, 02.10.2020 02:34 PM

My latest: ten reasons why Peter MacKay has a shot

Peter MacKay has hit a rough patch.

Weird social media. Policy incoherence. Crummy French. Interviews going awry.

Sure, he’s coughed up the big entrance fee, and proffered the requisite number of signatures. Came up with a nice logo. Attracted the support of smart backroomers, and figured out how to avoid angering both of the Conservative Party’s warring tribes on the Left and Right – no small thing (ask Jean Charest and Pierre Poilievre).

But…it’s looked amateurish. It’s looked chaotic. It’s looked positively Stockwell Dayian, even.

Could a wounded, desperate political party rally around MacKay? Or is all hope lost?

Well, no. Ten reasons.

1. MacKay is likeable. Half the job in politics is being a HOAG – a Hell Of A Guy (or Gal). MacKay has that Earthy, aw-shucks, regular schmo thing down pat. He’s a HOAG.

2. MacKay looks the part. The other half of the job, when one is a political leader, is to appear Prime Ministerial. Not too regal (like Michael Ignatieff did), and not too stern (like Joe Clark or Tom Mulcair did). A Prime Minister needs to be capable of being suitably serious (say, when sending troops into battle) – but a PM also needs to know how to do cheery retail (say, when pressing the flesh on the hustings). It isn’t hard to imagine Peter MacKay doing either.

3. MacKay’s timing is good. Politics is like comedy – success depends more on timing than content. MacKay has come along at precisely the moment that his party is desperately in search of middle ground – and a leader who knows how to bank Left or Right, as circumstances warrant. One, too, who has been away from politics long enough to seem new – but who was also there long enough, in senior roles, to look experienced.

4. MacKay isn’t Justin Trudeau. Governments defeat themselves, and the Trudeau Liberal government has shown itself quite capable of doing so – taking a for-sure majority second term and reducing it to a timid, tentative minority. For voters scanning the horizon for an alternative to Justin Trudeau – and in October 2019, most Canadian votes were – Peter MacKay seems a sensible alternative.

5. MacKay isn’t a crypto-Nazi. Let’s face it: the Trudeau folks sought to portray Andrew Scheer as a knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing, red-necked troglodyte, one who hated gays, women and refugees. And they were wildly successful – but only because Scheer became the embodiment of Hidden Agenda (dual citizenship, tongue-tied on social issues, not-an-insurance-broker). Scheer allowed the Grits to define him before he could define himself…

6. …but MacKay is defined. He’s a known quantity. He’s been a cabinet minister and an MP. He did stuff, and nobody ran him out town on a rail. He may be remarkably unremarkable – like that old pair of slippers you resist throwing out – but you generally know what you are getting with the tall, grinning, Nova Scotia guy.

7. MacKay is a conservative, but not too conservative. As shocking as it may sound to the prototypical angry Conservative – Langstaff 7832269, with a Twitter profile of a Viking holding an assault rifle – most Canadians are not as conservative as they are. Calling them “Libtards” and “Lieberals” does not tend to encourage middle Canada to vote Team Blue. Also helpful: MacKay thinks women should be able to decide what happens to their own bodies – and, also, that LGBTQ people should be allowed to be just as miserable as straight married people are.

8. MacKay is from the Atlantic region. Conservatives do not have a voting base that is as “efficient” as the urban and urbane Liberals do. To win majorities, Tories need to capture support in every region, not just the prairies. MacKay is a native son of the Atlantic, and he accordingly has the best shot at stealing needed Atlantic seats away from the Grits.

9. MacKay isn’t angry. Stephen Harper was Mr. Angry, sure, but he only won a majority in 2011 because Jack Layton surged in the final stretch, and snatched multiple seats away from the aforementioned Ignatieff. Before that, Canadians kept Harper on a minority leash because he too often appeared to be a misanthrope with control issues. MacKay doesn’t look angry. In fact, MacKay looks like he’s never been angry. About anything.

10. MacKay is a compromise candidate. For a country weary of Justin Trudeau (who too often seems all sizzle, and no steak) – and wary of Stephen Harper (who, as noted, too often seemed like a rageaholic encased in cardigan) – Peter MacKay is a reasonable compromise. He’s likeable, he’s a known quantity. He’s not a maniac. He’s not despised, from sea to sea to sea. He’s not unpopular.

