Despite having won 22 additional seats in the 2019 election, the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) has largely struggled in its role as Official Opposition, having failed to truly define its brand and provide an alternative vision. The sudden and controversial departure of embattled ex-leader Andrew Scheer, coupled with the outbreak of COVID-19 cooled the party’s momentum. A relatively quiet and low-profile leadership race exacerbated tensions between various factions in the party. Newly minted leader Erin O’Toole was tasked with maintaining harmony while figuring out a plan to unseat the Liberals.
So far, his stint at the helm of the party has maybe resulted in more questions than answers. His efforts to articulate a true response to climate change via a carbon pricing scheme has been criticized by caucus and largely rejected by party members. His criticism of the Liberals’ management of the pandemic was proven unwarranted at various times.
Despite its current hardships (and less than favourable poll numbers), the CPC still has hopes to:
Beat the Liberals by positioning itself as government in waiting
The CPC wants to prove that a more traditional and pragmatic approach to governance is what Canadians want after a tumultuous past two years; that a return to fiscal prudence is the best recourse to rebuild Canada’s economy.
Court centre voters in vote rich Greater Toronto Area (GTA)
Consecutive elections have proven that the CPC’s faithful support in Western Canada, while a critical foundation, is not enough to win an election. The CPC needs to win a sizable number of seats in Ontario—with a focus on the 57 ridings in the GTA—to really be in contention, particularly in the always highly contested 905 area code.
Soften its image
The CPC is seen as the party of economic austerity. The party’s views on issues such as cannabis, same-sex marriage and abortion rights, that can be perceived as (largely) out-of-step by many electors, always make it a target of the other more progressive parties.
Conservative Party's strengths
- War chest: Conservative associations have, on average, just under $61,000 in net assets, almost $25,000 more than the ruling Liberals.
- Experience: Their 9-year stint in power overlapped the worst economic crisis in over 50 years. They know how to navigate tough economic times.
Conservative Party's challenges
- Attitude during pandemic: Their attitude was sometimes perceived as being negative and inflammatory.
- Social-conservative wing: The Social-conservative wing will bring up divisive issues Canadians have no appetite for.
- Lack of focus: Over the last two years, the Conservatives have spent a lot of time attacking Trudeau instead of building an alternative vision for Canadians.
X-factors for the Conservative Party
- Caucus unity: Can social and progressive conservatives still coexist?
- Performances in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia: Can the CPC hold on to its seats and make gains in these provinces?
——— Tiéoulé Traoré is a former Director, Government Relations at NATIONAL Public Relations