Erin O'Toole is trying to put a softer face on the Conservative Party, assuming that strategy will build a big tent party. But, Bob Hepburn writes, he's casting himself as Canada's Donald Trump:
Some analysts suggest O’Toole is shifting the party so far to the left that at times he sounds like U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders or that he’s trying to steal traditional NDP voters.
In truth, though, what O’Toole is doing is fashioning himself as Canada’s Donald Trump — but without the bombast, lies, bigotry and polarization that mark Trump’s presidency.
Indeed, O’Toole is openly stealing pages straight from Trump’s 2020 election strategy playbook.
Like Trump, O'Toole seeks to divide Canadians:
In doing so he is trying to duplicate Trump’s successful strategy of building a polarizing populist coalition of traditional Republicans and disaffected voters, reaching out to people who were furious with “cancel culture” and “the radical left,” revved up by “grievance politics” and fed up with “elites” who they believe don’t give a damn about them, their families, their jobs or their very existence.
O'Toole's Trumpist strategy is evident in several ways:
First, O’Toole’s leadership campaign slogan of “Take Back Canada” is an echo of Trump’s slogan of “Make America Great Again.” Catchy? For sure! But one can easily ask, “Take back from what — or whom?”
Second, O’Toole is pushing a “Canada First” economic strategy, with hints of trade tariffs on imports and action against companies that move jobs out of the country. Asked recently how this differs from Trump’s “America First” strategy, the Tory leader replied: “It’s not different at all.”
Third, Trump made huge headway in reaching disaffected voters by demonizing elites. That’s exactly what O’Toole has started to do with attacks on “elites” in business, politics and the media, although the truth is the Conservatives are the party of business “elites” and many media “elites.”
Fourth, like Trump, O’Toole has openly courted social conservatives with such moves as signalling a willingness to allow his MPs to reopen moral issues, such as abortion. Some pundits dismiss the political influence of social conservatives, but they remain a powerful force, well organized and well financed.
Fifth, O’Toole has adopted Trump’s get-tough approach to China, bashing it for cybertheft, human rights violations and aggressive trade stands. O’Toole doesn’t refer to COVID-19 as the “China virus” as Trump does, but he does echo the U.S. president when he alleges there is “no greater threat to Canada’s interest than the rise of China.”
Sixth, again like Trump, O’Toole is vigorously courting union workers, saying in a recent speech there is “too much power in the hands of corporate and financial elites who have been only too happy to outsources jobs abroad.” He’s also reaching out to suburban voters, saying in the same speech that “middle class Canada has been betrayed by the elites, on every level: political elites, financial elites, cultural elites.”
You'd think that after four years of Trumpian chaos, Canadian Conservatives would be wise enough to not repeat The Moron-in-Chief's mistakes. Apparently, we have our own morons.