Not yet, anyway.


  1. Miles Lunn says:

    On a geographic basis, here are my thoughts.

    1. He is from Atlantic Canada so will not only outperform Scheer, while likely even outperform current party’s highwater mark by Harper in 2011 and will win back many former PC types who haven’t supported the merged party since the merger.

    2. Quebec is his weak spot and he will need a strong Quebec lieutenant and improved French to gain here, but at least he is not a social conservative giving him more potential than Scheer, but if he falls short of a majority, this is probably why.

    3. Ontario – Should be more palatable to 905 voters but a lot will depend on both Trudeau and Ford’s popularity as to whether he makes gains and how big.

    4. Prairies – That is solidly Tory and while some loudmouths on social media may claim he is not a real conservative, most of them hate Trudeau with a passion so will still vote Tory. And if PPC does slightly better, won’t matter as Tories outside Winnipeg (where like Ontario and Atlantic Canada, Tories are more moderate) tend to win by gigantic margins anyways so if 5-10% go PPC, they still hold all the seats they have.

    5. British Columbia – He is a wildcard here, but should hold Interior and being more moderate helps in Lower Mainland. In particular you have strong splits on left in BC so being more moderate will mean less strategic voting so even if Tory vote doesn’t increase much, they will win more on better vote splits.

    Still there is a risk he might do something stupid so no guarantee he will win nor is he even favoured, but I do think he is a better choice than most potential candidates.

  2. PJH says:

    Your assessment of Mr. MacKay is spot on…..Add smart, extremely attractive, multilingual wife, and three nice looking kids into the mix and we have a winnah….

    • Michael says:

      Extremely attractive? The guy has crooked eyes and a huge nose. A 3 at best.

      • PJH says:

        I was speaking of Mr. Mackay’s wife, Nazanin Asfshin-Jam… Miss World Canada contestant for 2003, who placed second overall in the competition. She is indeed smart, highly educated, extremely attractive, and speaks four languages: Farsi, English, French and Spanish.

        As for Mr. MacKay’s looks….is he a pretty boy?…no, but he is fit, and he knows how to dress(something that Mr Scheer, whose suits appeared to be tailored by Abdul the tent maker, could learn a thing or two about)….more importantly, he is, as Mr. Kinsella so adroitly pointed out, a HOAG(in case you didnt read the article, stands for “Hell of a guy”)….

        • PK says:

          So why doesn’t she run?

          • PJH says:

            Too busy with her work in helping stop childhood executions the world over, with her work with the Nazanin Foundation, being a good partner to her husband and a good mother to their three children, I suppose. She is the perfect political partner for Mr. MacKay, much to your chagrin, I’m sure….

  3. Robin says:

    Who ever becomes PC leader, should they win an election, it is only a stop gap until yet another Liberal government. As a westerner, I no longer have interest in a Canada that belongs to Quebec and Laurentian Liberals.

  4. Wes W says:

    He’s no different than the liberals. Never ever will I vote for him.

  5. Steve T says:

    All good points, when viewed through the lens of logic and reason. However, you can bet that the Mother Corp will spare no expense making every news cycle about MacKay’s lack of French, and how he is so un-Canadian, and how he allegedly said something mean about Belinda Stronach 20 years ago, etc, etc…
    The West won’t care about these trivialities, of course, but the “woke” class in Ontario will once again vote based on how they think they are supposed to vote to appear progressive, so they can have thought-provoking cocktail party conversations.

  6. Gilbert says:

    Peter MacKay is the favourite, but there are a few factors that are not in his favour. His French isn’t good, he’s not so conservative, and he’s not considered a man of high intellect. We’ll see how he does.

  7. Stephen Sinclair says:

    If you are pushing MacKay then I don’t want him. Come to think of it most of the paid liberal MSM are pushing him, so even more reason to stay away.

    • Warren says:

      I’m not pushing anything, you fool.

    • PJH says:

      You obviously havent seen the streams o’ spite and vitriol being spewed about Mr. MacKay by Liberal sycophants and toadies in the comment sections of CBC articles, I presume?….

