By Elias Weiss.
And then there were fifteen. And then sixteen again. And maybe seventeen, or maybe just twelve…And depending on if you count Kevin O Leary or not: Twelve and a half!
What a week that was, my friends, what a week. And no, I’m not talking about the many (alleged) victims of Trump’s tiny wandering hands; we are talking about the devastating news that Tony “Grand-zebo” Clement is no longer running for leader of our beloved and esteemed Conservative Party. What a shame, I say. Now who will have the courage to run on a second-rate dystopian national security platform?
Actually, now that I think about it, it’s fair to say that most of them would probably go for the semi-authoritarian “law and order” shtick. After all, as interim leader Rona Ambrose said earlier in the summer, “time to get serious about terrorism as the world is only getting more dangerous.” To hell with the facts!
But regardless, this leadership race could be a defining moment for the party and its future. We tend to forget that the CPC is a relatively young party; officially born, December 8th 2003. This is the first time the party has had to reinvent itself since its inception and only their second leadership race (a little known dude called Stephen Joseph Harper won the first one back in 2004.)
The party is a large tent where social conservatism coexists with fiscal, small-government ideology and right-wing tinged populism. On that front, the party has done very well in maintaining its unity, mostly thanks to its former leader’s strong, if at times authoritative, leadership within the party.
‘Assertive’ leadership — the discipline of power, as it were — while the source of the party’s success, has also undermined the leadership potential of others inadvertently and silenced strong, independent voices within the party. While not necessarily a ‘party of one’, the Conservatives were shaped around Harper, and in this lies the challenge for the next leader: how to foster creativity and ideas. A challenge that requires independence, freedom and — most difficult of all — staying united out of power.
The new resident of Stornoway will be decided next May, using the evil, anti-democratic, no-good ranked ballots. (“CALL A REFERENDUM!” screams the Tory rank and file out of habit, before coming to their senses.) Running for this great party leadership extravaganza are a number of registered candidates…
Let’s start with Maxime Bernier (Beauce) who is, as his theme jingle goes, a gars qui nous ressemble, c’est un gars qui nous connaît…and it’s a guy who would really like it if you’d stopped bringing up this little incident.
Very much the libertarian of the mad bunch, Bernier hopes to privatize Canada Post, abolish the capital gains tax, reject the Saudi Arms deal (that he supported in office) and forgo omnibus bills (again, a departure from the Harper years.) Fun story: his father Gilles Bernier, a progressive conservative, was also the MP for Beauce for thirteen years.
Then there’s heartthrob Andrew Scheer (Regina—Qu’Appelle) who was Speaker from 2011 to 2015. He is a ‘real conservative’, not like all those fake ones…looking at you, Michael Chong (Wellington—Halton Hills).
The progressive horse in this race, Chong supports carbon pricing, more independent MPs and lower taxes. Being both likable and reasonable, we can write this one off.
To be forgotten, hopefully: Kellie Leitch (Simcoe—Grey) the surgeon and university lecturer on a crusade against ‘elites’ officially announced her candidacy today near the site of the Collingwood Elvis Festival. She’d like to test for Canadian values; values that ironically, some in her own party do not share, but that’s alright because they’re white and everyone knows that white Christian-based bigotry is a lot less scary, right?
Leitch would also like us all to stop ‘trivializing the issue’ by asking her questions about the specifics of her Canadian values test.
And finally, saving my super-bae for last, there’s Brad Trost (Saskatoon—University). The walking, talking and tweeting parody of a social conservative who, although firmly opposed to assisted dying, is very much the secobarbital and pentobarbital cocktail of the CPC. He believes that marriage should only be between an index finger and a middle finger, just as God intended. Unabashedly trosexual, I for one will continue to hold Trost close to my heart, even if he refuses to acknowledge our true love.
Some of the declared contenders (not yet registered) include Chris Alexander and Erin O’Toole. We can also expect the likes of Lisa Raitt and Steven Blaney to make their announcement quite soon. And less certain, Kevin O’Leary.
To see what kind of debate follows this leadership race will be an interesting development to say the least: what uncomfortable subjects will be tackled, which direction the party wishes to take etc. Although the old dudes at Postmedia would have you believe leadership is all in a candidate’s ideology, their ‘substance’ and their receding hairline, the truth is style and enthusiasm matter in politics.
The new face of the party’s heart, mind and soul — battered from years in government — is to be rediscovered and that’s worth some anticipation.
Elias Weiss studies Neuroscience and Biotechnology at McGill University. A liberal and a passionate believer in evidence-based decision-making, Elias hails from British Columbia but is now a proud Montréaler.