Opposition Leader Erin O’Toole, looking weirdly Mike-Pence-like, during his remarks to the Conservative Party of Canada’s virtual policy conference on Friday (Photo: Screenshot of CPAC video).

Question: What is Erin O’Toole supposed to do now that we all know 54 per cent of the delegates to his online Conservative Party of Canada policy convention have formally refused to acknowledge climate change is an actual thing? 

Answer: Pretend it never happened, of course. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Photo: Justin Trudeau/Flickr).

If that doesn’t work, he can beg the party’s auxiliary in right-wing media to bury the story. They’ll probably oblige. 

Mr. O’Toole’s supporters in right-wing media, who are legion, are already advising us not to trouble our pretty little heads because as leader he can say whatever he wishes in his platform and the acknowledgement of climate change he wanted is already in the party’s policy book. 

But as former journalist and senior Alberta and B.C. bureaucrat Eric Denhoff observed on Twitter: “So he either blows off half his base or more than half the country. Enviable position to be in.”

If pressed by some impertinent questioner, the CPC’s latest leader could always argue that climate change is just so obvious party delegates decided the troublesome resolution, which also called on polluters to stop polluting so much, was as unneeded as one acknowledging the existence of gravity. 

Mind you, it’s not 100-per-cent certain these days that you could get CPC members to acknowledge that gravity is a real thing either. Getting the party’s social conservative wing – which with the exception of Mr. O’Toole himself seems to be pretty much the entire party nowadays – to recognize that the earth revolves around the sun might be an even tougher sell.

As anyone who lives here on the Canadian Prairies understands, a considerable portion of the CPC’s core membership here in the party’s electoral heartland believes climate change is not real, and if they reluctantly acknowledge its reality will insist nothing we humans do has anything to do with it. 

It shows just how difficult the position is in which Mr. O’Toole finds himself. 

In his keynote speech to delegates Friday, he asked them to accept that the debate about climate change is settled. That may be obvious, but as subsequent events proved, it’s not obvious to his party. 

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“We have now fought and lost two elections against a carbon tax because voters did not think we were serious about addressing climate change,” he lamented, pleading with them not to make Conservative candidates “defend against the lie from the Liberals that we are a party of climate change deniers.” 

But as the result of his own members’ vote quickly proved, it’s not a lie and come election time candidates are going to have to acknowledge it and mount some sort of defence.

As for the carbon tax, Mr. O’Toole has pledged to scrap it. But, channelling Donald Trump, he says he’ll come up with a better plan soon. “We will have a plan to address climate change. It will be comprehensive, and it will be serious.”

We forget now that carbon taxes are an invention of the market-obsessed political right. But “fighting taxes” is just too easy – and too instinctive – for parties of the right, and so carbon taxes have become the Obamacare of Canada: a right-wing idea adopted by the progressive centre only to see it hysterically denounced by the people who came up with it. 

And, therefore, they are yet another corner into which Mr. O’Toole is wedged. 

He spoke the truth, though, when he told his delegates that if the CPC hopes to succeed, it must “move beyond a party that does well only in certain parts of Canada, while leaving other Canadians out.” (Emphasis added.)

Alas for him, his party’s base, mostly here on the Prairies, will not move. They’d rather move him out as soon as possible and replace him with someone more in tune with their prejudices and superstitions.

Having a solid regional core of support on the Prairies is a comfort to Canada’s Conservative party. It is also a curse. 

At election time, it gives the party the luxury of being able to focus its efforts on regions like the 905 zone around Toronto where the vote can swing either way. Also at election time, it drags the party down, making the case in most of Canada against voting Conservative effortless.

This is because in Alberta and elsewhere on the Prairies the CPC is a party of climate change denialism, vaccine denialism, science denialism, gun nuttery, and social conservative opposition to reproductive, LGBTQ+ and minority rights.

I have no doubt it was partly with that crowd in mind – now steeped in Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s cynical appeal to regional grievance and souverainiste tendencies – that Mr. O’Toole made his dangerous pitch to Quebec’s remaining separatists. 

