There is a very useful survey, by John Ibbitson in the Globe and Mail, about three potential CPC leaders …
… Jean Charest, Erin O’Toole and Pierre Poilievre.
Mr Ibbitson, a keen and respected political observer says that:
- “Mr. O’Toole placed a respectable third in the 2017 leadership race. He has had a life outside politics, with prior careers in the military and as a lawyer. Toward the end of Stephen Harper’s last government, he was minister of veterans affairs. He represents the riding of Durham, in the Greater Toronto Area, a region the Tories simply must do better in, if they ever want to form government again … [and] … Mr. O’Toole’s experience and obvious abilities would make him a formidable opponent to the Liberals. But could he win the leadership? He supports LGBTQ rights and has said his government would never legislate on abortion. He supports a robust immigration system based primarily on recruiting economic-class immigrants. He believes in the need to combat global warming (though he opposes carbon taxes) … [but] … For some Conservatives, Justin Trudeau personifies a Canada that they believe is going to the dogs – governments too large, rural areas hollowing out, traditional values under attack, too many immigrants arriving each year. They are very angry. Mr. O’Toole is not that angry;” and
- “Angry Conservatives are more likely to be attracted to Carleton MP Pierre Poilievre, who refers to Mr. Trudeau as the leader of a “corrupt Liberal cabal.” Though he is a moderate on social issues, Mr. Poilievre’s take-no-prisoners approach to politics will attract the sorts or Conservatives who detest everything about the Prime Minister, starting with his socks … but] … The problem is, millions of Canadian don’t detest Mr. Trudeau. They may question his judgment, his ethics, his antics overseas, but have no visceral loathing for the man, and may be put off by Mr. Poilievre’s extreme rhetoric.“
The Conservative dilemma, John Ibbitson says, is that: “As things stand right now, Mr. O’Toole might stand a better chance of winning the next election than Mr. Poilievre, but Mr. Poilievre might connect better with the riled-up contingent within the Conservative base than Mr. O’Toole …[but then, he says] … there is Jean Charest, the obvious first choice who is also an impossible choice.“
Heres’ the problem, in his view:
- “Mr. Charest is the obvious first choice if the goal of the Conservative Party is to win the next election, full stop. He would surely increase the size of the Tory caucus in Quebec. With his many years of experience in federal politics, he would also present well in urban Ontario. For the average voter who doesn’t follow politics closely, Mr. Charest would be the most credible alternative prime minister to Mr. Trudeau … [but] … what would the old Reform/Alliance base of the party think about such a Laurentian figure as leader of the Conservative Party of Canada? Mr. Charest is the literal personification of everything Preston Manning, Stockwell Day and, yes, Stephen Harper campaigned against: a deeply entrenched representative of the Central Canadian establishment. Tweedle Justin versus Tweedle Jean;” and
- “Mr. Charest could tell Westerners that he wants every bit as much autonomy for Alberta as he sought for Quebec. He will have explanations for his opposition to scrapping the gun registry, his support for closer ties to China, the investigation into the awarding of construction contracts in Quebec. But many core Conservatives in the West and in rural Ontario are going to say no to Jean Charest as Conservative leader, no matter what he says.“
His analysis of these three is, I think, spot on. He explains why I supported Erin O’Toole in 2017 and why I am likely to support him again. I like the work Pierre Poilievre does in parliament. I think he has grown a lot since the Harper era, but, as Mr Ibbiston says, the suburban Ontario seats that the Conservatives must win if they wish to govern are unlikely to fall to a pit bull.
I also agree with him as to why Jean Charest cannot win the leadership race although I do not agree that he is “the obvious first choice if the goal of the Conservative Party is to win the next election.” But I do think M Charest will bring a lot to the race and to the Party. Conservatives who denigrate him must remember that he was a staunch Progressive Conservative, who even led the Party in its darkest hours, and, above all, he, not Jean Chrétien and not Brian Tobin, was “Captain Canada” during the 1995 Québec referendum. He, not any Liberal persuaded just enough Québec voters that Canada, ‘y compris Québec‘ was worth more than the sovereign Québec being offered, so persuasively by Lucien Bouchard, Jacques Parizeau and others. Do you remember how tight the vote was? The “Non” side, Jean Charest’s side, our side, won by just over 1%. No Canadian can deny his patriotism; he’s not just a Québecois, he’s a true Canadian patriot. For that reason, and a few others, long-time Liberal insider but anti-Trudeau activist Warren Kinsella explains why M Charest should be selected to lead the Conservatives. Not many Conservatives will agree with him or me about M Charest’s virtues.
If the choice is limited to those three candidates then Erin O’Toole is, head and shoulders, the better one. The addition of Marilyn Gladu and Peter MacKay to the mix would not change my perception. But Rona Ambrose might be the one person who can earn most Canadians’ votes on both policy and electability grounds.
Going back to what I said (link above) in 2017: The Conservative AIM must be “to restore good, sound, honest, effective and efficient, responsible, prudent and principled government to Canada.” The only way to do that is to, first, elect a leader who can beat the Liberals ~ led by Justin Trudeau or Chrystia Freeland or someone else. that leader can win if (s)he presents a suite of principled, socially moderate and fiscally prudent policies that moderate Canadians, from St John’s Newfoundland to Victoria BC can accept as better than what we have had since 2015.