Wednesday Jan 26

The Great Reset of the Conservative Party

By John Anderson

Conservatives in Canada have a lot of power, and if new federal Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole has his way, conservatives will have a lot more after the next election.  If that comes to fruition, conservatives, with governments in most provinces, would have a pretty clear mandate to deregulate business, privatize public assets, and amputate the remaining parts of Canada’s welfare state.

Interestingly, O’Toole is actively using decent populist messages to court union workers, whom he falsely claims are where his roots are.  Side note - His father did in fact work at the GM plant in Oshawa, Ontario, just as management, not a union worker, and he was trying to bust the union, not organize it.

One thing potentially holding O’Toole and the conservatives back are themselves.  An example of this is the wild debates that are coming out in conservative circles when it comes to COVID-19.  

First, you have the theory that there is going to be a Great Reset of the economy after COVID, something that Prime Minister Trudeau uttered in a speech to the United Nations earlier in 2020.

Out of the mouths of Conservative party people, The Great Reset means that the Trudeau government is going to use COVID as a means to implement massive new social welfare systems.  For example, the much-needed public childcare system which will lead to tax increases on working class people, they say. The horror!  By using the term Great Reset the Conservative party is actually dog whistling to a base that is buying into much more bizarre Q-Anon based theory. These livelier theories involve the COVID-19 vaccine being used to take away all property rights and other nonsense that are beyond my understanding now.

Populism is a good strategy for the Conservatives, the problem is that their base takes it a couple steps too far. Their increasingly wacky and out-there-in-space theories are easy fodder for the center and left center parties in the country to attack.  O’Toole is an unlikely believer of some of the kookier theories out there, but his base more and more are believing.  O’Toole and the Conservatives are forced to walk a fine line with these theories to have a shot at winning. This is good for Trudeau.

 At the same time, Provincial Conservative governments are bungling the pandemic, not totally dissimilar to their Republican counterparts down south.  

Doug Ford, Ontario’s premier, had a real Trump moment this month when he more or less said that the organizer of a large anti-COVID restrictions protest was a decent guy. The guy is anything but decent. In the ensuing days the organizer, a BBQ restaurateur, had his followers chanting “media sucks” - with Trump flags - and screaming that Ontario “IS JUST LIKE NORTH KOREA” while he was dragged away in cuffs for violating COVID restrictions for a week straight.  Ford giving lip service to whack jobs like this BBQ guy in Toronto plays well to some people in his base, but it has to be turning off many more in middle road conservatives in the midst of this pandemic.

 

More bizarre than Ford is Alberta’s Jason Kenny.  Alberta now has COVID rates per capita similar to many US States (you know, worst on the planet), and Kenny is hesitant order any restrictions, even as the Red Cross is opening up field hospitals to deal with the overflow. To boot, he also fired 11,000 unionized health care workers last month, outsourcing the work to private companies at a fraction of the cost.

 

Manitoba’s Premier Palister - the furniture store baron who spends half his time at his other home in Costa Rica - has gone on record that the goal is not to get rid of COVID, and has actually cut funding to intensive care units in 2020.  Union protesters have been dressing up as the grim reaper and putting gravestones outside of the premier’s house in response.

 

There is a large conservative base in Canada, and it is getting more overtly conservative as the Tea Party and now Trump movements permeate over the border.  Remains to be seen if his base is enough to allow O’Toole to win a majority government in Ottawa, or is the reason he likely will not get one. For what it’s worth, I predict the latter.

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