Lawrie McFarlane: O'Toole needs to lay out a route back to fiscal sanity

Since Conservative leader Erin O’Toole has shown himself clueless about framing a ­platform for the next federal election, let me do it for him.

Start with why Donald Trump got elected in 2016. In part, he lucked out in his ­opponent. Hillary Clinton was distrusted, in poll after poll, by half the country.

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O’Toole doesn’t have quite that advantage. Both of his main opponents, Justin Trudeau and Jagmeet Singh, are every bit as ­clueless as he is, but Trudeau isn’t disliked to the same extent that Hillary was. So not much help in this direction.

However, the main reason Trump won was that he perceived the deep distress felt in the country’s heartlands.

Millions had lost jobs, lost homes, ­suffered drops in their income and found themselves facing an uncertain future. Trump saw and responded to that, viscerally.

The economic pain presently suffered by working-class families in Canada is just as intense, if not more so. Due to the measures taken to restrain the COVID-19 epidemic, tens of thousands have lost their ­employment, their businesses, their futures. Hopelessness and despair are a growing reality.

It’s critical that O’Toole recognize how fundamentally this state of affairs has altered the entire dynamic of our political arena.

The prime minister has not. He continues to prattle on about ill-timed schemes wholly at odds with present realities, like ­shutting down chunks of the energy sector and ­hiking carbon taxes.

This is tone-deaf messaging that O’Toole must exploit.

How? First, call for a moratorium on any new tax increases, no matter how politically correct they may be.

Second, find the inner fortitude to take Joe Biden to the woodshed over his callous and politically driven decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline. Demand he back down, and promise to recall our ambassador if he won’t.

Third, lay out a route back to fiscal sanity, and be brutally explicit about just how tough it will be.

Make a commitment, with numbers attached, to downsize every federal ministry year by year for five years. And eliminate several of them outright.

Start with the ministry of middle class prosperity (an oxymoron if ever there were one), plus the ministry of digital ­government (only one digit is needed here to signify intent).

Fourth, silence the party’s social ­conservatives. This won’t be easy, because media critics know the Tories are vulnerable on matters like abortion, and will continue jabbing away.

But it’s not just abortion. Several ­Conservative senators have opposed ­Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID). Their objections are either faith-based or due to slippery-slope arguments.

Let the Conservative party come to grips with this fundamental reality. You will never form government if you persist in clinging to beliefs long since abandoned by huge chunks of the population.

Lastly, speak in blunt, forthright ­language. Given the far-reaching ­challenges facing our country, you cannot win by ­voicing the kind of mealy-mouthed ­platitudes we hear on a daily basis.

Clearly this is not the kind of platform you roll out in times of prosperity and ­general satisfaction.

But equally clearly, we inhabit no such times and none are visible on the horizon.

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