Local Conservatives might have celebrated a national victory Monday to go with their own triumphs, but their party blew it.

After a strong start, self-inflicted mistakes derailed the Conservative campaign. Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, meanwhile, had a weak start, but stayed on message.

After failing in the final weeks to resolve their many inconsistencies, the Conservatives’ closing message was all wrong, too. Was asking voters to punish Trudeau for calling an unnecessary election the best they could offer? It’s true we didn’t have to go to the polls now and the Liberals never really did explain why they called this election, but that’s not a reason to vote Tory.

Child care, Indigenous issues, the environment, gun control and the economy are issues to cast a ballot on and the Liberals delivered a stronger, more consistent message than the Tories on those.

The Conservatives started well by getting their platform out early. They caught the Liberals off guard. But Leader Erin O’Toole couldn’t answer questions about how much it cost. The Liberals eventually released their platform, with costs, but voters still had to wait for Conservative estimates.

The gun control debate was a wobbly moment. The Conservatives were going to repeal Liberal gun bans. Then they were going to keep a long-standing assault gun ban.

Then they were going to keep the current ban, pending a review. O’Toole’s changes in his gun control position ran counter to the written platform. People didn’t know where he stood, but they knew where Trudeau stood.

The Conservatives got vaccinations wrong, too. Trudeau was firm that government, health and transportation workers, and his candidates, had to be double vaccinated.

O’Toole played footsie with anti-vaxxers. Many of his own candidates weren’t double jabbed or wouldn’t say. Local candidate Tracy Gray had to be pushed into revealing her vaccination status.

Such hesitations, plus fears an O’Toole government might handle the pandemic like their Alberta Conservative cousins cast doubts they were the right party to lead Canada out of the pandemic.

Nor could O’Toole dispel concerns he supported more private health care. He promised provinces money with no strings attached.

On health care, Canadians want strings attached. They want assurances the provinces will use federal money to improve health care, because some can’t be trusted.

O’Toole was clear about child care, but wrong. He would quash deals the Trudeau Liberals had negotiated with eight provinces to bring in $10-a-day child care.

On climate change, he planned to lower Canada’s emission goals while many Canadians worried the deniers in his party might push him to do even less than that.

Critics of the deficit failed to read the room as well. Most Canadians were onside with the unprecedented spending that kept the country afloat during the pandemic.

The Liberals had flaws ready to exploit. Canadians seemed to be searching for a reason to vote for someone else, but couldn’t find it.

Enough voters decided the Liberal record on the environment, pandemic, economy, water quality and child care was reasonable and their promises, well, promising.

But it was a missed opportunity for the other parties.

City Editor Pat Bulmer