After giving it a lot of thought, I have decided that I will be endorsing Peter MacKay as the next Conservative leader and hopefully next prime-minister although admit latter is going to be a steep hill to climb. But if any of the Tory leaders can beat Trudeau, it is Peter MacKay. Below I will give my thoughts on each of the four candidates in reverse order and how I will rank my ballot. Choosing MacKay is not just about him, but how he fares relative to the other three.
Derek Sloan is an absolute joke and is only really running to pander to the hardcore right wing element in party. He lacks the experience, cannot speak French, which is a must, so totally unqualified to be PM. In fact for those on the left who like to paint a negative caricature of Conservatives; he does a great job of embodying that negative caricature. I don’t have time to list all the negative aspects on him other than to say him just being an MP is a real anchor on the party. Hopefully next leader boots him from caucus and if not, his riding association has someone challenge him at a nomination. Or even better he can go join Mad Max in his PPC which is the party for all the other nutbars and crazies. Conservatives are the alternative to Liberals and we need a serious mainstream party, not a fringe wacko one.
Leslyn Lewis will be my third choice in rankings. With talk about race and systemic racism high on the radar, I think it is great the Tories have a black woman running for leader. In the next election party needs more women and visible minorities to run as candidates so we can have a party that is more reflective of modern Canada. So while I hope she runs for MP unlike Sloan and think she could be a good cabinet minister; I have some serious reservations with her. The first disqualifier is she doesn’t speak French and that is a must. Canada has two official languages and the leader of any serious party must be able to communicate in both languages. Her lack of French means zero seats in Quebec and thus to win a majority (note for Tories it is majority or bust), that means they have to win at least 170 out of 260 seats which is possible in perfect conditions but extremely difficult. Tories are unlikely to win overall in Quebec, but they need to win some seats there if they want a realistic path to a majority. And that means leader needs to speak both official languages. Other problem is she is a social conservatism and social conservatism is a vote loser. To win, Tories need to do better amongst women, under 40 voters, and those living in metro areas and in the case of all three, even a whiff of social conservatism means they won’t consider voting for them.
Up until yesterday, I was undecided between Peter MacKay and Erin O’Toole. While I initially leaned towards MacKay; after several screw ups, I was seriously considering putting O’Toole as my first choice. O’Toole has lots of positives which are he has a detailed platform. His platform by and large is a standard run of the mill conservative one so nothing too extreme that would scare away moderates. Served in the military and he is from the GTA although contrary to what he claims, his riding is more rural than suburban. Still I think his more aggressive and nasty tone is a turn off. Too many people view the Tories as the nasty party and while progressives are often nasty and aggressive, I don’t believe it works for Tories. Rightly or wrongly, progressives are seen as fighting for the little guy so people at least in Canada tend to be more tolerant of them being nasty than they are for the Tories. As such I feel his tone would be a drawback and even if ideas sound, it would turn some of the key voters we need. Also him claiming he is a true blue Conservative is unhelpful. Reality is party is too far to the right and must pivot closer to the centre if it wishes to win. It will not win again by being Harper II; country has moved left since and party must adjust accordingly. It need not be Liberal lite, but it must appeal to Red Tories, Blue Liberals upset with Trudeau taking Liberals too much to left, and swing voters who some elections vote Liberal and some Tory. As such moderation should be encouraged not attacked. Being party leader is about serving Canadians, not pandering to a small angry base. World is not black and white so ideological purity is a negative not positive while pragmatism is a positive. Interestingly enough O’Toole is fairly moderate so I feel him trying to appeal to more right wing elements is more about winning leadership than genuine beliefs. Still Liberals in their attack ads will use this against him. Mitt Romney in 2012 tried this being a moderate as governor of Massachusetts, running hard to right to win GOP nomination, then moving back closer to centre for general election. All this did was make him look like a flip flopper even though at heart he is clearly a moderate much like O’Toole. While tough to win leadership race as a moderate, it is the right path.
So this now brings me to my first choice which is Peter MacKay. Like all candidates, MacKay is far from perfect, but no candidate ever is. I think a lot of Tories underestimate just how difficult winning the next election is going to be so no matter who we choose, we will face an uphill battle. Still I believe if we are to beat the odds (yes odds are Liberals win), MacKay is the candidate most likely to do so. His main weaknesses are his French, which while greatly improved, still needs to be even better to be a serious contender in Quebec. Also earlier on made too many gaffes but has run a much better campaign since. Hopefully the staff he had earlier on have been fired and come next election he has a strong team running the campaign. That being said below I will list the reasons why I think he is the right choice. As long as people are satisfied with Trudeau, Tories won’t win no matter who is leader. But at some point people will fatigue of Liberals and to be a viable alternative, people need to be comfortable with Tories. Based on MacKay’s background, I believe running attack ads against him portraying him as too extreme will be a lot harder than it was against Scheer. MacKay is a social progressive who is both pro-choice and supports LGBT rights so social conservative fearmongering won’t work against him. MacKay is experienced but also likeable. He comes across as someone who is trying to reach out and bring more into the Conservative tent, not shrink it and push people away those who aren’t ideologically pure. He comes from the Progressive Conservative side of the merger and PC side was acceptable as an alternative for many Blue Liberals whereas Reform side was not. He has a strong jobs plan that once we come out of COVID-19, we can implement to get Canada back on track. He is willing to work and listen to others so I am hopeful he will include some of the good ideas Lewis and O’Toole have. As one of the architects of the merger between the two parties, he has shown the ability to work with a wide variety of conservatives. The MPs endorsing him can be found in all provinces and from both wings showing despite complaint from some more right wing elements, he does have ability to unite party. Tories cannot form government without winning at least 170 seats. Being from Atlantic Canada, I believe he has the potential to beat Harper’s 14 seats in 2011 and once again make this region competitive for the Tories. If he can improve his French, his lack of social conservatism and ability to work well with their popular premier gives him potential to make modest gains there, although probably needs a stronger climate plan for that. To win Ontario, party needs to expand into the suburbs and suburbs are centrist. With Liberals moving leftward, there is lots of opportunity to appeal to centre, but party so far has failed to do so. MacKay is moderate enough that I believe if people in Ontario fatigue of Trudeau, he can turn the suburbs blue and won’t like Harper in 2004, Hudak, or Scheer fail due to too many thinking of voting Tory but get scared so hold their nose and vote Liberal. He also has strong support in Prairies and rather than pandering to their grievances, he will bring them to the table. Long run it is best for Alberta when they are working with the rest of Canada not against and I feel MacKay can help bridge the divide between Alberta and Saskatchewan vs. rest of Canada. As a moderate he can win in BC which provincially more often than not votes for centre-right parties. Weakness on climate change and social conservatism are big reasons many BC Liberal supporters won’t vote Tory federally and I believe MacKay can overcome this and win over many who vote BC Liberal provincially (who despite name are more conservative than liberal) but Liberal federally. No matter who Tories chose, odds on favourite is Liberals win next election, but if there is anyone who can beat those odds it is Peter MacKay. So that is why MacKay will be my first choice and hopefully he will be Canada’s next prime-minister.