The first call I made seeking a professional assessment of new Conservative Party of Canada Leader Erin O’Toole was to Col. Michel Drapeau, who served in Canada’s military for 34 years and retired as director of the National Defence Headquarters secretariat.
Drapeau would then establish the first private firm to practise military law in Canada, becoming familiar with decisions taken by a series of veterans affairs ministers Liberal and Conservative, O’Toole among them.
O’Toole, an Air Force veteran, was handed the VA portfolio by Stephen Harper at a time the relationship between many of Canada’s veterans and the government was strained.
“What,” I asked Drapeau, “is your assessment of Erin O’Toole’s performance as veterans affairs minister?”
“He came in at a troubled time and replaced Julian Fantino, who had experienced a fracas with the veterans’ community,” assessed Drapeau, adding that “O’Toole brought stability and civility.”
“I came to the opinion that had he stayed longer he would have improved rapport with veterans. I gave him a good performance report as minister of veterans affairs.”
The new CPC leader will need these communication and management skills to draw into his circle seemingly forever grumbling factions that comprise the Conservative Party of Canada.
O’Toole must erase memories of his predecessor Andrew Scheer seeming more comfortable carrying the political puck to relative safety behind his own net rather than engaging in a rush forward to engage and add pressure to Justin Trudeau, even when the prime minister, through his own dubious actions, left the Liberal net effectively unguarded, to paraphrase O’Toole’s erstwhile party leadership opponent Peter MacKay.
Sheer simply appeared ill-equipped to drive home advantage.
To emerge without real political gain following repeat and substantiated violations of the parliamentary Conflict of Interest Act by Trudeau would appear unimaginable. Yet the result was a largely squandered opportunity by CPC leadership.
There were the extended and disturbing developments surrounding former attorney general and star Trudeau cabinet minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, whose explosive testimony at parliamentary committee hearings over the SNC Lavalin issue included the charge she was harassed by the prime minister’s inner circle for refusing to fold her tent and encourage independent federal prosecutors to bow to expectations — expectations from the top.
The PMO said Wilson-Raybould had engaged in bullying and expected prosecutors to, under her virtual direction, disengage from any pursuing of corruption charges against the giant Quebec corporation over contracts signed by SNC Lavalin with Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi and settle instead for a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) that would likely result in fines instead of a possible multi-year ban on bidding for Canadian federal government contracts.
Although its MPs engaged in effective questioning of government members and additional witnesses, the Conservative Party failed to effectively capitalize in the court of public opinion.
Global News, during last October’s federal election campaign, revealed Trudeau had appeared repeatedly in blackface and brownface as an adult. Again, consequences for the prime minister appeared minimal as the response from Scheer seemed stilted and memorized.
During his televised farewell speech as CPC leader last Sunday, Scheer shifted blame to what he described as national media pro-Liberal bias.
Correct or not so much, it’s an argument raised by those who lose.
O’Toole is now in possession of significant political ammunition and it hasn’t passed its best-before date.
Add Trudeau’s now third visit to the Conflict of Interest Act commissioner’s office, coupled with his cynical prorogation of Parliament and shuttering of government ethics and finance committees investigating the PM’s actions surrounding the awarding of a sole-source contract to WE Charity to administer a $912-million federal government student grant program and O’Toole has ample supplies in his war chest.
Trudeau and the Liberals appear increasingly vulnerable and it is now in the early days of leading the official opposition, with the nation assessing the mettle of the new guy who would be PM, that the Conservative leader must snap down the visor and get to work.
Western alienation, small business survival and taking advantage of Canada’s natural resources bounty to reinvigorate this nation, which experienced a 38.7 per cent drop in GDP between April and June of this year alone, are issues on which O’Toole must provide a clear vision and determined leadership, during and post-pandemic.
Any complaining about media coverage would be a waste of time.
Make your case compelling and it will be covered.
Roy Green is the host of the Roy Green Show on the Global News Radio network. Erin O’Toole will be a guest on his show Saturday, Aug. 29 at 3:05 p.m. ET.