Political Corner: Political discourse should be focused on pandemic response, not opportunism

It should go without saying that a public health crisis is not the time for petty partisan attacks

Conservative MP Derek Sloan has been called out for racist comments. Photo: Meghan Balogh/The Whig-Standard/Postmedia Network

By: Connor Stephenson, Peak Associate

The Hall & Oates song “Out of Touch” is definitely not a reference to a certain subset of 21st century Canadian politicians, as the song was originally released in the 1980s. But if we ignore the temporal incongruities, it definitely could have been. The rhetoric that is being deployed by some Canadian Conservative politicians to attack the Liberal government in general, and its handling of the pandemic response specifically, is definitely out of touch with our new reality. 

A select few of Canada’s federal Conservative MPs have opted for a hyper-prejudice approach at a time that demands cooperation and critical evaluation of protocols. These are opportunistic, partisan attacks that undermine the Liberal response to an ever-evolving crisis. Derek Sloan is one Conservative in particular whose comments have exemplified the disconnect between political talking points and the general public’s need for non-partisan cooperation. 

Sloan, an MP for Norfolk County in Ontario, has recently questioned whether Canada’s chief public health official Theresa Tam was working for Canada or China, in reference to her comments in support of the World Health Organization. The answer to that question is obvious to anyone not engaging in divisive politics, but Sloan’s inability to suppress his partisanship at this current time perhaps speaks to petty political ambitions rather than the good of the nation. It is relevant to keep in mind that Sloan is amongst the candidates currently vying for leadership of the Conservative party.  

Initially, Sloan’s comments received no condemnation from the leader of the official opposition, Andrew Scheer. Only after extensive criticism, both from members of opposing parties and his own, did Scheer address and condemn Sloan’s comments. 

Although Scheer will not be the leader of the official opposition for much longer, this is in no way stopping him from personally launching his own irrelevant attack on the Liberal administration that anyone of similar political status would balk at. 

Scheer feels it is appropriate during a pandemic to revert back to his old talking point about eliminating the federal carbon tax. This is in spite of the fact that most Canadians are OK with a carbon tax now that a rebate has been tagged on, and the fact that the government has much bigger issues to deal with right now. The irrelevance of his comments during this public health emergency seem to be lost on him. This leaves me wondering what political advantage he perceives he could gain with this rhetoric. 

The aforementioned comments are by no means the only hyper-partisan politics used by some Conservatives. Retrospectively, it might have been ignorant of me to think that unprecedented times such as these would evoke political cooperation. However, it is now apparent that partisan rhetoric is a habitual tool that is not easy for some to consciously overcome.