05.25.2017 08:31 PM

This week’s column: the next CPC leader – and what they should be doing 


Drab, dull, flat, insipid, uninspiring, monotonous, prosaic, tedious, interminable.

The leadership race of the Conservative Party of Canada has been all these things, and so many more. If you consult your nearest thesaurus for things that are synonymous with “boring,” like I did, you will find no shortage of words that fit. You might even see the shiny faces of the assembled 13 candidates, smiling up at you.

Oh, sure, the American citizen Kevin O’Leary was an unmitigated clown show, and clown shows are usually pretty entertaining. And, yes, assorted nobodies and Kellie Leitch – She-wolf of the Clueless – raised the temperature, somewhat, with their braying and screeching about refugees and immigrants. But it isn’t ever hard to raise the temperature at, say, a cross-burning.

Apart from the O’Leary interregnum, and the unabashed channeling of Donald Trump, then, it’s been a pretty dreary affair. Joe Clark would have felt right at home.

And, by next week, Joe Clark may be what they ended up with. 

Erin O’Toole and Andrew Scheer have been the Joe Whos of this race. Bland works, per the Muse of Bill Davis, and Messrs. O’Toole and Scheer have been doing their utmost to be toast. As in, as exciting as. Maybe it’ll work, maybe it won’t. Me, I feel a nap coming on.

Kellie Leitch, who ran the sort of winning campaign that would win bigly in rural Alabama – but not in urban, urbane Canada – has been, no joke, an utter disgrace. She has been the all-white face of a campaign that has brought out the very worst in Conservatives. And she has single-handedly undone all that Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney did for a decade, working to bring new Canadians into the conservative mainstream. 

She should be ashamed of herself. Instead, she’ll likely keep making videos with the production values of a Fourteenth Century woodcut. You make the zombies on The Walking Dead look like they’re doing the jitterbug, Kel.

Mad Max Bernier, meanwhile, has been precisely the sort of candidate the Conservatives need to offset Justin Trudeau’s strengths: he’s telegenic, he’s charismatic, he’s youthful, he’s unconventional, and he likes ideas. All of those things made him the frontrunner. 

And, natch, all of which means there is an excellent chance his party will reject him. The Conservative multitudes, after all, rarely miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. 

Justin Trudeau, as he giddily photobombs high schoolers across the hinterland, must be therefore having a good laugh. Another victory lap in 2019, he must be thinking, is in the proverbial bag. “Gerry, notify the photographers! I’m going canoeing again, shirtless!”

But not so fast, Selfieman. You have vulnerabilities, too. And the Conservatives – led by a credible leader – could exploit same, if they’re smart. Which, on the available evidence, they aren’t.

Anyway. Trudeau’s vulnerabilities, in no particular order:

· Indigenous people: As the father of Trudeau’s Minister of Justice said – and, as a respected Chief, he would certainly know – the much-trumpeted Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women inquiry has become “a bloody farce,” quote unquote. Worse than that: it has become an actual scandal, spending millions to achieve precisely nothing. If the Tories had any strategic sense, they’d be demanding ministerial resignations over this mess. But they haven’t, and they won’t.

· Economy: Finance Minister Bill Morneau, rookie he may be, has evolved into a very capable communicator, and a steady hand on the fiscal ship of state. Notwithstanding that, conservative political options – including even conservative bottom-feeders like Donald Trump – are always seen by voters as better on the economy. So, will the CPC get back to hammering away on ballooning deficits and fiscal uncertainty? Not on your life. They’ll keep yammering about the hijab, like they did during the 2015 campaign. And they’ll get the same result.

· Trump: Trudeau, and his most senior staff, rolled the dice on Agent Orange, hugely. By playing nice with the Unpresident – by refusing to utter a single word that was critical of the racist, sexist, addled Groper-in-Chief – Trudeau et al. reckoned they could avoid his Sauron-like gaze. They were wrong. Softwood lumber; NAFTA; repeatedly calling Canadians names (eg., “a disgrace” and “unfair,” and “a disaster”): all of those things weren’t supposed to happen, because the Prime Minister pretended to be interested in Ivanka Trump’s handbag designs. So, do you think the Conservatives could be bothered to chip away at any of this? Not on your life. They like Donald Trump.

· Promises, promises: I’m a Jean Chrétien guy. We did okay, and we lived our lives according to two immutable principles: one, don’t try and get in the papers all the time. Voters don’t like it. And, two, underpromise and overdeliver. The Trudeau guys have done neither, and it has left them vulnerable. A smart political opponent would exploit that. The Conservatives haven’t.

· Rookie mistakes: There are newbies aplenty in Trudeau’s caucus and cabinet, and many of them are pretty impressive (cf. Philpott, Wilson-Raybould, the aforementioned Morneau). But others have perhaps been elevated to lofty heights too soon (cf. Monsef, Tootoo, Sajjan). At this point in Brian Mulroney’s first majority, we Liberals had hastened the resignations of André Bissonette, Jean Charest, Robert Coates, John Fraser, Roch LaSalle, Marcel Masse and Sinclair Stevens. Have the 100-strong Conservative MPs taken out one (1) cabinet minister? Nope.

The Conservatives, however, will have a new leader by this time next week.

Feeling sleepy yet?




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    Ray says:

    It’s f**king painful.

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    Ronald O'Dowd says:


    2004 wasn’t a vote for Martin but was instead a vote against Harper. 2006 wasn’t a vote for Harper but was a vote against Liberals. Harper then went on to win two elections that were referendums on Dion and Ignatieff respectively. The last election wasn’t won by Trudeau. Rather, it was lost by Harper.

    So, Trudeau is vulnerable. The next election is his to lose and in such circumstances, the CPC could pick a potted plant and still win by default if Justin becomes the next Christy Clark, by passing his best-before date.

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    Matt says:

    Should Bernier win, what impact if any do you think the fact his leadership bid only has the endorsement of 9 CPC caucus members have on him going forward?

    IIRC Scheer and O’Toole each have endorsements from over 30 caucus members.

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    rww says:

    Canadian, Irish AND American citizenship ?

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    Christian says:

    If the Cons (or NDP – tho they just might, we’ll have to wait to see how their leadership campaign goes) are smart, they’d be noticing articles like this:


    At this point you could write an attack ad about “Prime Minister Selfie”. But as you say, its not likely to happen.

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    Charlie says:

    This is an incredibly well written synopsis of the state of the Canadian political scene.


    1) Trudeau has plenty vulnerabilities; any Liberal who isn’t infatuated with him could tell you that. The problem is Conservatives are blinded by their own insatiable lust for assholery that they succeed at defeating themselves every damn chance they get to scrutinize the Liberals.

    2) The economy and the Liberal’s “innovation agenda” is a lot of hocus-pocus platitudes fronted as policy agenda. It has yet to yield real results economically and stimulate the job growth that is being sold as part of the PR.

    3) The economy; not shirtless jogging, not weed, nor Trump; is what is going to hurt Trudeau going into 2019. Stagnation and impatience is going hurt the Liberals if they keep making flashy funding announcements while affordability keeps fading and underemployment keeps growing. Tech sector this, intelligence that means fuck-all to Canadians who don’t code day and night.

    4) Having said that, there isn’t a chance on God’s green dick that Canadians are going to hand government back to the Conservatives in 2019 — especially if “kill-supply-management” Bernier is their guy.

    6) Kellie Leitch has no shame.

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    Sean says:

    “Have the 100-strong Conservative MPs taken out one (1) cabinet minister? Nope.”

    I’m sure Stephane Dion was shuffled off to Berlin by his own volition. When was the last time a Liberal even uttered the phrase “responsible conviction”?

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