      • Fred from BC says:

        “You obviously havent seen the streams o’ spite and vitriol being spewed about Mr. MacKay by Liberal sycophants and toadies in the comment sections of CBC articles”

        Or Michael Harris’s latest rant in the Tyee. Remember him? He used to be a legitimate journalist, once…

        (before Stephen Harper broke him)

        • PJH says:

          That was indeed a nasty piece of work….CBC articles comments seem positively glowing in comparison. Do I detect a wee bit o’ sympathy for Mr. MacKay, Fred from BC?…or is this simply an exercise in schadenfreude for you?

          • Fred from BC says:

            “That was indeed a nasty piece of work….CBC articles comments seem positively glowing in comparison.”

            People joked about Harris for many months after Stephen Harper left office (when Harris was writing for iPolitics), how he seemed unable to write a column about anything without throwing in at least one gratuitous insult to Harper (people even called him out on it the first time he forgot). It got so bad that his editor was forced to join the comment boards to defend him.

            ” Do I detect a wee bit o’ sympathy for Mr. MacKay, Fred from BC?”

            A wee bit, perhaps. He’s not my first (or even second) choice, but as WK alludes, he’s a not the kind of guy who has enough negative character aspects to make anyone actually ‘hate’ him.

            (well, except maybe those gullible people who still, to this day, insist that McKay “sold out” the PC party by reneging on his promise not to merge with the Canadian Alliance. Problem is, the *membership* of the PC’s had decided that the merger was going to happen…the only thing McKay could have done was resign and watch the two parties merge anyway.)

            “or is this simply an exercise in schadenfreude for you?”

            No, NEVER. That kind of childish glee at the misfortunes of others (enemies or not) is something that is native to the ‘progressive’ mindset; I feel nothing but contempt for the type of people who take pleasure in that (people like Michael Harris, for example).

  8. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    MacKay is smart at this stage not to even remotely view it as a lead pipe cinch. And he doesn’t.

    In addition, it’s all about Ontario, for the majority and MacKay is more than keenly aware of that obvious fact.

    His new official and closet advisors are top notch, so he certainly has the edge. Hopefully, they are all on the same strategic wavelength. Otherwise…

  9. Styli Pappas says:

    I find your comments interesting as to approach. You focus on his appearance, timing, his roots, his attitude and other superficial metrics – yet completely ignore what the guy’s values and beliefs are. Nor is there mention of what achievements (if any) he’s accomplished. I do not include political successes; look at Trudeau, an airhead who got to the PMO based on the very same yardstick you applied to McKay, all cosmetics.
    It may well be that that’s how people decide whom they’ll vote for – if so, it’s a shame that voters choose leaders based on Hollywood images instead of strength of character and convictions.
    But then again, character and convictions are not needed to get elected. Good hair, preppy clothes, social media and a great smile is usually all one needs. It’s all marketing.
    Can you imagine having any of these losers in power if the nation goes to war?

  10. Pedant says:

    I’d rather vote for the burmese mountain dog.

    • Warren says:

      I’d vote for Joey!

    • Pedant,

      Some Conservatives are a waiting with baited breath to see if Baird jumps in. I don’t expect that. But if he does, he likely would be a harder sell among soft moderates, but I could be wrong.

      IF it’s all about power, Conservatives know what they have to do, like it or not. If it’s about blessed principles — and only blessed principles — then quite a few years remain for the party to moan and groan from the nowhere opposition benches. That’s our choice, plain and simple. And everybody know it.

  11. Ron Benn says:

    Peter McKay is faced with a delicate balancing act.

    He needs to appeal to large enough swath of Conservative party members, and in particular the ones who will actually cast a vote in the leadership campaign. The most likely members of the party to vote tend to be congregated along the right side of the spectrum. How much these individuals are fixated on the so called social conservative issues is an open question. He needs to be mindful of not alienating too many of them by stressing his more progressive conservative leanings, else he may not win the leadership vote.