Accusing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of intervening in provincial jurisdiction under the cover of the pandemic, the CPC leader invited Quebec separatists, en français, “to come and share power with me in Ottawa.”

“We are going to form a grand conservative coalition,” he promised them. “We defend a federalism of co-operation, even decentralizing.”

What could possibly go wrong?

The dog-whistle to his unhelpful allies in Alberta is that they too can have all this, even if it destroys the country. 

That idea may not sound scary to a lot of Alberta Conservatives, steeped in a political culture that lets them say outrageous things and get away with it. But it’s sure to frighten lots of Canadian voters. This is yet another example of how Alberta’s predilection for voting Conservative instinctively harms the party, diminishing its chances to form another national government. 

In the same speech, Mr. O’Toole pledged to create a national suicide-prevention hotline – about as clear an example of intervening in provincial jurisdiction one can think of, and certain to arouse the ire and opposition of his powerful Alberta Caucus. 

But never mind, just like acknowledging climate change, it’s just a promise, not an actual plan. 

Whether this indicates complete cynicism or merely muddled opportunism is hard to say. 

It surely doesn’t seem like a formula for electoral success.

Join the Conversation


  1. This is more than a bit awkward, I think. Hours after Mr. O’Toole pleads with his party, they ignore it and go in a different direction. This is bad, but if that is not bad enough, it also is a direction that most of the country is not going in.

    Yes, Mr. O’Toole, his party and some friends in the mainstream media will try to quickly downplay, dismiss and ignore this, but I don’t think this will work well. First of all not all the mainstream media, outside of the prairies, is as friendly to the Conservatives as here. Some are ambivalent and some are even critical at times. Today was also unfortunately what could be called a slower news day, so the Conservatives attempt to shoot themselves and/or their leader in the foot was too good a story to be ignored by most of the media, so this horse is already out of the gate. And if this is not bad enough for them, their political opponents will make sure this is not forgotten or ignored.

    I believe the clever strategy of Mr. O’Toole or his aides was to talk nice about climate change, while of course not doing anything much about it. They weren’t about to change their position on carbon taxes, but a nice resolution on climate change might have provided a bit of cover for them or muddied the waters enough, so they didn’t come across as total climate change deniers. To bad no one either let in the grassroots on this strategy or convinced them to buy in. Of course, Mr. O’Toole, unlike Kenney never signed a grassroots guarantee, so perhaps it will be easier for him to ignore how they vote on resolutions and try to march on with this strategy regardless.

    I also have to love Mr. O’Toole’s attempts to appeal to Quebec nationalists. This is a standard ploy of Conservatives – sometimes it works, like with Diefenbaker and Mulroney, but more often not, and even then it often later ends badly for their party and/or the country. It starts from the common premise that Conservatives support more provincial autonomy, but quickly unravels when it turns out they are really only concerned about economic matters, whereas Quebec nationalists are mostly concerned about social and cultural matters. Unfortunately for them, this also does not go over as well in Ontario, where the Conservatives need to win.

    Today, whether they have figured it out yet or not, the Conservatives gave the Federal Liberals a huge gift. It is often said that oppositions do not so much win elections, but that governments defeat themselves. Perhaps it is also true that oppositions can self defeat too.

    1. “…the Conservatives gave the Federal Liberals a huge gift.” An even bigger gift to the Federal Liberals would be the selection of Jason Kenney as CPC leader.

    2. [T]he clever strategy is….to talk nice about climate change, while of course not doing anything much about it.” Sadly, every Canadian government, federal or provincial, has been using the same strategy. Here’s hoping that, with Biden in the White House, Canadian governments will have to ramp up their efforts.

  2. “We have now fought and lost two elections against a carbon tax because voters did not think we were serious about addressing climate change, defend against the lie from the Liberals that we are a party of climate change deniers.” – Erin O’Toole

    “The science on man-made global warming theory is in dispute. Global warming alarmism is being used by global elites and the United Nations to advance population control through abortion and sterilization.” – Voter Guide, CampaignLifeCoalition.com

  3. Canada. needs. to. move. to. proportional. representation !

    with proportional representation the western Canadian Conservative monolith is no more and the whack-job right can have their own party
    the left/centre left in all its iterations will be more fairly represented and have more heft (and for gawds sake please bring back Mulcair and lose the current gomer)
    and the liberals,
    instead of presuming to be Canada’s natural ruling party will quite possibly and deservedly get a good smack upside the head and be forced clean up and tighten up their act

    enough of the same old, same old !!

