John Ivison: Scheer’s lame response to fringe Tory intolerance proves his lack of leadership again

One almost has the impression that Ivison uses his condemnation of Scheer’s non-response to Derek Sloan’s xenophobia and accusations of dual loyalty with respect to Theresa Tam as a backhand way to criticize Theresa Tam’s actual performance (which is legitimate unlike Sloah’s comments):

It’s not so much the bigotry as the hypocrisy that is so exasperating.

Derek Sloan’s comments on Theresa Tam were clearly xenophobic, drawing immediate approval of renowned white “nationalists” like Paul Fromm.

The Ontario MP and Conservative leadership candidate asked in an online post and in an email to potential supporters whether Canada’s chief medical officer “works for Canada or China?”

The coded Canada-first language was a thinly disguised appeal for support from the intolerant fringe of the Conservative Party (Tam was born in Hong Kong).

But Sloan has no hope of winning the party’s leadership. He is currently confounding the maxim that there is no such thing as bad publicity and very soon he will fade into foot-notoriety.

My vexation is with the Conservative party establishment.

Even though leader Andrew Scheer is a lame duck, he is still responsible for the credibility of a venerable political party that professes to represent all Canadians.

In a multi-ethnic country where visible minorities make up a quarter of the population, no party tainted by racism can win power.

Yet when Scheer was asked to denounce Sloan’s statement, he turtled, saying he did not want to comment on the behaviour of a leadership candidate. That didn’t stop then interim Conservative Rona Ambrose dumping on Kellie Leitch’s bogus “Canadian values” test in the last leadership go-round.

If Scheer doesn’t see the need to decry comments from a sitting member of caucus that tars all Conservative MPs and the party with the brush of intolerance, he should go now.

In truth, his tone-deaf response is entirely in keeping with the deficiencies that saw him ousted in the first place: an apparent inability to articulate a contemporary conservatism that might appeal to the tesserae that make up the modern Canadian mosaic.

Sloan’s prejudice was calculated to appeal to an element that engages in a collective judgment of races and faiths.

In doing so, he succeeded in obscuring legitimate criticism of Tam, the World Health Organization and the Communist Party of China.

Tam’s performance has been controversial — and not just in hindsight.

In late January, she told Canadians there was no reason to be “overly concerned” about COVID-19.

She was part of a WHO emergency committee that concluded it was too early to declare a “public health emergency of international concern” on January 23.

After Canada had confirmed its first case, Tam’s concern seemed to be more focused on stigma being directed at people of Chinese and Asian descent.

At the end of January, she was reassuring Canadians that the health risks were low and that asymptomatic people arriving in Canada did not need to be quarantined.

At a health committee meeting, she was asked by a Liberal MP and physician, Marcus Powlowski, about reports the disease is communicable during the incubation period, to which she replied “people with mild symptoms don’t transmit very readily”.

She subsequently resisted the mandatory quarantining of incoming travellers, the closing of borders and the use of face-masks — all public policies that were later reversed.

“It’s going to be rare but we are expecting cases,” she told the health committee, the day before the WHO finally declared a global health emergency.

Tam can be accused of complacency. She can be denounced for blindly following Tedros Adhonam Ghebreyesus, who finds himself in disrepute for failing to alert the world earlier about COVID-19’s virulence. The WHO’s director general is accused of subordinating his responsibility to protecting China from scrutiny, ignoring warnings about human-to-human transmission and even applauding Chinese president Xi Jinping for “timely and effective measures in dealing with the epidemic”.

But Sloan didn’t just question Tam’s competence, he queried her loyalty. He did it for leadership votes from conspiracy theorists and survivalists, who fear gun bans, internment and a UN invasion.

His leader should have insisted on an apology or a resignation from caucus. Instead it was left to two rookie Conservative MPs, Eric Melillo and Eric Duncan to make clear that questioning Tam’s allegiance crossed a line.

Sloan’s comment offered “a platform to extreme theories and does not represent our party,” said Melillo.

“I may have questions and constructive concerns at times about Dr. Tam and (her) team during these evolving and challenging times. But I will never question her loyalty to Canada and to the best interests of Canadians,” said Duncan.

Many Conservatives will be grateful to two of the party’s newest MPs for offering a beacon of hope and decency.

Source: John Ivison: Scheer’s lame response to fringe Tory intolerance proves his lack of leadership again

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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