Now that Erin O’Toole has lost, the media suddenly love him.
Starting on Monday, at roughly the time the polls closed and after anything they said could have an impact in the election, much of the media began pumping out stories in support of the failed CPC leader.
We saw reports of former conservative leaders as well as elected officials, political consultants and backroom operatives all urging Conservatives to keep O’Toole on as leader, this despite his dismal performance as leader and failure to unseat our angry and unpopular Prime Minister.
Many journalists offered up similar pleas on social media, advising CPC members to continue on the O’Toole path to moderation.
Maclean’s editor Stephen Maher told Conservatives on Twitter: “you were doing the right things, too quickly, in this election. Keep O’Toole, take your time, do your homework.”
Sports journalist Matthew Sekeres let the cat out of the bag by saying: “Harper grew on people. O’Toole could too. Gotta convince cities that the fringe of (the) party won’t shape policy.”
Presumably by “fringe of the party” he was referring to the majority of Conservative members who are, well, conservative.
Similarly themed news stories appeared in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Global News and the Canadian Press. Colour me skeptical.
After five weeks of treating Conservatives unfairly, misrepresenting O’Toole’s positions, repeating Liberal talking points, pushing Trudeau’s wedge issues and generally vilifying conservatives, many in the media suddenly have a change of heart.
Now that the election is over, now that he has no chance of becoming Prime Minister — at least not anytime soon — these journalists are suddenly happy to pretend they like conservatives.
O’Toole, after all, has proven to be exactly what journalists look for in a conservative politician: a non-threatening leader who promotes Liberal ideas and has proven he cannot beat Trudeau.
After running as a “true blue conservative” to become party leader, O’Toole shifted to the left for the federal campaign. He distanced himself from conservatives who believe that moral issues should be central in politics, and he drove libertarians out of the party and into the hands of the People’s Party of Canada.
His proposition to voters was basically this: I’m just like the Liberals in terms of my woke progressive values and big government spending policies, but unlike the Liberals, I’m a better manager of big government.
O’Toole could be forgiven for running as a centrist if his strategy had worked.
But it didn’t. In fact, he lost ground in Liberal strongholds like suburban Toronto and Vancouver, and he came out even in Quebec.
Worse than any position he took on the campaign, O’Toole refused to stand his ground.
He flip-flopped on the central issue of carbon taxes and by the end of the campaign, the Toronto Star reported that O’Toole would keep Trudeau’s carbon tax.
On the issue of Trudeau’s ban on scary-looking guns, O’Toole flip-flopped.
Once billed as a law and order Conservative, here, O’Toole had the opportunity to own the issue of public safety and crime. He should have hammered Trudeau over reduced sentences for serious gun crimes and touted his own impressive military and legal background.
Instead, an indecisive O’Toole changed his mind, changed his position and fell in line with the Liberal status quo after ever-so-slight pressure.
He failed to command respect or inspire Canadians. That’s the real reason he lost. But much of the media would have you believe that O’Toole needs to go even softer, even more moderate in order to win.
This is exactly the wrong advice.
Following the 2019 election, the media likewise pushed the CPC to take away all the wrong lessons.
Former Leader Andrew Scheer picked up 26 seats in that election. He knocked Trudeau down from a majority to a minority government and he won the popular vote.
Scheer was a young leader who was still building up his confidence and experience. He was likable, well-spoken and most importantly, he stood his ground — despite horrendous mistreatment by the media.
Scheer should have stayed on to build his momentum. But instead, the media began pushing a narrative that said he was too conservative to win. They soon concluded that the CPC had to move to “modernize,” move to the left, ditch moral issues and find a more “progressive” leader.
That was completely wrong, and listening to the legacy media is in part what led to Monday’s disappointing result.
Conservatives cannot make the same mistake twice. The media is wrong, do not listen to them.