When Erin The Tool (sorry, that should be O’Toole) entered the Conservative Party of Canada leadership race in January 2020, he took aim at his primary opponent, Peter MacKay, by asking: “Do we go back and be the mushy middle party?”
I wish. I would be happy to have a mushy middle party to support.
Remember the middle?
No, not the TV comedy The Middle (one of the underappreciated comedies in recent TV history, in my view). I’m talking about the Canadian middle, the vast swath of voters who could reliably be depended upon to vote neither too far left or too far right, but somewhere in the malleable, mushy middle.
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For decades, Canadian voters could be counted upon to straddle the middle ground, a trait that’s as quintessentially Canadian as complaining about winter or hating Toronto.
The middle is where successful Canadian political parties set up shop. Sometimes, they would tilt right (Conservatives under John Diefenbaker, Brian Mulroney, Stephen Harper), sometimes left (Liberals under Lester Pearson, the first Trudeau, Pierre). But most often the mushy middle.
Nothing too extreme on either end, thank you. And we, as a mushy people, were okay with that.
However, as a firmly middle voter who has been quite comfortable going between the two major federal parties, I find myself orphaned. Doesn’t anybody want my vote?
I won’t vote for the Justin Trudeau Liberals. I was suspicious of Trudeau when he first won but I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe, I thought, he isn’t the sanctimonious phoney he appeared to be.
No such luck. He’s a brazen hypocrite, a profligate spender of public funds, all style and no substance, and the most leftist, woke, politically correct Liberal leader since, well, anyone, even Trudeau the First. He has governed as if he has a majority, which he essentially has thanks to his pandering to Jagmeet Singh and his New Democratic Party.
With smart policies and a decent leader, the Conservatives could wipe up the floor with the Liberals in the next election. Unfortunately, they have neither.
Conservatives (both the party and the movement) don’t seem to know how to build on their successes. After 10 years of Mulroney, they went through Kim Campbell, Jean Charest and MacKay before finding success with the soulless automaton Harper.
While Harper was definitely on the right side of the ledger, he avoided the landmine right-wing issues thanks to his vice-like grip on the party.
When Harper was turfed by the public, the Conservatives inexplicably went with Andrew Scheer, the Howdy Doody of Canadian politics. In 2019, Scheer’s Conservatives won the popular vote and, as thanks, the party turfed him in favour of an even duller O’Toole, the mayonnaise and white bread sandwich of Canadian politics.
But just like Sheer, O’Toole is dogged by the far-right types in the party’s grassroots.
With the Trudeau Liberals too woke for words and the Conservatives eternally grappling with their hard right wing, where does that leave me, the mushy middle voter?
Not with the eternally sanctimonious New Democrats, that’s for certain. Just as some people would never vote Liberal or never vote Conservative, I would never vote New Democrat. (The only recent NDP leader I could tolerate was Thomas Mulcair and he was dumped by his party for being too centrist.)
At the recent NDP convention, a pair of policy proposals that actually made it on the agenda were abolishing the military and taxing billionaires at 100 per cent. Neither policy was adopted but the mere fact that nut-bar stuff like that was actually considered makes the NDP unelectable.
I’m not looking forward to the next election. O’Toole may decry the middle but a lot of Canadians (or at least this Canadian) are quite happy with a party that straddles the middle. No matter how mushy it might be.
Maurice Tougas is a retired Alberta editor and journalist, formerly with the Red Deer Advocate, the Edmonton Examiner, Edmonton and Calgary Prime Times and many others. He was twice named best columnist in Canada by the Canadian Community Newspaper Association and was a finalist for the Golden Quill award from the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors. He served one term as a Liberal MLA in the Alberta Legislature. For interview requests, click here.
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