O’Toole’s new hue of blue.

Erin O’Toole, the new conservative party leader brought a new hue of blue to parliament on his late arrival. Delayed by covid-19, the conservative leader brought a new approach to the minority parliament. Where catcalls and rudeness have prevailed for so long, the new leader brought reason, conciliation and understanding. It was an approach to politics readily understood by most Ontario politicos over 50. It was the politics of former Ontario premier William Davis.

Bill Davis turned 91 this year and while his health might not be the best, his legacy in Ontario continues to be honoured. It all boiled down to one word: decency. He was conservative premier of Ontario from 1971 to 1985 and he made sure Queen’s Park during that time was a friendly place. In those years, I worked closely with the liberal caucus under Bob Nixon and, when at Queen’s Park, I often had a friendly word with people on Bill Davis’ or NDP leader Stephen Lewis’ staff.

But I think for Erin O’Toole, sincere or not, this approach will be a hard sell to his caucus, his supporters and his provincial conservative backers. Today’s political divide is too broad, the acrimony too deep and the distrust ingrained.

Too many of the conservative caucus are former Steven Harper MPs who went through the hard-fought years of his partisan governments which dealt more with conservative ideology than the needs of Canadians. O’Toole was there for the last and in cabinet in that final four years.

It is hard to imagine that he would not realize the difference in style he is trying to utilize from that of the provincial conservatives where they are in power. This is with some of the provincial conservative governments routinely condemning the federal liberals for their efforts on climate change, bringing lawsuits to the supreme court and even putting advertising stickers on all provincial gas pumps condemning the carbon tax—until the practice was stopped by the courts.

Mind you, this kinder, gentler conservatism might be just to impress the voters. Time will tell.

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