TORONTO - It is too early to tell if there is still life in the Conservative Party of Canada. The Canadian Parliamentary system is built on an adversarial paradigm, so, without an identifiable opposition “ideology”/policy/programme, it is difficult to judge the value or relevance of government initiatives.
Without a Leadership capable of defining and expressing differing viewpoints, everything takes place in a vacuum, as it were. Or events are esoteric occurrences influenced by external forces beyond the control of the citizenry.
Fourteen pretenders to the Leadership of the CPC, and eventually to the office of Prime Minister, “met in combat” against each other for a second debate in Moncton Tuesday evening. Some of them have a steeper hill to climb than others; others came unarmed.
I worked with most of the parliamentarians – current and former – on the stage. Personalities and partisanship aside, some of them were individuals whose friendship and competence would not be an embarrassment to anyone … decent folks.
It is important to recognize that this is still just the “shadow boxing” stage of the selection process. It is legitimate for as many people as possible to express an interest and to expose their ideas and visions for the country. It should be good for all of us.
The format left a lot to be desired, but it is understandable give the numbers and the time constraints. A cameo appearance is the best anyone could hope to achieve. Some candidates will reassess whether such a small return is worth the time and the investment.
It would have been unrealistic to expect any “gems” to stand out in that environment. I was, however, mildly impressed with several candidates who offered an aura of self-confidence and competence that they did not exhibit when I knew them some six years ago: Andrew Scheer, Steven Blaney and Michael Chong.
The CPC candidates still need to come to grips with one essential point: the Liberal government has only been in power for one year. Try as any Conservative might, the ills of the nation and the government cannot so easily or convincingly be dumped on Liberals. A “plan” for the future, timely or not, is all that the public will want to hear. Canadians are not yet ready for a hanging.
Nor are they likely to be swept away by “stunt politics”: no corporate taxes; the imposition of “Canadian values” as a pre-condition of immigration; pandering to regionalist issues or engaging in “imitation strategies” to attract attention.
Maxime Bernier probably had the best put-down of the evening when he strongly criticizes Kellie Leitch’s not so subtle anti-immigrant blathering. The CPC doesn’t need a “Karaoke Trump” or karaoke policies.
Neither does Canada.