    1. FPTP gives 90% of the power to the Liberals and Conservatives. Proportional representation, of any type, would give them less power. Therefore they will do everything they can to fight against it.

  4. Your ignorance of climate science is real. Let me educate you on the three basic principles of climate science:

    1. Climate is in it’s absolute infancy and we have little or no, understanding of, or data on, the 25 processes that are interconnected in complex ways which impact our climate.

    2. The climate is so incredibly complex that it is impossible to model or predict. The present models are totally inadequate and inaccurate.

    3. The inherent complexity ensures the climate will always be changing and nothing man does impacts that.

    In less political times co2 would not even be mentioned in a climate debate.

    Please educate yourself by visiting the following websites:

    Notrickszone.com; Wattsupwiththat.com; Co2coalition.org; Co2science.org; Climaterealism.com; Cfact.org; Climatedepot.org; Climatechangedispatch.com; Clintel.org; Friendofscience.org, Principia-scientific.org; Realclimatescience.com; thegwpf.org; Environmentalprogress.org

    Just to name a few.

    By the way, your left wing progressive arrogance is disgusting.

    1. When you cite websites like these, which include Friends Of Science, any credibility is thrown straight out the window. You might wish to think more before you post anything.

    2. The depth of your right wing, regressive ignorance is mind boggling. Even major oil companies have admitted that man made global climate change is real. Your links are to people with no climate science credentials, or shills with links to organisations like the Koch funded Cato Institute. You give credence to the saying that “not all Conservatives are stupid people, but most stupid people are conservative”.

    3. Mr S. K.: Firstly, anthropogenic climate change is fundamentally different & more dangerous than natural climate change, for one reason: time. Past climate changes in the planet’s 4.5 billion year history took tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of years to play out. Some species thrived, while others declined & died out, but the biosphere as a whole adapted. The current situation is quite different. We have been living through a rapid rise in global mean temperature that has occurred in a mere matter of a few decades, far too fast for the biosphere to adapt.

      Not only that, in the past, rising sea levels caused by climate change didn’t have vast swaths of inhabited shorelines to flood. Herds of animals can migrate: our cities, towns & villages can’t, at least not that quickly. We are causing this impending catastrophe; it’s our responsibility to put a stop to it before it’s too late.

      Finally, Sir, this is a progressive blog. Mr C makes no bones about that. If you have rational comment to make, or well-reasoned counter-arguments to present, they are welcome. But your ad hominem ranting is not.

    4. Barry Cooper might tell you to add an “s” to that link for the science-y pals. I think you will find what you are looking for there to affirm your values, once you add that “s”.

    5. Seems that the argument you are making is “climate change science is very new and we don’t know anything about it, therefore pollution is ok.” I wonder if you would consider the argument “climate change science is very new and we don’t know anything about it, therefore we should limit pollution lest we unintentionally render our biosphere uninhabitable by our descendants.”

    6. There is a perfect record of climate on this planet from the ice at the polar ice caps. You can core down through thousands of years. The rate at which the polar ice ( as well as the glaciers ) is melting is also indicative, if you can trust your own eyes. I won’t mention the severe weather events, increased hurricanes, Australia and California burning, coral reefs dying,sea level rising, droughts, floods . Of course it’s more comfortable to deny a problem exists and do nothing, we won’t be here when the chickens come home to roost.

  5. It’s worth reminding the Tories got more votes than he Liberals in the last election so there’s a lot to be said for climate change denial. In addition, I wonder if either party has an electoral leg-up in the distribution of rural and urban seats. Correct me if I’m wrong but I’ve heard rural Alberta has 20% of the population but 40% of the seats giving the UPC a head start in any election. I’m wondering if the same discrepancy exists federally where the climate change deniers are halfway to first base while their opponents are still in the batter’s box.

