Our go-to Vic Toews GIF. By James Kerr.
Vic Toews has the furrowed brow of an Alberta farmer, the hair and the eyes of a retired police constable, the nose of an offensively endearing great-uncle, and the steely moustache of a veteran hockey coach. Which is to say, Vic Toews’s face is the face of the Conservative Party of Canada… or, more appropriately, Vic Toews’s face, WAS the face of the Conservative Party of Canada.
On Monday, the man with the beautifully iconic and Marlboro-ish mug announced his resignation. “The time has come to step aside and begin the next chapter of my life,” ol’ Vic said, with a twinkle in his eye, “I leave public office at a time when I believe our country is more sensitive to the needs of victims, more fiscally sound and safer for citizens and for future generations.”
Toews appropriately leaves behind a legacy of polarization. The man was behind some of the most divisive and ‘play to the party base’ bills that the Conservatives have tabled in their what-seems-to-have-gone-on-forever majority. Whether the wedge he drove was between the East v. West, Secular v. Religious, Urban v. Rural, or Imprison v. Rehabilitate, Toews was ideologically to the right on them all.
Famously, Vic proclaimed that anyone who opposed his Internet Surveillance Bill C-30—which gave the authorities unwarranted access to your computer’s IP address—was “with the child pornographers," and not just opposed to privacy invasion. Vic didn’t like gays much either and thought they shouldn’t get married. It seemed to get him all hot, bothered, and worried. But he did like the idea of sending more and more men to prison, against all the evidence that says rehabilitation can’t ‘fix’ them.
Vic was the face of your grandparent’s Big-C Conservative party. Royal blue through and through. Tough on crime, immigration and generally, change. It’s a brand that Stephen Harper has worn like a Snuggie, so as Grandfather Vic saddles up and idles into that proverbial Manitoba sunset of a judicial appointment, it leaves Stephen Harper without yet another stalwart supporter and traditional face of the glory days.
And the glory days are surely gone. With the Conservative old guard disbanding and the walls of scandals closing in, you can bet Lil’ Stephen is asking himself, “Oh dear?? Geez! What’s next?!”, while he sips apple juice from his Beatles mug under his desk, contemplating a rebrand and cabinet shuffle.
In some ways it’s kind of sad; Parliament Hill without ol’ timers like Vic Toews will be like Hockey Night in Canada without Don Cherry. But with the Conservative party in existential disarray, and Harper seeming more and more flustered on a daily basis as the Duffy-Wright scandal deepens and Justin Trudeau keeps annihilating him in the polls, conservatives in the Prime Minister’s Office must be considering ways to perform some plastic surgery on the old, white, Toews-ian face of the national Tory identity.
The departure of a senior cabinet minister like Toews offers some interesting opportunities for Harper to make a statement with an impending cabinet shuffle. He may stick with the status-quo and, as expected, play to his base of Vic Toews look-a-likes by putting another tough-on-crime colleague—such as everyone’s favorite ex-Ontario Provincial and Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino—in Toews’s vacant Minister of Public Safety seat. Or, and how about this for an idea to woo some potential voters back, Harper could move a woman in to replace Toews. That possibility would increase female representation in Cabinet which, consistent with the current white-guy brand, now stands at about 25% of Cabinet seats.
There may end up being two big seats up for grabs if Peter Kent, the 70 year old Environment Minister, is shuffled out of Harper's band of crotchety men. If Harper appoints a woman as Minister of the Environment and a woman as Minister of Public Safety, it would probably go a long way in wooing back the votes they have lost to Justin Trudeau.
Either way, no matter what the results a cabinet shuffle may yield, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to close my eyes and think to myself, "Conserrrrrvatiivee, Paaaarttyy of Caaaanaada" without picturing a face that looks a little like Good Ol’ Grandpa Vic’s. Happy trails, pal.
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