Peter MacKay to no one’s surprise has announced he will be running for Conservative leader. I am undecided who I will support, but definitely will consider him. Like me, comes from the Progressive Conservative not Reform side which I see as a plus even though some in the base do not. Also with his Atlantic Canadian roots, I believe he can help regain that region and being more moderate also do better in suburban Ontario and BC. His main weakness though is not sure he can do much better in Quebec than Scheer or Harper although with at least not being a strong social conservative he might have a chance if he choses a strong Quebec lieutenant.
Many from the base are furious Charest may run and trashing him. I probably won’t have him as my number one choice, but certainly think he would be good for the party even if base doesn’t like him. Yes the corruption scandal and his connections with Huawei are worrisome although with Liberals on SNC Lavalin, its not as though they have much ground to attack him on. One of the complaints is he is a Quebecer, but I would remind base Quebec has double the population Alberta does and idea leader must always be from Alberta and Saskatchewan plays into idea party is a regional not truly national party. Likewise some complain he comes from Progressive Conservative wing, but that is exactly why he would be a good choice. Reform party wing has zero appeal beyond the hardcore base who will vote Tory no matter what whereas Progressive Conservative wing can appeal to middle of the road swing voters which party needs to win over. You don’t win by winning big in Alberta and Saskatchewan; to win party needs to gain in Atlantic Canada, Quebec, suburban Ontario, and suburban BC and Charest can win in those areas. Some complain he is a Liberal, but I would like to remind people that when he went into provincial politics, there were only two parties in Quebec then (CAQ didn’t exist then) and if you were a federalist you went Liberal and if a separatist you went PQ and unlike other provinces elections were decided on separatism vs. federalism not left vs. right. Federally he has never been a Liberal and his policies were fairly fiscally conservative. One can be a federal Tory and a Liberal provincially in both BC and Quebec so being a provincial Liberal in either of those two shouldn’t disqualify one. If you read the 1997 PC platform https://www.poltext.org/sites/poltext.org/files/plateformesV2/Canada/CAN_PL_1997_PC_en.pdf sounds fairly fiscally conservative to me. True it doesn’t have the type of rhetoric that fires up the base, but that is not what we need in terms of good government. Some complain about his views on climate change, but reality is if party doesn’t become credible on this it will never win. Others complain about his stance on gun control, but I seriously doubt he will bring back a gun registry nationally and besides he is a strong supporter of decentralization and most in Quebec want a gun registry so he can easily say its about respecting wishes of provinces. But even then, suburban women voters who party needs to do better amongst generally support gun control and allying one’s self with the gun lobby like CCFR and NFA may help win leadership race, but is a sure way to lose a general election. I will have another post on this once legislation announced, but banning assault weapons is a no brainer and trying to fight that is a sure way to position the party offside with most Canadians. No one is talking about banning hunting rifles so hunting won’t be affected and Liberals aren’t even banning handguns so nor will sports shooting be affected. Only a minority of weapons designed for the battlefield are being banned. Some will complain he will split right again, but I believe that is overblown. Bernier’s PPC only got 1.6% while here in BC, many said this about Christy Clark when chosen as leader in 2011 that show would split pro free enterprise coalition and instead that never materialized and when she finally lost her majority, it was due to loss of centrist voters in Lower Mainland not conservative voters in Interior. Right may be loud on twitter, but their numbers are smaller than many think and for every hard right voter you lose, you gain 2 to 3 centrists. In fact presence of rabid right wingers scares away a lot of centrist who might otherwise be open to voting Tory so losing them would be good for the party long term. If you look at few times right has split, both were when party had been in power for a long time and there was a strong desire for change thus those on the right didn’t want to vote left, but like rest of the public wanted to defeat the governing party. With Tories being in opposition this is not an issue never mind nowadays starting a new party is extremely difficult.
Many in the base want Poilievre and I believe there is a good chance he will be a chosen as leader and if party is this foolish it will almost certainly guarantee another Liberal win. Yes surprises happen and maybe Poilievre will win, but I suspect much like Ford’s win in Ontario, Trudeau will have to have approval ratings fall to under 25% for this to happen (and if it falls that low, I suspect he will take a walk in the snow and resign) and much like Ford will probably be a one term wonder. The reality is many Canadians are disappointed with Justin Trudeau, but most don’t share the visceral hatred the base does and riling up base will not expand the party’s tent. He is too much of a pit bull which is a huge turn off, especially to female voters, which party must do better amongst. Also there is loads of material to hit him with on attack ads and nowadays elections are less about who you want and more about stopping who you fear, so less material Liberals can use for attack ads, the better the Tories’ odds are. Some will say he can take Trudeau on, but being aggressive and nasty, especially if on the political right is a turn off for most so he will excite the base who is going to vote Tory anyways, turn away the swing voters and ensure progressives show up in big numbers and strategically vote to stop him. Its not the media, its not Tories not defending their policies forcefully enough why they lost, its that Canadians don’t like what they are selling.
In sum, base needs to decide what is more important: ideological purity and continuing to lose thus ensuring there is a government in Ottawa that has views they strongly disagree with or choosing someone to the right of Trudeau but more centrist than they are and thus can win and move the country closer to what they want, even if not fully. Because reality base has to accept is Canadians will never accept their version of what they want; so its about do you want someone closer than Trudeau or is ideological purity so important one is willing to remain in opposition for years to come.