EXCLUSIVE: Sources say O’Toole, MacKay exploring leadership bids—MacKay denies claims
Erin O’Toole and Peter MacKay are looking at runs for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada, according to a well-connected source within the party who’s close to prominent figures of the CPC.
“O’Toole is waiting for the dust to settle” to launch his leadership bid, “I assume he is waiting for the caucus meeting next week,” said the source to The Post Millennial.
Disclosure:Garnett Genuis is the Conservative MP representing Sherwood Park–Fort Saskatchewan in Alberta.
At the federal level, I have consistently sought to advance the protection of conscience in legislation and policy. A right to freedom of conscience is enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and is part of other human rights documents going back to before Confederation.
Protection of conscience has a strong moral and intellectual basis. The most important freedom we all have is the right to an independent and personal search for truth–to do what we believe right and avoid what we believe wrong, insofar as doing what we believe right does not involve some act of violence against another person.
If a person can be compelled to accept the state’s notion of right and wrong regardless of his or her own conscience, then what is left of the notion of individual freedom?
There has been much discussion recently about freedom of conscience and religion in the context of religious symbols. Importantly, though freedom of conscience has to go beyond external symbols. If you believe that a Muslim woman should be free to wear a hijab at work, do you believe that that same Muslim woman should be free to abstain from participation in, say, euthanasia, if such participation conflicts with her conscientious beliefs? Conscience is a matter of what is inside your head, not just of what you put on your head.
In the last Parliament, Conservatives sought to amend the government’s euthanasia legislation to protect the conscience rights of medical practitioners. Many doctors would prefer not to participate in euthanasia. Requiring them to do so will not improve access because it will force those with a strong conscientious objection out of the profession or out of the country. This is a serious concern given the limited number of doctors practising palliative care. Fewer palliative care doctors means more pain at the end of life and less access to the accommodation and comfort that people under such pain deserve.
Notably, our efforts to protect conscience through our opposition motion were supported in a vote on May 17, 2016, by all present Conservative MPs (including Stephen Harper, Rona Ambrose, and Jason Kenney) as well as by five NDP MPs–Charlie Angus, Alistair MacGregor, Gord Johns, Sheila Malcolmson, and Erin Weir.
For good reason. In light of the failure to act at the federal level to protect conscience and ensure access to vital services, a provincial MLA has proposed legislation to affirm conscience protection here in Alberta (Bill 207). This legislation would mean no substantive change for anyone–it simply codifies into legislation what is already the rule and practise for physicians in Alberta. It does not provide a right to refuse service on the basis of identifiable characteristics–only on the basis of well-founded conscientious objection. It is a necessary legislative step because it ensures that doctors in Alberta won’t face a situation in the future where the regulatory body tries to take away conscience protection.
It is fascinating to observe how apoplectic many on the political left have become over proposals like Bill 207 to protect conscience. Apparently the road to Gilead is paved with conscience rights protection. (People who say such things have probably never actually read A Handmaid’s Tale).
Many on the left have embraced the inverted vocabulary of another dystopian novel, 1984. To them, the protection of something as basic as conscientious objections has been re-imagined as an attack on someone else’s freedom. But nobody’s right to anything should be a basis for compelling someone else to provide that thing in violation of their conscience. Unlike the Alberta NDP, this is something that at least some members of the federal NDP understood well in the last Parliament.
Diversity isn’t just about the colour of your skin or the symbols you wear. Respecting diversity means allowing people with substantively different views of life to express their opinions and to access professions. A society that does not understand this is not a free society. It is, therefore, vitally important to ensure that Charter protections for freedom of conscience are taken seriously.
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer is calling PM Trudeau to recall Parliament just five days after Trudeau is expected to announce his cabinet.
According to the CBC, Scheer made the demand a day before the two leaders were supposed to meet.
Simon Jefferies, the spokesperson for Andrew Scheer, said Parliament should reconvene to address growing divisions in the country coupled with an economic downturn in the energy sector.
“Trudeau can’t keep running scared from testing the confidence of the House,” said Jefferies. “We need to roll up our sleeves and get to work on behalf of Canadians.”
Jefferies said Scheer would try to convince Trudeau for certain priorities to be included in his throne speech. They’ll be based on the Conservatives’ priorities for the new Parliament.
Priorities include “keeping Canada united and strong,” “helping Canadians get ahead,” “restoring ethics and accountability in government,” and “getting the energy sector back to work.”
The Liberals won 157 seats this election, enough to form a minority government; the Conservatives came second with 121 MPs.
Trudeau has said he will reveal his new cabinet on November 20 but hasn’t announced when he plans to recall Parliament.
Disclosure: Garnett Genuis is the Conservative MP representing Sherwood Park–Fort Saskatchewan in Alberta.
One of the most important and formative experiences for me on the road to getting into politics was competitive debate—in both high school and university. I would strongly recommend this activity as optimal preparation for anyone considering the same path.
Competitive debaters compete to defend a point of view. They very often will defend a point of view that is not their own.
