Erin O'Toole does not inspire confidence. Many will blame him for his party's current woes. But those woes, Andrew Coyne writes, go way beyond O'Toole:
The Conservatives’ woes did not begin with Mr. O’Toole’s leadership, and they will not end there. In six elections under the unified Conservative banner, the party has averaged just short of 35 per cent of the vote – four percentage points less, on average, than the old Progressive Conservative and Reform/Canadian Alliance parties used to get, between them, in the years when the movement was divided.
Some of that is explicable in terms of policy. On many of the most important issues of the day, Conservatives have either had nothing to say (hello, climate change) or have actively antagonized voters they might otherwise have reached (race, immigration, marriage equality).
More broadly, the party seems to have lost its nerve, unable even to advance traditional conservative policies – free markets, lower taxes, balanced budgets – with any vigour. The left has been right about more things than the right in recent years, but right or wrong it has been demonstrably more confident.
Something in the Conservative temperament has simply become repellent to a great many people. If the besetting sin of Liberals is smarmy sanctimoniousness, the Conservative equivalent is a chippy defensiveness, an adolescent petulance, a conviction that the cards are perpetually stacked against them. Fair enough, up to a point: decades of what the late Richard Gwyn called “one-and-a-half party rule” have left their inevitable residue – a bureaucracy, a judiciary and a press gallery that are inclined to see the world, if not through Liberal glasses, then certainly through liberal ones.
So far, Canadian Conservatives have not gone off the deep end, like their Republican cousins:
The same fundamental insecurity that, in a Joe Clark or a Bob Stanfield, emerged as a kind of apologetic cough of deference to liberal elites, is also at work in today’s smirking Conservative populist. Though Canadian Conservatives have not gone so far down that road as their counterparts elsewhere – there is nothing to compare to the Republicans’ current mix of white nationalism, LOL-nothing-matters nihilism, and lunatic, QAnon-inspired conspiracy theories – they are too willing to nod in that direction.
The Conservative Party of Canada needs to take a hard look at itself -- something it does not want to do.
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