Andrew MacDougall, who was director of communications for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has written a pretty scathing attack on both Kellie Leitch and Kevin O’Leary in the Ottawa Citizen.
“Months into this race,” he asks, “is there for anyone to be excited about?” No, he says, after describing Dr Leitch as “mendacious” and suggests that people must be “stupid” to follow her. “Or is it,” he wonders, “perhaps Kevin O’Leary’s middle finger to the military, constitution and history of the country he’s gracious enough to visit a few times a year? If you’re a Conservative who thinks Kevin O’Leary is interested in conservative policies, then you’re a fool and there is no bigger indictment of Conservative politics on offer.” He goes on to note that Mr O’Leary has “star power” but suggests that it is pretty low powered compared to Justin Trudeau.
“Here’s the tragic part,” Mr MacDougall says: “O’Leary’s pomposity and Leitch’s “the Mooslims are coming” routine have given the media reason to focus away from some honest-to-God bravery and boldness from other candidates … [but] … It took courage for Michael Chong to propose a radical overhaul of the tax system and defend the inclusion of a carbon tax to room after room of Conservatives who would rather choke on their SUVs’ exhaust than implement one … [and] … The same goes for Maxime Bernier, who is proposing to slash taxes and end supply management and corporate welfare. Or even Rick Peterson (go ahead and Google), who wants to bump up the GST in return for slashing other taxes.“
“A leadership race,” Andrew MacDougall says, and I agree, “is the time to shed the policies and habits that have limited the party’s appeal, not be hidebound by them. There is now freedom to embrace new approaches … [and] … Last year’s Conservative party convention hinted at introspection and renewal, if not outright reinvention. Alas, the A-team leadership contenders saw their futures elsewhere, and the B-team running in their stead has too often been suckered into acting out Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity (e.g. M-103) … [but] … It’s courage Conservatives ought to reward, not safe words to an antsy base. It will take courage to propose the policies that will tackle Canada’s long-term economic challenges. It will take courage to meet Trudeau head-on and win on those ideas. If a leader can’t show courage in a friendly crowd, what hope is there for them to do it with a more skeptical one?“
There are some courageous platform positions, not just from Michael Chong (carbon tax) and Maxime Bernier (cutting corporate welfare). Erin O’Toole, for example, has proposed a full suite of fiscal, social, trade and defence policies that are innovative, practical, conservative attractive and manageable. They are not radical because Mr O’Toole is, himself, a moderate, pragmatic man who understands that there are limits beyond which Canadians will not be led without a crisis. In fact, it takes courage to be a moderate in today’s political climate and Erin O’Toole is putting that quiet courage, the quiet professionalism that is the hallmark of good military men and women, on display, and, I think, he is the “pick of the litter.” But that suggests that Mr MacDougall is right when he says that the “A-Team” is sitting out this election …
… but I don’t see it that way. I see it more as one “watch” relieving another on the bridge of a warship or in the brigade command post: there is no first string or “A-team” and then a weaker second string team, there are just two balanced teams, and while some very talented people have decided, for their own very good reasons, to take a break or look elsewhere or lead on an interim basis, our “2017 Team” has some people who can beat Justin Trudeau … we, Conservative Party members just need to pick the right one: the real leader, with the right policies, from amongst them.