Every competitive debater is taught early that an essential characteristic of good debate is something called “clash”. Clash is when arguments are made to directly counter the arguments made by the other side—to show that, even on their own terms, the other side’s arguments fail. The alternative to a good debate characterized by clash is a bad debate which resembles two ships passing in the night—essentially, debaters doing their own monologue without much reference to what others are saying.
Debate in the Canadian Parliament has come to be characterized by the near complete absence of meaningful clash. MPs deliver prepared speeches one after the other that cast arguments on their own terms and play to their own social media following. It is extremely rare that an MP would use his or her speech to deconstruct the arguments of a previous speaker.
Clash is essential in good political conversations, though, because a neutral listener has a hard time weighing out who is right and who is wrong if meaningful refutation and deconstruction of arguments does not take place. If we are to be what Edmund Burke thought Parliament should be—the “deliberative assembly of one nation”, then we must talk to one another and about one another’s arguments.
In the same speech, Burke told voters in 1774: “Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests; which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where, not local purposes, not local prejudices, ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole. You choose a member indeed; but when you have chosen him, he is not member of Bristol, but he is a member of parliament.”
It is very important for all members of the newly constituted 43rd parliament to reflect on the importance of clash and on Burke’s advice. If we are going to work together, then we must first be able to talk together, and disagree substantively, while seeking to persuade each other to change our perspectives. People who cannot argue together well will generally struggle to work together well. We must also denominate our conversations in terms of the common good, not the narrow particular interests of one group over another.
There are a few reasons why this will be particularly difficult in the 43rd parliament. The third largest political party exists explicitly to advance the interests of one region of the country over the interests of the rest of the country. The Bloc cannot be expected to seek to advance the national interest of a nation that they seek to break apart. Though less explicitly, the governing party has and will likely continue to pursue a strategy of ignoring the development needs of western Canada. When parties run regional instead of national campaigns, they are talking past some parts of the country they think they can ignore, and only talking to parts of the country that they think they need.
It has always been interesting to me that Justin Trudeau briefly did competitive debating as a student as well. However, he stopped competing early on, noting: “I discovered I had a serious limitation for either a debater or a lawyer. I wasn’t able to argue for something I didn’t passionately believe in.” Unfortunately, an inability to dig into, understand and defend views that are not yours is not just a limitation for a debater or a lawyer—it is also a limitation for a parliamentarian and for a leader. In the privacy of one’s own mind or as an intellectual exercise, one should be able to defend things that one does not believe in order to understand and argue against those same things later. A nation as diverse as Canada particularly needs leaders who are capable of understanding and responding to different modes of thought than their own.
I hope that we will be able to raise the quality of clash in upcoming parliamentary debates, but I worry that there are a variety of cultural factors, as well as institutional ones, that are working against us. We live in an age of social media filtering, where people easily get only the information that confirms their pre-existing biases. But more broadly, our culture has for a long time lacked a common understanding of what constitutes the common good—and so we generally treat political opinions as if they were expressions of individual emotive preferences as opposed to substantive deductions about facts. There are no short-term solutions to these problems but treating opinions as opinions instead of as feelings would be a good start.
For Conservatives, we can take some pride in the fact that our support grew across the country, and that we tried to speak in terms of national ideals and projects. Inevitably those ideals and projects were more popular in some places than in others. In this new Parliament, Conservatives must maintain a truly national orientation. I will defend the interests of my own riding, but I will seek to do so in terms that are persuasive to people in other regions and in other parties. Pursuing an idea of separatism in the west, which will never come to fruition, is not a good way to be persuasive to people in other regions. It is especially dangerous in an environment where our primary complaint is the land-locking of our resources.
I am not particularly optimistic about the amount of meaningful clash that will be on display in the next Parliament, but I hope to be pleasantly surprised.
During the Conservative caucus meeting Wednesday, the CPC Members of Parliament have chosen not to remove incumbent leader Andrew Scheer from his leadership position. The meeting started at 1:00 PM and lasted for well over three hours as the CPC caucus struggled to solve structural problems from within the party. One of the four questions the caucus had to answer was whether the MPs should give themselves the power to launch this leadership review.
The CPC MPs voted in favour of electing a caucus chair. They have also voted in favour of forming a method to kick MPs out of caucus. Finally, they then decided to vote against having choosing an interim leader due to their rejection of the leadership review.
Despite Conseravtive MPs rejecting to trigger a leadership review today, Scheer will still have to face a mandatory leadership review in Toronto this April.
According to well-connected figures within the party, both Erin O’Toole and Peter Mackay were preparing to leadership bids, with O’Toole eyeing up a possible no confidence challenge during the caucus meeting. For the confidence vote to be triggered, at least 25 MPs would have been needed to sign the notice.
When The Post Millennial approached Mackay with these rumors, the former Harper minister vehemently denied them. MacKay, however, did aggressively criticize Scheer, telling reporters that issues like abortion and immigration “hung round [Scheer’s] neck like a stinking albatross.” MacKay added that Scheer’s failure to defeat Trudeau “was like having an open net and missing the net.”
In the Ottawa airport on Tuesday, Hamish Marshall, who is Scheer’s campaign manager, was confronted by CBC journalist Katie Simpson. When Simpson asked Marshall about the caucus meeting, Marshall responded that “it was none of her business.”