    The second challenge is in winning a general election. Here, Peter McKay needs to stress his progressive conservative leanings. The failure of the Conservatives to win but a few urban seats in Ontario can be laid at the feet of the social conservative movement. The Liberals labelled Andrew Scheer as a troglodyte who would drag Canada back to the 1950’s, and he could not convince the urban voters of Ontario that he didn’t have a hidden agenda regarding abortion, gay rights, …

    So, Peter McKay has to not scare the socially conservative voters to get their support in the leadership vote, while not providing the Liberals with ammunition to use against him in a general election.

    Can he do it? As noted by other commenters, he has surrounded himself with smart people, people who can organize the unorganisable, and raise money, and script his leadership campaign. Will he listen to them, and follow the script? Time will tell.

    • Ron,

      He has good organizers and strategists. Where it all went wrong earlier was in the lower echelons, read social media and at the comm level. MacKay needs to keep those people on a short and wire-tight leash for fear of those inexperienced people blowing him right out of the water. That’s the lesson Peter, and his people, learned the hard way at the start of this campaign.

  12. A. Voter says:

    I bet Peter MacKay knows it is a Bernese mountain dog.

  13. Mike Jeffries says:

    MacKay is Justin-lite. Will even march in the To. gay parade. What’s the difference? No, not everyone needs to march there but everyone *needs* to be able to say why or why not. The Con party is that!
    I’ll vote for John Baird. But will he jump? I hope so.

    • Mike,

      This race is all about grand coalition building. Each serious candidate that gets in has to be convinced in his or her own mind that they can pull it off. Baird has to seriously weigh that one, just like all the others.

    • Douglas W says:

      Baird will jump in.
      A coronation in the making.

      • Fred from BC says:

        “Baird will jump in.
        A coronation in the making.”

        Mixed feelings about that…

        On the one hand, I respect Baird (like him or not, he is at least a *real leader* who compromises only when he needs to and stands his ground (mostly) the rest of the time) and know he could do the job.

        On the other hand, whenever you parachute in a ‘savior’ at the last minute you run the risk of upsetting and alienating a large segment of the party (ask the Liberals about that) who are already working on promoting their own candidates.

        I’m not sure he will run anyway, but it would certainly make the contest more interesting.

      • Ronald O'Dowd says:


        Well, such an eventuality would mean that the CPC has learned absolutely nothing from the Harper and Scheer experiences vs. Trudeau…Baird is not in a position to rally the country. Red Meat fires up the base but it’s a sure fire way to lose elections badly.

        • Douglas W says:

          Baird will be a force on the campaign trail.
          Competitive in every region of the country.
          He’ll only surround himself with the brightest and most strategic.
          His USP: will fight for Canada; never go missing in action.
          Unlike our current PM.

          • Ronald O'Dowd says:


            Brightest and most strategic, eh? I’ll be the judge of that, along with every other party member, if Baird is a go. Fortunately, I won’t be holding my breath in the interim.

      • Michael says:

        That post didn’t age well

  14. PK says:

    They have to campaign against their base. Conservatives have to campaign against their traditional views to win. If they’re just like the liberals, why would conservatives vote for them? It’s hard for them right now.

  15. Douglas W says:

    Baird has surrounded himself with some very bright individuals at Bennett Jones LLP.
    He’ll do the same if he tosses his hat into the leadership ring.

  16. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Poor Kenney. Hasn’t had much luck: first encouraging Ambrose and then Baird…bet you if he encourages Kenney, he’ll still get turned down.

    • Mike Jeffries says:

      Well, with both Ambrose & Baird out that leaves Kenny! Nothin happenin in Alberta these days except discontent. Jason go to Ottawa, be Con leader and make Alberta happen dude!

      • Mike,

        What really burns my ass is a two-parter: first, the abysmal failure to both pipeline to the maximum and get product to tidewater. But the second part makes me even more furious because the boom times for oil and gas are gone forever. Clean and renewable energy are taking market share and will continue do so. Even with the most proactive government in place in Ottawa, the good ole days for fossil fuels will never, ever, come back. That’s why I can’t understand how any Alberta government can fail to be honest with the public and let them know that a transition plan away from oil and gas has to be both contemplated and prepared now. Alberta has to at least take baby steps in that direction. To pretend that pie in the sky can come again is irresponsible and does the public no favours. Kenney needs to give Albertans straight talk so they’ll know that the oil and gas industry is perhaps only viable for another twenty to thirty years.

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