It’s time for a Conservative eye exam because the Tories can’t read the room

May 20, 2020

OTTAWA—Congratulations Conservatives, you played yourselves.

On May 12, Ekos Research released its latest polling results that captured political support amid the coronavirus pandemic. And boy, were they revealing. The landscape has changed dramatically over the last few months since the federal election in October, when the Liberals were handed a minority in Parliament. Now they’re dominating nearly every demographic imaginable.

The Liberals are about to catch a charge with all this homiciding.

Overall, the Liberal Party leads the Conservative Party by 14.4 percentage points, nationally, with Conservatives at 28.3 per cent and Liberals at 42.7 per cent. This is a far cry from the results of Election 43, which saw the Conservatives capture the popular vote at 34.4 per cent, compared to the Liberals’ 33.1 per cent, thereby setting up the Hillary Clinton “but we won the popular vote” argument. What an ignominious freefall in the span of seven months. Must be all those efficiencies they found.

The most damning statistic, and possibly the most egregious result, is the Tories’ forfeiture of the women’s vote: the Liberals are crushing the Tories by about 30 percentage points (50 per cent versus 21 per cent, respectively).

*Laughs in feminism.*

In The Toronto Star, economist Armine Yalnizyan called this “the first service-driven downturn in history.” In previous recessions, goods and manufacturing were affected first, thereby hitting the male workforce first, followed by recoveries led by an increase in female labour participation. This time, services have been hit first, and that changes the demographics affected, she said. “The service sector—particularly sectors hit first like education and child care, retail, personal services and restaurants—is more female-dominated. Usually paid less than men, and more likely to hold part-time jobs and work for multiple employers than men, the service sector’s gender-skew challenges governments to improve existing income supports to prevent desperate and counter-productive economic survival plans.”

The current economic downturn isn’t called a “shecession” because it’s neatly hashtagable; rather it’s due to the fact that 63 per cent of the job losses were those held by women, and women lost more hours of work than men. Women are also the essential workers because it is still women who do the majority of caregiving. And in our society, caregiving labour is severely undervalued and underpaid. This is particularly true of single mothers, women of colour, and immigrant women who work in these sectors.

The Tory squawking over the perils of big government doesn’t hit the same when your precarious work doesn’t provide proper benefits or child care and is a breeding ground for COVID-19, such as Amazon warehouses and Cargill meat plants. It’s no surprise this line of messaging from older, white men, who have the privilege to rage about debt and deficits (in a historically low-interest-rate environment) while ignoring the risk to life, isn’t resonating with women.

This party can’t read a room.

It’s easy to see how the Conservatives got here: they went full Republican. The same untethered rage that the Republicans showed Barack Obama during his presidency is the same unhinged hatred Conservatives have for Justin Trudeau. This disproportionate response to a democratically elected prime minister led them to seek allies such as Fox News. In 2017, Peter Kent spoke to the Wall Street Journal and Michelle Rempel Garner appeared on Fox News to “educate” Americans about the Omar Khadr case, a man whose Charter and human rights were trampled on by their lord and saviour, Stephen Harper.

The dog whistles have become louder in recent years, as the Conservatives have embraced, or at least stayed silent about, the racism of the far-right they spent so much energy courting. See: United We Roll “protests,” which used a combination of xenophobia, anti-Semitism (the term “globalist” is code for “Jews”) and general racism to support—checks notes—Big Oil. A CBC piece on the issue noted, “The rally has also been associated with Yellow Vests Canada, a group whose Facebook page is rife with racist and xenophobic views, particularly towards Muslims and immigrants. In fact, the United We Roll convoy was originally named the Yellow Vest Convoy, but was changed due to the obviously problematic association.”

By the way, 69 per cent of Conservative supporters think that there are too many non-white immigrants in Canada, according to an April 2019 Ekos poll, meaning they’re racists. In terms of the Tory base, which came first, the chicken or the egg? Did the Conservative Party, which began its most recent assault on immigration with Harper’s “barbaric cultural practices” hotline, radicalize its base, or was their messaging attractive to already hardened white supremacists? It’s difficult to tell, but at this rate they’re synonymous with one another.

Take Derek Sloan. Last week, I wrote about the threat of disinformation coming from people and institutions of authority who platform conspiracy theories, misinformation, and general garbage opinions. Sloan’s racist diatribe against Dr. Tam was a white supremacist conspiracy theory elevated to the mainstream by someone running for the leader of the modern Conservative party. Far-right conspirators “allege that Tam is a long-time Chinese spy, sent to rise through the public health bureaucracy to one day use the coronavirus scare as a way to increase Chinese influence. They wonder whether her loyalties can really be vouched for and warn that she may import the Chinese government’s heavy-handed ideologies and methods at the expense of Canadians’ rights,” according to an op-ed in Foreign Policy. The Conservatives spoke volumes with their silence. What they’re finding out is that betting against inclusion is betting against winning national elections.

Erica Ifill is a co-host of the Bad+Bitchy podcast.