Michael Den Tandt, writing in The Province (Vancouver) reviews the most popular contenders for the Conservative Leadership and concludes that a rumoured “Draft Ambrose” campaign might be the best bet. There is no doubt that Ms Ambrose is turning out to be just what the doctor ordered for the Conservative Party of Canada. She’s smart, tough, focused, personable, she is, also, according to Mr Den Tandt: “Known to be a personal friend of Stephen and Laureen Harper, her roots in the party are rock-solid. She’s a moderate social conservative – perhaps enough to mollify that portion of the party base. But her persona and approach are as engaging as Harper’s were cold and aloof. A youthful 46, Ambrose offers an attractive foil to Trudeau’s glamour; yet, friends say, she’s disciplined, organized and steady in a crisis.“
Micahael Den Tand’s “take” on the others, based, in part, he says, on a “candid chat” with a “Conservative insider” is:
“Former senior minister and party co-founder Peter MacKay … will immediately become a front-runner should he enter, as he is widely expected to do.
MacKay is affable, handsome and articulate. But he is no longer the fresh-faced youngster on the political scene. His record in cabinet was mixed. As Minister of Justice, he presided over a series of social-conservative-leaning bills that seemed pre-destined to run aground at the Supreme Court. At Defence, he stickhandled the F-35 fighter procurement deal that went supernova in 2012. It was Ambrose, you may remember, who was tasked with picking up the pieces.“
“Jason Kenney, Harper’s long-time minister-of-everything, remains a very influential force within the party. He is smart and terrifically industrious. But I’ve spoken to a series of senior Conservatives who say they can’t see him as leader, and certainly don’t see him seriously challenging Trudeau in 2019. Appearances and tone count; these two may have too much of a Kennedy-Nixon vibe going for such a faceoff to work in the Tories’ favour.“
“Tony Clement is competent, indefatigable, and has been a force in conservative circles since the Unite The Right days in the late ’90s. At Treasury Board, he pulled off the near-impossible; taking money away from other departments without becoming universally despised. But he suffers from some of the same drawbacks as Kenney; in a head-to-head contest with the Dauphin, he’ll look like the stodgy sedan next to the flashy convertible, though Clement is just 55.“
“Lisa Raitt has often been mentioned as a potential next leader. Consistently during the Harper era, when something fair-minded was heard to be uttered from the Tory side, she was its source. Like Ambrose, Raitt always steered clear of the worst of the previous administration’s stick-in-the-eye tactics. Her roots in the party, however, are deemed to be relatively shallow. That’s code for the Milton, Ont., MP having little chance of picking up the support she’d need in Alberta and north-central Ontario.“
“Kellie Leitch has been floated as a potential candidate; she suffers from the same problem as Raitt — a low profile in the ridings — and additionally is held back by her role in the “barbaric cultural practices” press conference with former minister Chris Alexander, widely deemed the nadir of the 2015 campaign. Leitch could run for the prospect of elevation in a future cabinet; the chances of anyone’s putting up the money this race will require — with a spending cap of $5 million, plus a $100,000 ante — for such considerations seems slim.“
“Michelle Rempel has smarts and charm to spare and could offer a youthful, appealing presence to compete with Trudeau’s. Rempel has been very noncommittal about whether she wants the job, however. At 36, she has room to bide her time.” Mr Den Tandt also mentions James Moore and Erin O’Toole who have, thus far, stayed out of contention, but he does not discuss Maxime Bernier or Michael Chong, at least one of whom, I think, will be a candidate.
I have not picked a favourite, yet. I will repeat my wish list:
- A social moderate;
- A fiscal hawk/small government even libertarian Conservative leader;
- A courageous leader who will address pressing social programme funding issues like the overly restrictive Canada Health At that prevents provinces from providing better health services at lower costs;
- A leader who will not just walk away from 100+ seats in major urban centres, but who will, instead, appeal to young, hip, sometimes gay urbanites;
- A leader who can reach out to “ethnic” Canadians who often share some Conservative values; and
- A leader who will offer an active, principled foreign policy and who will shift budget priorities so that Canada will have the hard, military power to make our voice and our views heard and felt in the world when our vital interests are at stake.
Michael Den Tandt end his piece by asking and answering the big question: “Could Ambrose defeat Trudeau in a general election?” he asks. “Of course,” he answers, “that would depend on events. The more pertinent question is whether any other Tory prospect could conceivably do better than she could. As this race begins, that is entirely unclear.“