TORONTO - And then there were two… Peter MacKay and? This recent flurry of political interest in the Canadian Conservative Party’s future expectations is probably the best indicator that “those in the know”, the “cognoscenti” - especially of Conservative persuasion - fully expect that Trudeau has seen his last successful election. Chief among them is Peter MacKay.
The Prime Minister’s chair is “up for grabs”, as the saying goes. Who can blame them for thinking that way? It’s tougher to hold onto power than it is seize it: every ill in the country, real or imagined must be shouldered by the governing Party. Public malaise with government and personal miscues by those in power are toxic in our Parliamentary systems, federally and provincially.
The last federal election was probably an anomaly in that the Prime Minister survived as he did. Then again, the only issue was best described as “vote for me because I’m not Justin Trudeau”. This was particularly true of the NDP and the Greens whose campaign theme was “vote for me and we’ll babysit Trudeau; we may spank him but won’t throw him out of office”. Even the Bloc Quebecois meandered around “issues”, preferring to feast on whatever political carrion the others served up.
It all benefited the incumbent Prime Minister, since not a single opponent could utter a suggestion approximating a vision for Canada. That included Andrew Scheer whose management team strangely could not muster a convincing reason why he should be Prime Minister. The result is wellknown: with only 30% of the popular vote, Trudeau stayed in office, while Scheer with 33% was sideswiped by rearguard action and “friendly fire”.
But the political pool is a dangerous place to swim when blood drips in the water. “Rivals”, all smiles and honey, appeared as saviours - “licking their chops” - while their hard-nosed proxies called for Scheer’s head. Their inspiring, nation-unifying message? “I alone can win”.
It seems that what they really mean is that only they can wean a fawning mainstream media (consumed, or so it would appear, with issues of drugs, sex and rock and roll) away from the Trudeau camp and to their own. So far, the main argument has been that the task should not be an insurmountable challenge, given the imbedded deeply rooted hostility Trudeau faces west of Ontario and parts of Quebec.
No mention of a Canadian vision, a plan to strengthen the federation, improve both Canadian standard of living and quality of life or to “restore” Canadian influence and stature on the world stage. No need when the singular issue is which faction should rule. As a friend of mine says, “don’t discuss menus in a meeting of cannibals”.
Erstwhile candidates are fading faster than a winter sunset now that the “big dawg” has made his intentions clear. The hype surrounding Peter MacKay, former Minister of the Harper era, unencumbered by scruples and laden with a privileged background to rival Trudeau’s, will make any other Conservative tremble. They may find themselves serving as a mere foil for his ambitions and those who hang on to his star.
Given the constraints that the party organization has placed in the rules, credible outsiders like Candice Bergen, a veteran MP and former Minister, may be unable to launch their own campaign. Ironically, the only name capable of surmounting the organizational challenges is the former leader, Andrew Scheer.