Where are the grown-ups in the Conservative party?

Article originally published in The Star

Conservatives across this country have been trying their hardest to convince Canadians that the country is extremely divided because of vaccine mandates.

Maybe Conservatives think Canadians are either too dumb or lazy to look up our vaccination rates. Or maybe it’s because they assume Canadians are fed a steady diet of perpetual outrage in the form of commercial talk radio, tabloid print, and clickbait online content provided by Conservative proxy outlets like Canada Proud or The Post Millennial.

It’s impossible to tell why the Conservatives would try and suggest that Canadians are divided on the issue of vaccines, given that it such an easily disproven claim, as roughly 84 per cent of eligible Canadians are fully vaccinated.

Irrespective of the underpinning behind the strategy, this is where we are. The official Opposition in this country is more sympathetic to an increasingly out-of-touch minority of people, as opposed to the vast majority of Canadians who have been diligent and responsible throughout the last two hellish years.

Instead of speaking to — and for — most Canadians who have adhered to public health guidance and have rolled up their sleeves to get jabbed, Conservatives have decided to take their political cues from a group of people who have occupied the capital for the last two weeks and have in recent days clogged up major ports of entries, resulting in tens of millions of dollars in quantifiable losses to the Canadian economy.

Everyone is sick of the pandemic. And nobody likes having to deal with the virus’s impact on our daily lives. But Conservatives in this country are either too busy endorsing the world’s longest hissy fit, like Conservative leadership front-runner Pierre Poilievre, or just readily throwing in the towel, like premiers Scott Moe and Jason Kenney.

Learning to live with COVID means adapting certain things we do to minimize the effect of the virus: wearing masks and getting air filtration systems up and running in public indoor spaces; making rapid testing readily and freely available, in order to normalize testing right before gathering with others; paid sick leave; and active surveillance strategies, to name a few.

In Conservativeland, however, you don’t get tons of likes and retweets for thoughtful, substantive policy proposals. But say that the prime minister is the greatest threat to freedom in the country, and watch your phone blow up with notifications.

Or you could vaguely call on the prime minister to end restrictions, like Kenney did. What restrictions, exactly? It doesn’t matter. Nor does it apparently matter that the bulk of pandemic management and restrictions are under provincial jurisdiction, and that the few areas of federally imposed restrictions for the general public — like showing proof of vaccination for domestic air and rail travel — only impact people who continue to refuse a safe and effective vaccine by choice. Those federal “restrictions” don’t actually restrict anything for the bulk of Canadians.

Somewhere along the line in the last decade, the Conservative brain trust decided it was going to go from being a party for grown-ups to a party that is simply forever in search of the next meme that can be used to “dunk” on the “Libs.” It doesn’t matter if the meme is complete and total misinformation, or in some cases co-ordinated disinformation — as long as it serves its purpose of drumming up likes and retweets, it is fair game in right-leaning circles.

Conservatives have a choice to make. They can either be a serious party that tries to appeal to the average Canadian voter, or they can continue to be the party that dominates in sh*tposting, speaking only to the hardest elements of their base. It’s impossible to be both.

Correction – Feb. 14, 2022: A caption for the photo accompanying this article was edited to correct Scott Moe’s title. He is the premier of Saskatchewan, not Manitoba.

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