Dispatch from the Front Line: Who won at the Toronto Star?
Notes on the return to school, Erin O'Toole's Conservative Party victory, and the latest update from the newest trench of the newsroom revolts.
Was anyone else on the struggle bus this week? We, at The Line, had a tough one; there was a teething baby, an obstreperous toddler, no childcare, and everyone else seemed to be at the cottage.
Well, at least we don't seem to be alone.
This was the last full week in August — September begins in a few days, and with it, the new school year. It's normal to feel concerned about what that will bring.
With kids back in class, it's very likely that COVID-19 rates will spike, and we have no idea whether that will mean a return to some form of lockdown. If we can't safely reopen class, this state of social isolation and quasi-economic paralysis might become our new normal.
We at The Line favour the return to school. As we discussed this week, the risks to children posed by the virus are extraordinarily low. The risks to teachers and the elderly can and ought to be mitigated wherever possible.
Further, keeping kids out of class until there is a widely available vaccine — a metric that is likely years away — is simply untenable, both for our children, and for society at large.
Many parents will look at the risks on the table and decide to keep their kids home — or to jimmy some kind of community school. Parents have to make the best choices they can for their own kids.
And the choices aren't great for anyone.
If you don't have children, be kind to your friends and colleagues who do this week. And if you do have kids, be kind to them, and, most importantly, to yourselves.
This week, the Conservative Party of Canada announced its new leader. In any non-bizarro year, the fact that Erin O'Toole was able to leap the gap between himself and Peter MacKay would rank as an extraordinary victory. In 2020, it hardly registers as an upset.
MacKay began the race with establishment support, name recognition, experience in politics, and a massive lead over every other frontrunner. But he ran a terrible campaign.
MacKay tried to run as an anointed winner, but it began to fall apart after several disastrous media appearances and social media flubs. He came off as tone deaf when he delayed his support for postponing the race amid a global pandemic. And MacKay's lack of clear vision or branding allowed O'Toole to cleave party members who were unconvinced.
O'Toole also dominated data and digital targeting.
The Line contributor Ken Boessenkool offered a few more thoughts on the win:
"O’Toole will run the next election as a big-tent conservative. He reached out to all of the key groups within the party in his victory speech. He managed to reach out to both religious groups and the LGTBQ-2 community within the same speech. He noted the importance of working-class and unionized Canadians, so important to modern conservative victories.
That said, very few Canadians know who O'Toole is, and if you look up “middle-aged white guy” in the dictionary, a picture of Erin O’Toole wouldn’t look out of place. He will need to create a Conservative party that reflects the reality of Canada today.
He will also need more and better policy.
O'Toole needs a credible climate change plan. He needs to attract mothers — this means smart positions on schooling and childcare. Finally, there is a steaming debate right around the corner on what policy looks like in our post-pandemic world.
The Liberals are clearly itching to spend more money on everything and anything. The Conservatives cannot respond with a plan to spend less money on everything and anything. They need to point out the tax costs of the Liberal plans, but also expand policy where that makes sense. Prominent thinker Sean Speer has been leading the way with things like his case for wage subsidies."
One final note; you may recall our last Dispatch, in which we laid out the latest newsroom revolt. This one unfolded at the Toronto Star. After management created a new "internal ombud" role intended to give BIPOC journalists in the newsroom a safe space to air their concerns and grievances, columnist Rosie DiManno expressed her displeasure in a blunt Reply-All email:
"This is a fucking abomination and I will not submit to yet another level or (sic) interference in an insanely over-micromanaged newsroom."
In the midst of a continent-wide race reckoning, the email prompted the predictable outrage. Sixty two members of the newsroom signed an open response to management accusing DiManno of sending a "hateful" and "racist" email, and charging her with a history of bullying behaviour. The signatories demanded she apologize to the newsroom, submit to anti-racist training and, lastly, to "demonstrate an understanding of why these measures are necessary," whatever that meant.
We at The Line have learned that the signatories will get none of this.
A solitary housekeeping note: We just passed our one-month mark this week. We will spend the next few days reviewing the data we have collected so far and assembling some numbers. Paid subscribers will receive the promised transparency report sometime in the coming days.
On Monday, we published a piece from ICU doctor Matt Strauss, who argued that sending kids back to school is safer than the cars that will get them there. The piece prompted a sharp rebuttal from that gun-toting Trekkie freak show Matt Gurney, who argued "Stop telling me my kids won't die of COVID. I know that. It's their grandma I'm worried about."
Ken Boessenkool weighs the odds of a snap election come fall. They aren't high.
And reports of fashion's demise remain greatly exaggerated. Phoebe Maltz Bovy remains convinced that our fundamental natures have not been altered by this pandemic. Fashion is social signalling, and we're still every bit as materialistic and trend focused as we have ever been.
Next week will be better. -TLE
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