OTTAWA—This election season is as uninspiring as Hillary Clinton’s candidacy for president in the 2016 U.S. election, yet it’s probably one of the most important elections for at least a decade. This is the election that will determine who gets to redraw the board, in terms of what the priorities are and which structural changes are to be made, for the post-pandemic Canada.
I’m already exhausted. And many Canadians are, too.
On Aug. 16, the Conservatives released their election platform. Granted, it’s within the context of fiscal conservatism, and you can make of that what you will, but Erin O’Toole stuck to his Conservative roots while expanding their applications. It’s what he was asked to do and he delivered. For example, his housing strategy is surprisingly sound: he supports a Housing First approach to homelessness, wants to “release at least 15 per cent for housing while improving the Federal Lands Initiative” and convert office space into housing. (This is something we should’ve been doing during the pandemic: convert empty office space to housing for the precariously housed instead of pushing our shelter system to the brink.)
No, I couldn’t imagine myself writing these words, either, but here we are.
The Conservative Party is still Grandpa Simpson in its ways of thinking. There is no structural or systemic change proposed in this document. It’s clear that the Conservatives think that tweaking around the edges makes for a better Canada. While there is much mention of Indigenous input and reconciliation (the Conservatives have not defined what reconciliation means to them, so your guess is as good as mine), there is zero mention of Black people or racism in the entire document.
— Bad + Bitchy Podcast (@badandbitchy) August 16, 2021
The Conservatives have a policy for protecting animals over having policies protecting BIPOC Canadians from systemic racism. Following the anti-Black racism and police brutality protests of last summer, the Conservatives have ignored the calls of racialized Canadians for fairness and equity. For this, they’re not ready to lead a country where nearly a quarter of the population is BIPOC.
In addition to erasing Black Canadians, the Conservatives seem to think all women in Canada operate within a heteronormative, nuclear family construct. They seem to have attached the word “women” to existing policies and presented them as women’s issues. The childcare promise amounts to dismantling the work of the Liberals thus far and provide tax credits to low-income families. This makes no sense, since tax rebates of any kind require an initial outlay at market prices that lower-income people don’t have; it also doesn’t do anything to increase the supply of childcare spaces.
It is always important to note the distribution of details in these documents, they tell you where the party puts its priorities, and the Conservatives continue to present “Law & Orderwith Lace.” It raises questions about mass surveillance, oversight, and accountability for these expensive security apparatuses that threaten Charter rights, and about the Conservatives’ consistency at preserving those rights.
Now to a climate plan that is all tactics—no strategy; that would’ve sufficed in 2000, but with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released earlier this month, it’s no longer enough. It looks like O’Toole failed to update his plan to include the findings of the IPCC report, which unequivocally stated: “Global warming of 1.5 C and 2 C will be exceeded during the 21st century unless deep reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades.” We need deep, structural change to begin to reverse the warming of the planet and O’Toole’s climate plan fails to do that.
The problem with this party is even when they do make sense, they undermine it with awkward and mean messaging. The Willy Wonka ad the Conservatives released last week exemplifies this. I would link to it, but it was taken down due to copyright infringement (he must be using Jason Kenney’s war room). The ad features the prime minister’s face superimposed on that of Veruca Salt, the bratty girl from the 1971 film, as she dances around destroying everything in her path, which the Conservatives equate to Trudeau destroying the economy. This is just another tasteless ad in the long list of ads featuring casual misogyny launched at Trudeau; it is the feminizing of the prime minister, positioned as an insult. Who in campaign headquarters thought this was a good idea when your party has difficulties attracting women?
This ad is a symptom of the memeification of politics the Conservatives have mastered, much to their detriment. Instead of thoughtful critique, they give us mean-spirited memes. Although some claim this tactic worked with the 2018 Ontario election that ousted Kathleen Wynne, when Andrew Scheer tried to scale the tactic nationally, he wound up doing a racism. His ad read, “Trudeau’s holier-than-thou tweet causes migrant crisis—now he needs to fix what he started”, featuring a Black man walking across what is thought to be the border. Suffice it to say they had to delete it.
Cruelty presented to a country reeling from the effects of the pandemic is not a boss move. The Conservatives are not only being challenged to listen to Canadians’ policy priorities, but also the changing archetype of leadership from toxic masculinity to compassionate. Absent of this change, no matter what their platform delivers, they will continue to undercut their own electability.
Erica Ifill is a co-host of the Bad+Bitchy podcast.