    1. It’s worth reminding that when you overwhelmingly win IN ONE PROVINCE ONLY you may win the popular vote but you will NEVER form a NATIONAL government.

    2. Mr Ronmac: in terms of federal electoral dynamics, Canada’s rep-by-pop system of seat distribution, combined with our single-member plurality voting system — commonly known as “first-past-the-post” — means that the CPC’s nationwide popular vote is heavily concentrated in places with far fewer seats than those where the Liberals & NDP are ahead.

      If you look at two of the most prominent polling aggregators, Eric Grenier https://newsinteractives.cbc.ca/elections/poll-tracker/canada/ & P J Fournier https://338canada.com/, their popular vote projections put the CPC at about 30% nationally. But broken down by region, they’re at 50-55% in Alberta, & 45-46% in MB & SK (both analysts report those two provinces as a single bloc) … but only at 30-31% in populous Ontario, & 27% in 3-way-competitive BC. In Quebec, the Cons are way down to 16-17%, while in Atlantic Canada they’re at 25-27%.

      The seat count projections are even more lopsided: in Alberta, CPC is projected to win 28-31 seats, & 18-21 in MB & SK. But in vote-rich Ontario they’re projected to win only 30-39 seats, 7-12 in BC, 8-12 in QC, & 3-7 in Atlantic Canada.

      Both poll aggregator sites put the Liberals on the threshold of a majority: both predict a 46-50% probability of a Liberal majority, and a 90-97% probability of a Liberal plurality.

      The only path to victory for the CPC is by moderating its positions on exactly those issues the party rank & file have just publicly announced that they won’t.

  6. As my good friend Bugsy would say, “What a maroon!”

    Why on Earth does anyone spend any time on a group that won’t accept reality? A group that lives in a fantasy world. Is this another Jonestown?

    And who in their right mind is going to believe it when these ignorant, belligerent slobbering idiots start to mouth off about contemporary issues?

    I’ll say it again, conservatives of all kinds have absolutely nothing to offer any modern culture. They belong in the dustbin with ISIS and Nazi’s and the rest of the failed ideologies.

  7. Canada desperately needs an effective Official Opposition. We have not had one for quite some time.

    The Conservatives claim that they are flush with money and united. They may well be flush with money. They are certainly not united. If anything, this policy convention simply highlighted the serious divisions in the Party.

    The only winner, IMHO, is Peter MacKay. He certainly dodged a bullet by loosing his bid for the leadership.

    O’Toole and the members of the Conservative Party just awarded the Trudeau Liberals a huge PR win. The kind that money cannot buy and it was completely free.

    The Conservatives have proven themselves to be the ‘gang that could not shoot straight’. In point of fact they do not even appear to be shooting blanks. Shame really.

  8. I wonder if this vote, which of course will be front and centre come election time, will have the effect of reducing strategic voting. If the CPC seems unikely to win that could help NDP and Green candidates to convince their supporters not to desert to the Liberals on election day.

  9. Running in this direction will net the CPC about 27% of the vote, give or take. I see an even harder and crazier rightward shift coming.

    All this points to how beholden The Toole is beholden to Calgary oil interests and the UCP core vote.

    Looking to the Cry & Angry Midget’s situation, I predict anti-masking and antivaxxing will guide government policies from here on.

    Mississippi North.

  10. The pseudoCon party is going out the world backwards like it first come in. CPC progressiveness goes like this: it began by cutting off its Tory roots and now appears to be chopping off its own head, a fate even Monty Python’s limbless knight was spared. It’s karma appears to have run over its dogma.

    O’Toole was was bumped off in the first post-Harper leadership race— on the 12th of 13 ballots— by a Québécois blue-flame libertarian and a Prairie SoCon. But at least he beat out the other gaggle of far-right embarrassments. He sort of looked like a moderate in this sense—although real moderates like Lisa Rait and Michael Chong had dropped off earlier in the race.

