Some suits shed political scandals better than others

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Does it seem to you that we just lurch from election to election lately? I mean I enjoy a good election, I really do, but it just seems that there have been too many in recent years. Both provincial and federal.

And I hate to even utter the words, but hold tight, because chances are we will return to the polls sometime in 2021, likely before summer, for yet another federal election.

Because we exist in a minority government situation, either of the opposition parties could trigger an election at their wont. The Liberals themselves may force a confidence vote if they feel the time, and polls, are right.

The question is when? New Conservative leader Erin O’Toole has made some noise about triggering an election this spring.

But, and it’s a big but…. O’Toole’s approval rating isn’t great. He doesn’t seem to have gotten much of a bounce out of his new role as leader. There is no visible honeymoon period.

Angus Reid polling says that just over one in three Canadian view O’Toole favourably, while a further 22 per cent have yet to form an opinion.

That doesn’t match up very well against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s rating. Trudeau continues to do well despite a rather scandal-plagued year.

Trudeau’s suits may not be made of teflon, but perhaps a shiny, slippery, silk, because while scandals may stick a little, they eventually slide right off. Trudeau’s approval rating has held pretty steady at 50 per cent for most of the latter part of the year. Now we’ve been very distracted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and his management of that has been competent for the most part.

Trudeau’s personal approval is actually quite a bit higher than that of his party, which finds itself in a virtual deadlock with the Conservative Party — 34 per cent (Libs) 33 per cent (Cons) according to Angus Reid in December.

But, should O’Toole be concerned that he can’t summon more support than a third of Canadians? He is new, has pretty much a clean slate, shouldn’t he be doing better? He definitely stepped in it with his comments about residential schools being created to “provide education”.

As most pundits note, this was a dumber than dumb political miscalculation because it was an “unforced error”. O’Toole chose to make the comments. It wasn’t an unrehearsed answer to a ‘gotcha’ question from someone hoping he’d trip up. He also chose to point out that Ryerson University in Ontario was home to “lefty radicals” who are “the dumbest people at your university”.

That’s a nice inclusive message there, Erin. And it’s going to gain you points only with the 33 per cent die hard Conservatives who will vote for your party anyway. It will get you nothing from the other 67 per cent of Canadians.

This is something that the Conservative Party has got to figure out. While they poll just about even with the Liberal party, the other 30 per cent or so of Canadians lean mostly NDP or Green. And they will vote strategically (as in hold your nose and vote Liberal) in order to keep a Conservative they deeply dislike from winning. Just ask Stephen Harper. Alienating that cohort does not seem to be the best move a new Conservative leader could make.

Don’t rock the boat, try to be inclusive, and the left leaning vote can be split. Rile them up, maybe not.

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