I guess the media, the Manning Centre and potential Conservative leaders are all trying to ride on one another’s coat tails this weekend.
I came across three interesting stories this morning:
- Kevin O’Leary vows to ‘tear that budget to pieces,’ says CTV News;
- MacKay: On pipelines, Conservatives should be ‘thoughtful’ ‘dispassionate’ champions, according to David Akin’s ‘On The Hill‘ blog; and
- Jason Kenney’s newfound energy signals that the Tory leadership race has started in earnest, is how John Ivison’s article is headlined in the National Post.
Now, despite my very serious reservations about his “fitness” to lead, Kevin O’Leary is not the Donald Trump of Canadian politics, although he probably is trying to capitalize on his celebrity reputation to act the role of “rich guy blowhard.”
I suspect that Mr O’Leary will be able to mount cogent, reasoned attacks on the forthcoming Liberal budget and on the several provincial left wing governments that are in power from Alberta through to Atlantic Canada … especially in Alberta and Ontario. But, then again, I expect that a whole host of political leaders, commentators, business leaders and other observers will also mount cogent, reasoned attacks on Bill Morneau’s budget, as they already are on the recent Ontario budget. If Mr O’Leary wants to stand out from the crowd he may have to play up his “outrageous” persona and try to attract what Tom Parkin, in the Toronto Sun, described as our “far right” wing and warned Rona Ambrose that she, the whole party in fact, needs to affirm our social moderation, as a core principle, “before some leadership candidate begins to rally the insurgents and sends her party back a decade.” I’m also not so sure how well Mr O’Leary can “play” to the fiscal conservatives like me. I am far, far more inclined to take this sort of economic advice than anything I have, thus far, seen or heard from Kevin O’Leary.
I also have expressed some reservations about Peter MacKay’s leadership record (1st issue) while MND a few years ago, I worried that he had been led by his admirals and generals rather than, as he should have done, been the leader. His critique on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s weak leadership, on pipelines, in David Akin’s piece, and, in my opinion, on a range of issues, is spot on, however. There may also be a thinly veiled swipe at the government in which he served which was, too often, less than “dispassionate” on some issues. Mr MacKay has a good claim on the CPC’s leadership. He is, after all, one of its co-founders, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He is, I think, the leader of the party’s progressive wing (which used to include people like Scott Brison, now the Liberal President of the Treasury Board) and there is no doubt that he is a formidable campaigner. But I, personally, do not want to return to the Red Tory wing of the old Progressive Conservative party … as people like Jeffrey Simpson, speaking fore the Laurentian Elites, wants us to do. Mr MacKay and I are pretty much aligned, I think, on social issues (both moderates) and, I think, on foreign policy. I liked what he said about defence but I am really unimpressed by all that he failed to accomplish.
Jason Kenney is also a formidable campaigner and proved to be a good leader in a couple of difficult portfolios. He is, or was, anyway, until October 2015, I think, the heir apparent to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. His roots in the old Reform Party as just about as deep as Peter MacKays are in the old PCs. He is a proven performer in cabinet and on the campaign trail. If anyone can undo the damage the CPC did to itself in the last election campaign, especially with “ethnic” communities, it is Jason Kenney. As John Ivison notes, he is fluent in French, a sine qua non for a Conservative leader (Canadians will forgive someone like Jean Chrétien for having fractured English but the same Canadians will be far less kind to a Conservative with less than very good French). Jason Kenney is, again as Mr Ivison’s article notes, still popular with the “ethnic” voters. In short he’s a “safe” choice. I have a few nagging worries. While I suspect he has learned the lesson that we must be socially moderate very well from Prime Minister Harper, he is, still, the “darling” of the right wing and he will be tagged, unfair though it may be, as a “social conservative” by many in the media, and some of that will stick because of some of the the people who will support him.
So we have an outsider (O’Leary) and the darlings of the old PCs (MacKay) and Reform parties (Kenney) … who is in the middle?
Who, amongst these* is up to the challenges posed by, especially, Jason Kenney and Peter MacKay? Who has the mix of judgement, experience, personality and positions on the issues that will make them broadly and generally acceptable to Conservatives?
And will any of these people, all important political Conservatives, get behind someone? Can any of them be “kingmakers?”
And what about the conservative media? Will any of those journalists who are, generally, sympathetic to the Conservatives show any favouritism?
For my part, I remain uncommitted, but anyone who has followed this blog will know that I want a social moderate, small government-fiscal hawk who is strong on national defence.
* I have not mentioned Doug Ford. My, personal, appreciation of the situation says that there is room for only one outlier and so long as Kevin O’Leary remains a possibility then there is no room for Mr Ford. Even if Mr O’Leary does no contest for the leadership I regard Mr Ford as too far out of the “acceptable” range.