Skip to main content
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole speaks to the media in Corner Brook, N.L., on Aug. 27, 2021.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Erin O’Toole kicked off the final week of the election campaign with a personal attack on Justin Trudeau being out for just himself. The Conservative leader hadn’t lashed out quite so harshly to this point, perhaps because he didn’t want people peering into his own backyard at some of the self-serving policy contortions he made in his own political ascent.

Mr. O’Toole’s postdebate numbers saw his support declining. Hence the new emphasis on impugning Mr. Trudeau’s character combined with yet more hyperventilating on the election being a needless, selfish exercise.

Left unsaid is that the Trudeau minority, in running for almost two years, lasted longer than the average minority government in Canada.

Story continues below advertisement

Left unsaid is that in minority situations, incumbent governments routinely look for the most opportune moment to go to the polls to increase their standing. What Mr. Trudeau did was hardly abnormal.

But given the caveats, Mr. O’Toole has done a most effective job, maybe enough for him to win, in pigeonholing the Prime Minister. He’s vain. He’s a politician who puts winning first. “Whew!” many might sarcastically respond. “How’s that for a scandal?”

But indications are that it’s working.

The leaders’ sycophantic acceptance of Quebec’s Bill 21 is dangerous for all of Canada

Is the Tory platform the start of a new conservatism? In parts, though it’s not always clear that’s a good idea

The Conservative leader’s broken-record campaign raises the question however of what else he has to run on. Where’s the big signature policy? Can anyone name one? Has Mr. O’Toole put anything in the department store window that captures the public imagination? Or are voters to look at all the Trudeau bashing and channel Peggy Lee: “Is that all there is?”

If the vote is on issues, the Conservatives face tough odds. Three of the major issues in the campaign are the pandemic, climate change and child care. After a slow start in addressing the pandemic, the Trudeau government has received generally good marks. On vaccines, its position is stronger than that of Conservatives. On climate change, most experts agree that while the O’Toole plan has some merit, the Liberal one is more effective. The same goes for child care. The O’Toole pledge to replace child-care transfers with a tax credit falls leagues short in dollar value when compared to the Liberal plan.

The economy, another key issue, is customarily fertile ground for Conservatives. Jobs have almost returned to pre-pandemic levels, but Mr. O’Toole got a boost with Wednesday’s report showing that inflation rose 4.1 per cent in August from a year earlier, the highest jump since 2003.

Government spending is off the charts, but in addressing the pandemic, it’s been seen as necessary. Mr. O’Toole, casting himself as a more progressive-leaning Tory, is planning a deep-pockets government himself. His idea of doubling the Canada Workers Benefit is a fine one, as it would target poverty in an effective way.

Story continues below advertisement

To their credit, the Conservatives are more deficit-conscious, but it isn’t a top-of-mind issue for most Canadians just yet. Moreover, their plan to balance the budget without initial spending cuts is soft. It relies on surging economic growth and such tried and untrue methods as catching tax cheats.

For this to be a change election, it clearly helps if the opposition can argue that the country is in a deteriorating state. That’s a tough sell. While one can argue that it has little to do with Mr. Trudeau, the nation is not in bad condition. To have that view emphatically reinforced, Canadians need only look south.

Mr. O’Toole rails on about this election being in the middle of a fourth wave. He might point out that compared to previous waves, the fourth isn’t much of one. The death count is the most important statistic. Canada-wide it is only a small fraction of previous waves. In Ottawa, there has been one death from COVID-19 in the past two months.

Getting desperate, Mr. Trudeau has resorted to over-the-top attacks himself, the goal being to switch the ballot question from being a referendum on himself to a left-versus-right culture war.

But the Conservatives have more firepower, most notably in the print media. With their array of pundits at right-leaning Quebecor papers and conservative Postmedia, which includes the Trudeau-loathing Sun chain, conservatives far outnumber left-side voices, which are principally at The Star and its affiliates.

In what has become an intriguing campaign, the Liberals suffer for not having a big issue to call the election, the Conservatives suffer in not having a compelling issue to fight it.

Story continues below advertisement

With an attractive new blueprint for the country, Mr. O’Toole could be in a position to win big. Without one, he need hope the call to throw the bums out is sufficient.

Keep your Opinions sharp and informed. Get the Opinion newsletter. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies