Everything about Erin O’Toole’s plan for his first 100 days as Conservative leader would make sense if Canada wasn’t going through a second wave of COVID-19.

Fundraising tours by the new leader and a doubling-down on the WE Charity controversy were among the plans rolled out by the Conservatives for the immediate, post-Thanksgiving future. It all feels a bit like a to-do list sketched out in August, back when Justin Trudeau’s government was still musing about “building back better.”

But second waves, like life, happen while you’re making other plans.

As the Star’s Alex Boutilier reported on Tuesday, O’Toole feels he is now recovered sufficiently from his own brush with COVID-19 a few weeks ago to throw himself back into touring the country at a pandemic-defying pace.

O’Toole’s schedule for the next week includes 11 events in Alberta, many of them putting the leader in face-to-face contact with supporters — though party officials have offered assurances that everyone will be masked and appropriately distanced.

A fundraising dinner in Toronto is on the agenda for early next week, but Boutilier was told that this Albany Club event was being moved online, since it is pretty much impossible right now for any large groups in Toronto to meet indoors for the next month.

O’Toole is no Donald Trump — Canada has so far been spared anyone aspiring to imitation in a serious way. But the Conservative leader’s plans to dive right back into the mix, so soon after a COVID-19 diagnosis, are going to invite comparisons to the U.S. president, currently on a coronavirus-be-damned descent into super-spreader rallies.

Neither Trudeau nor NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh are wading into any fundraising crowds at the moment, their spokespeople told the Star.

Premier Doug Ford, appeared at a news conference on Tuesday in a darkened and empty restaurant, has already said numerous times that he’s too busy to do any politicking right now, not even in support of his federal Conservative counterpart.

So it’s O’Toole alone doing road-show politics at the federal level during the second wave of the pandemic.

New Green Party Leader Annamie Paul is forced to do some campaigning herself, running for the Toronto Centre seat in the Oct. 26 by-elections. But Paul made clear last week that she is a reluctant participant in politics as usual, believing Trudeau should be postponing the vote in light of COVID-19’s return appearance with a vengeance this fall.

On one level, O’Toole’s determination to plunge into pandemic campaigning could be seen as smart politics. If Canada does have to go through an election before a vaccine is found, the Conservative and Green parties will be the only ones with leaders who have some practice with campaigning in a time of plague.

As well, it could be seen as a sign that O’Toole wants to avoid the trap that the party fell into under former leader Andrew Scheer — believing that the main job of opposition is to keep the partisan pot boiling in Ottawa.

The job of prime minister hardly ever goes to the leader who holds the best news conferences in Ottawa or asks the most biting questions in the Commons. Trudeau, Stephen Harper, Paul Martin and Jean Chrétien all built their support outside the Ottawa bubble before they won power.

Sure enough, O’Toole looks like he might be leaving the Commons-centred drama to juniors. On Thanksgiving Day, Conservative MPs Pierre Poilievre and Michael Barrett announced they were launching a bid to set up an “anti-corruption committee” to dive into the WE Charity controversy

For those with short memories, that was the saga that was supposed to be Trudeau’s undoing back in June, when questions surfaced about how a charity with close ties to the prime minister’s family had been chosen to do $1-billion worth of pandemic relief to students.

“We will not stop,” Barrett is quoted as saying in the Conservative news release.

Loading…

Loading…Loading…Loading…Loading…Loading…

Unfortunately for these Conservative MPs, COVID-19 hasn’t stopped either, and the news release on Thanksgiving looked a bit like a bulletin from a bygone time. Trudeau, asked about this initiative on Tuesday, treated it as such, saying he had things like COVID-19’s renewed ascent to worry about at present. In a second wave, “the olden days” can be as recent as a month or two ago.

Fundraising and holding Trudeau’s feet to the fire would be great ideas in the olden days of 2020, but is that the mark the new Conservative party leader wants to make in his first few months? During the second wave of COVID-19, politicians have to know not just how to read a room, but when to stay out of the room altogether.

Read original article here.