    The loud caterwauling by the Western Reform wing when their SoCon leader failed to defeat the Liberal government made it hard to appreciate the encouraging result from O’Toole’s point of view, despite the party’s loss: for the first time the more Tory-like Upper Canada wing had won near seat parity with the hitherto dominating Westerners. And he is an Eastern MP who again contrasted against extremist and SoCon leadership contenders, somewhat fewer than last time, but sufficient to cast a moderate light upon him.

    Yet we were reminded that, despite the new leader’s conciliatory rhetoric, he always was a HarperCon; we could tell by the way he had to journey out West to kiss both rings of the retired PM and his sidekick, now premier of Alberta, before securing the leadership win. And of course there was that parting “take back Canada” shot in his victory speech. These were obvious sops to the still-powerful wing in its Western redoubt of peeved comeuppance. Naturally, he had to do it.

    I think O’Toole understands his party’s dilemma. He’s been patient about getting the top job and he knows, as well as any other CPC supporter, how to wiggle along with equivocating language on a host of issues. But circumstances like Covid and minority governments —the kind that have gotten them re-elected as majorities despite a pandemic—has left him time for neither patience nor equivocation: a federal snap election is in the wind. Unfortunately, the CPC crew is in a mood to mutiny just as the tiller, lashed to starboard, threatens to navigate the ship right off the edge of the earth.

    This is no Titanic—not big enough. More like the Pequod.

  11. Don’t forget all the flat-earthers among the denial-of-everything crowd. They would probably deny the existence of the internal combustion engine, if they didn’t all drive big behemoth trucks.

    Join them back in the Stone Age? No thanks, but I might have one small twinge of regret about missing out on the sight of them frolicking with dinosaurs and Stockwell Day. Hopefully they’ll bring Barney and Friends to the mall protest next weekend instead.

  12. It certainly did not help that the supposed minority of social conservatives we are told exist in the party were directed to vote against the motion https://pressprogress.ca/conservative-party-votes-down-resolution-designed-to-reassure-everyone-they-believe-in-science/.

    He may be able, during debates and questioning, to deflect the question by stateing that it was an unneccessary resolution but the handout from Campaign Life Coalition tells a different tale.


  13. Amazing, isnt it? You can lead a horse to water, but then find it will not drink ‘cos it’s just plain loco. That’s how the soCons reaction to O’Toole’s pleadings strike me. Oblivious to reality and Damn Proud of it!

    Indeed, the country has been hectored for decades by Alberta governments/pols complaining that their views are not given enough credence in Ottawa or the country at large. Incredibly provincial in outlook, they sincerely believed their ideas for running society should be so self-obviously correct to the rest of us, we should just acknowledge their innate genius and get on with copying them. We gave it a try with harper, and what a crap show that was!

    Fundamentally, the social Conservatives (soCons) in the Prairies and in Ontario have never changed their tune. Ignoring reality and logic, they societally seek to deny women the right to control their own bodies. That’s the core of their present outlook. Whether anyone disagrees with them is immaterial — they consider themselves correct and the godless rest of us wrong. The upshot of it all is that if they somehow gained Federal power, they would impose their views on the country; harper’s sidestepping of the issue was not acceptable to them.

    The prospect of ideologues gerrymandering the social fabric of the country from on high is completely unappealing to most. But the soCons couldn’t care less what most people think, they believe it their duty to get us to conform to a worldview from the distant past when things were “right” and backtalk did not really exist under pain of personal ruin. In those far off times of the 1950s and earlier, the town employer, the big boss who provided employment, and supine clerics clutching the book of fables known as the Bible justified their control of the populace as God’s way. But they also enforced conformity with an array of sticks and carrots. I saw it first hand myself as a teen in our region. People had to be uncomplaining busy little worker bees minding their imposed p’s and q’s, thankful for a job and their continued existence thereby. All perfectly ordered and under control for the ultimate comfort of a few privileged. Unions were anathema to business, as was thinking for yourself and coming to the conclusion that things weren’t quite right somehow.

