Clearwater Times editorial by Stephanie Hagenaars

EDITORIAL: Leadership needed, not further division

The federal Conservative party’s current state of disarray comes as no surprise.

Its inconsistent messaging around COVID-19 vaccination alone indicated a lack of leadership, even when the party had a leader.

On Wednesday, Feb. 2, Conservative MPs ousted Erin O’Toole, who led the party since August 2020.

Subsequent to MP Candice Bergen being named Conservative interim leader, a note allegedly sent by Bergen to O’Toole was leaked to the media. In it she advised against asking truckers demonstrating in Ottawa to go home. Instead, she suggested the “mood may shift… so we need to turn this into the PM’s problem.”

Is this leadership, or just political opportunism? The same could be asked of a recent photo-op involving Conservative MPs showing their support for “Freedom Convoy” truckers who got rolling after a federal vaccine mandate was put in place for truckers crossing the U.S.-Canada border.

Though non-violent, the protests in Ottawa have been far from peaceful for residents who’ve had to live with the related noise and interruptions. The photo stunt was no doubt another slap in the face.

Over the past year, O’Toole has been encouraging vaccination while he and MPs, including the North Okanagan-Shuswap’s Mel Arnold, criticized the Trudeau government around the vaccine rollout. In February 2021, Arnold raised concerns about the Trudeau government’s failure to deliver vaccines to Canadians. He said the prime minister had left Canada “with the lowest vaccination rate, the biggest deficit, and one of the highest unemployment rates in the G7.” In April, Arnold was again critical of Canada’s low vaccine rate and the Trudeau government initially “downplaying the risks of COVID-19.”

On Jan. 26, Arnold joined other Conservative MPs in voicing support for the “Freedom Convoy” and opposition to the “Trudeau government’s compliance requirements,” calling for “alternatives and choices, not ultimatums.”

Challenging vaccination rates and encouraging people to get vaccinated while championing one’s freedom to choose not to get vaccinated makes for an impressive display of political pliability. But such mixed messaging reflects a fractured party – and country – in need of leadership capable of uniting its members and working towards healing, not exacerbating, division among Canadians.

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