credibility.
Unfortunately for Erin O’Toole, he lacks both.
O’Toole is not particularly photogenic, nor is he a particularly inspiring public speaker. That’s not to say he’s a bad public speaker, but he’s not out there delivering speeches to massive stadiums of cheering fans.
Yet, he also lacks credibility.
His reversal on the carbon tax will not be soon forgotten, and his 2021 campaign platform was largely Liberal-lite, particularly when it came to pushing another decade of deficit spending.
Since the election, O’Toole has only deepened his credibility issue.
For many months, Pierre Poilievre had been talking about the danger of money printing, inflation, and surging government spending.
O’Toole then removed Poilievre as CPC finance critic, pushing the CPC in the aforementioned direction of advocating for another decade of high-spending and ongoing deficits.
Yet, with inflation surging and the CPC base reacting well to Poilievre’s limited government, sound money advocacy, O’Toole put him back in the role, and has started to adopt Poilievre’s messaging.
Certainly, that is a good thing, as it means the CPC has the potential to be a real opposition.
However, given O’Toole’s past actions, it seems likely that the moment he feels some media pressure, he’ll quickly revert back to pushing a statist, big-government agenda.
O’Toole hasn’t given anyone a reason to believe that he will stick with a principled agenda for a sustained period of time, and that lack of credibility can be seen in his moribund approval ratings.
Canada needs a strong Conservative opposition that will advocate for a smaller government and more individual freedom, even in the face of attacks from the other parties and the establishment media. That will take strength and resolve, and a willingness to push forward under difficult circumstances.
Can the CPC become that party?
Not as long as Erin O’Toole remains in charge.
Photo – YouTube