Erin O’Toole, unresponsive –

Paul Wells: With no power or focus again, the Conservative Party was left disappointed — and alone with the voices in its head.

My favorite story about Erin O’Toole’s leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada today is the part where his office rejects an opportunity to defend him.

“Batistas did not respond to Global News’ request for comment on Monday, ”said one chronicle of a rogue Senator’s efforts to remove the leader. “Neither O’Toole’s office.”

Earlier: “O’Toole’s office did not respond The Starthe request for comment from. “” O’Toole’s office has not yet commented. “” O’Toole’s office has not responded to multiple requests for comment. “” O’Toole’s office has not returned a request for comment. “

(To be fair, I’m not sure what returning a request for comment would entail. “Would you like to comment?” “Not really. Would you? ”)

In one of my favorites, by Global’s redeeming Alex Boutilier, lawmakers are ordered to send questions about the distribution of seats to the Office of the Leader of the Opposition — which then refuses to comment. See if anyone doesn’t comment, make sure it’s us.

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To say the least, it’s easy nowadays to find communication experts, in any organization, who are fairly convinced that the wisest thing in a given circumstance is to leave a comment. O’Toole, or the people he hires to retain a comment on his behalf, seems to have raised reticence to the level of art. If, hypothetically, the earth were to open up and swallow him tonight, I wonder how many weeks would pass before anyone could be sure that had happened. I have a long history of being less skilled than communication professionals, so to the best of my knowledge, it may be really very wise to respond to accusations of a leading vacuum by acting a leading vacuum.

But so far what is surprising is to what extent, for Conservatives, the fall of 2021 is beginning to look like the fall of 2019.

Both times, a federal election led to a result that mixed disappointment with tempting progress for the main opposition party: a popular vote majority, a liberal incumbent held to a minority in the House of Commons, but no direct victory, no return to power. . Each time, the immediate disappointment led to questions about the leader — Andrew Scheer then, Erin O’Toole now. Each time, the early grumbling seemed to give way to long-standing pragmatism. “Sure, we don’t love this guy, but we also can’t just swap leaders every few months. Let him be. ”

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And yet when the snow flew, both in 2019 and in 2021 questions about the leader returned. In a second wave, if I may borrow a terrible analogy. For O’Toole this must be particularly disappointing. He was supposed to represent an alternative to everything Scheer had come, before the end of his leadership, to represent. O’Toole was more climate friendly. He offered consent in principle to marching in still hypothetical parades of Pride. Fat a lot of good it has done him so far. In yet another strange flashback to the Scheer era, he is tormented by opponents who, to say the least, seem to have no clear alternative in mind. Denise Batters was a Peter MacKay supporter. Did she expect MacKay to be a more true-blue conservative than O’Toole was? Does she expect MacKay to return from (there is no more polite way to express this) meanness to run again — to O’Toole’s right? I would ask her, but I understand that she does not respond to requests for comment. What, I mean, would you do?

This, too, was the curse of 2019. “No Scheer” was an easy response to what Conservatives wanted as a leader, easier than providing the name of a real person turned out. Brad Wall, Jason Kenney, Jean Charest, Rona Ambrose and Pierre Poilievre proved unavailable. Most did not hide their reluctance to run. Some would be very problematic candidates if they applied. One or two can still be very problematic candidates if they are given the opportunity.

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What carries the leader, now as in 2019, is the sound of silence. One can rely on two things to gather even a moderately divided party: power and crisis. If O’Toole had won the election, he would have had effective cabinet work to distribute, a throne speech to write, a new course in government to lead. It’s not easy and it’s not without its own danger, but power at least brings a sense of momentum. Crisis, and by that I mean crisis out in the real world, explains interests. It encourages people to put aside small differences to meet the needs of the moment. But in the absence of a crisis, or indeed much of something else, a party is left alone with the voices in its head.

I almost wonder if Justin Trudeau’s reluctance to convene Parliament, which I’ve been grumbling about lately, isn’t a blow to tactical genius. Conservatives facing Trudeau know what they are fighting for. Conservatives facing the vacuum soon find it hard to stare at them. If I were Trudeau, I would ask if it is possible to postpone this Parliament before it begins.

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