    In this fairy tale world so beloved of soCons, business and Christianity (of whatever variety so long as Jesus rules, that’s religious freedom to their minds) should be in charge, and since God provides and ordered humanity to go forth and multiply and exploit the Earth’s abundance, of course environmental degradation does not exist. By definition. Nor should business be responsible for contributing to society other than providing jobs to enrich the skilful entrepreneur or investor’s ideas for creating personal wealth. So taxes on these businesses is anathema to their mindsets. Never mind their free use of infrastructure paid for by society at large. Since many immigrants are not Christian, and may be the descendants of peoples subjected to do-gooder proselytizing missionaries sent out on the world stage to convert them from “savagery”, the basis for racial bigotry is also established. They’re not like soCons in any way, so are mistrusted. Oh Kellie Leitch, you wonderful person, you!

    It’s easy to follow the unreal line of regressive reasoning to come up with the Conservative outlook of today — someone other than you knows what’s best for you, just as it was in olden times when the complaisant and happy serfs laboured mightily under orders and obeyed their betters. How the ’50s Randian version of individualistic rugged “men” standing tall, proud and free to think their own Right thoughts can be reconciled with Conservatism as actually practised is something only an illogician can explain.

    O’Toole at least seems to have come to the correct conclusion that with a worldview like that, visionless for the betterment of the individual’s life in future, the CPC hasn’t got much of a chance of coming to power. But the party members have ignored his pleadings to change to appeal to voters and gain power, even if he was only kidding and asking for sham change, preferring to believe in unreality instead.

    If the country is lucky, the tensions may well blow the Conservative coalition apart, the separate factions then divisively off to moan in their respective corners as they become ever more irrelevant to the needs of the populace and the maintenance of a living planet. I thus wish O’Toole the worst of luck in trying to keep a group of intellectual dimwits and reality deniers together as a cohesive whole. Canada needs Conservatism, and especially social conservatism, like a hole in the head.

  14. I’m anticipating a fall election – JT has promised many times that everyone will be vaccinated by September. If he fails to do that I betcha opposition parties bring his government down, if he succeeds, I betcha he brings it down thinking his accomplishment will get him a majority. So here is my perception of our choices:

    Conservative party: White supremacists, fascists, thin-blue-liners, climate and covid deniers, and the oil industry. NEXT!
    Liberal party: The status gets quo-ier, the rich get richer, the plague gets plaguier and then we die of climate change. NEXT!
    The NDP: A party that has never answered for its decision to betray its own principles and elect Mulcair, who would have been an excellent leader… for the Liberal party. No idea what the NDP is now but I don’t see them as social democrats – the most recent headline I saw from them was Mr. Singh wanting to give tax dollars to small businesses. I guess they’re classical Liberals, which is better than the Neoliberals listed above. I like Singh though.
    The Greens: lolwut? I think they’re going some kind of eco-socialist direction, which actually sounds better to me than the above 3, but FPTP means a vote for the Greens is a vote that won’t elect anyone. I say this as a person who has supported Greens with money, time and votes.
    Oh yeah there are some whackjob parties, too. The People’s Choice for anyone who doesn’t think the CPC is racist enough for them, the Communist party for anyone who thinks the Greens aren’t enough of a wasted vote for them, etc etc.

    …so I guess that has me leaning NDP? Or voting for whoever in my riding has a chance to beat the Liberals, unless that would put the Conservatives in. I hate FPTP so much. I am pretty angry at all the old white men who have defended it to me over the years, too. “You are free to vote for a crap sandwich or a turd burrito, but if you don’t vote you don’t get to complain about supper! By the way, I’ll be eating steak no matter who gets elected. Honestly, people nowadays are such a bunch of entitled snowflakes. It’s like they don’t even appreciate freedom!”

  15. Something about this vote on the part of the CPC that should really be stressed – they have told us that science is to be judged by political criteria. If the CPC got into power, we would have politically-acceptable science as part of government policy. God knows that there’s been enough of that, tacitly, in the past, but this would be explicit.

    Funny to see Lysenkoism being resurrected by our red-meat conservatives. Stalin, in whatever hell he’s now a resident of, must be laughing.

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