Politics Insider

Who's got Erin O'Toole's back?

Politics Insider for Sept. 24, 2021: An effort to oust O'Toole begins; Liberals bet big on Facebook; cabinet speculation

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It is starting to look like Erin O’Toole will face a concerted effort to oust him after he failed to make gains in Monday’s election, because someone is working the phones.

There are few critics in caucus speaking publicly, yet, although Chris Warkentin, MP for Grande Prairie-Mackenzie, told Town & Country News that the party started to struggle when it backed away from Conservative positions.

“It was when our party leader started to waffle on some of the policies that we had brought forward and hadn’t been clear that I believe that Canadians became uncertain and unwilling to continue to look to our party as an alternative,” said Warkentin. “I believe that that was the beginning of polls shifting back in favour of the Liberals.”

Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan MP Garnett Genuis, who was the 2017 Maclean’s Parliamentarian of the Year, by the way, told CP that MPs should avoid “another round of internal conflict or public navel gazing,” CP reports: “We must learn the lessons of the election, share constructive feedback, and remain united behind Erin O’Toole,” he tweeted Thursday.

Leslyn Lewis spoke up for O’Toole on Facebook. Michael Harris, the former Ontario premier, has a column in the Sun backing him. CBC has a roundup of Conservative infighting news.

Weren’t ready: At TVO, Matt Gurney has a meaty post-election tick tock from an unnamed senior Conservative insider, who acknowledges that the argument over guns set the campaign back.

Some of that is just stuff we have to get better at. But particularly on gun control, that’s a complicated issue, because some of that stuff gets hammered out with negotiations with caucus, right? And if we need to change policy on the trail, we can’t just do it on a whim. So there is a process, and that takes time. But I think your analysis is basically right. We weren’t ready for questions we should have been ready for. And the Liberals pounced on that. They’re really good at this.

Were ready: Tonda MacCharles and Stephanie Levitz have some good behind-the-scenes stuff from unnamed senior Liberals in the Star.

“It’s the old Mike Tyson quote, right? ‘Everybody’s got a plan till you’re punched in the face.’ So we got punched in the face early on,” a senior Liberal strategist admitted. “And then it was, ‘Okaaaay.’ Different campaign than we maybe we were anticipating. Kind of a regrouping happened.”

Liberals very online: Also in the Star, Susan Delacourt has some info on the Liberals’ digital campaign, which, Liberals say, was better than the digital campaigns of their rivals.

“The Facebook ad library shows that in the 90 days before election day, the Liberal campaign invested $4.12 million on Facebook and Instagram (nearly as much as the other two parties combined), compared to $2.63 million for the Conservative campaign, and $2.13 million for the NDP campaign.” As well, Liberals say, their party had more than 14,800 iterations of Facebook ads in that same time frame, compared to about 1,400 for the Conservatives and 1,250 for the NDP.

Questions about Singh: In the Globe, Lawrence Martin has a column asking some questions about Jagmeet Singh’s election, and wondering if Alexandre Boulerice should replace him.

Who, exactly, is the idiot? Twitter put Maxime Bernier in the penalty box for 12 hours and made him delete a tweet that called reporters idiots and shared their contact information, CP reports. Bernier’s tweet led extremists to bombard reporters with vile messages. Global reports that flying monkeys in far right social media spaces were happy to do Bernier’s bidding.

In another, separate screenshot, users in a discord chat celebrated Bernier’s decision to share the emails. That group, according to Balgord, is a “youth white supremacist group.”

“Find me another political leader doxxing journos kek,” said one user. “We’ve got his back he has ours it seems.”

Cabinet speculation: At Global, David Akin has an admirably thorough article speculating on which newcomers might end up in cabinet.

Three days later: SNC-Lavalin Inc. and two former senior executives have been charged with a series of fraud and forgery offences linked to a 2002 Montreal bridge contract, the Globe reports. A deferred prosecution agreement is in the offing. Brian Lilley, writing in the Sun, finds the timing suspicious.

Ex-MP guilty: Former Liberal MP Marwan Tabbara pleaded guilty Thursday to assault after a “deranged” and terrifying nighttime attack on his former spouse and her new boyfriend, the Post reports.

Vuong should quit: A lot of people think Kevin Vuong—who got elected as a Liberal in Toronto although he’d been dropped by the party—should quit, because of a dropped sexual assault charge. Global has the story.

Signs of our failure: In Maclean’s, Paul Wells has a grim recollection of a journey to Afghanistan, where so many things went wrong.

To be fair, any attempt to do the math led to increasingly discouraging results. Afghanistan was a mess on a scale beyond comprehension. A desperately poor country whose median age is under 20 had been occupied by successive waves of outsiders for longer than most Afghans had been alive. Millions of Afghans had learned rational lessons from watching armies come and go: allegiances must shift because circumstances would. Money or influence must be used while available because neither would last.

The 37-member Western coalition constantly told itself its tens of thousands of soldiers and civil servants were there only to assist the Afghan government. This was transparent fiction, beginning with the notion of an “Afghan government.” We’d walk into a cabinet minister’s office and there’d be a U.S. army officer, huge and wearing desert camo, standing in the background, saying nothing after he introduced himself. “I’m the minister’s advisor,” the soldier would say. If the human and strategic stakes hadn’t been so high, the result would have seemed like some epic satire of government inefficiency, the career-capping novel Franz Kafka never finished.

— Stephen Maher