As the results of the Conservative Party of Canada leadership election on Sunday night were delayed, the jokes on social media started coming fast and furious.
Given the Toronto Raptors playoff game had started and ended during the television coverage of the ballot counting excercise, would the Vancouver Canucks playoff game start and finish before the choice of the country’s CPC members was finally announced?
As the CPC organizers scrambled to fill the void in the prime time slot in which they hoped their next candidate for Prime Minister would “unite the right” and lay out the general battle plans for the next federal election, your humble scribe cracked the party executive would be announcing what they had discovered behind a false wall in the Diefenbunker in the next 30 minutes.
The answer to that question was certainly not outgoing leader Andrew Scheer’s sense of contrition. Scheer apparently missed the memo that the airing of grievances is only held on December 23 in front of the metal pole signifying Festivus.
More than one person came to the tongue-in-cheek conclusion that the winner of the 2020 CPC leadership election was Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
In the end, the next leader of the CPC was announced and the envelope opening machine gaffe will likely wind up a foot note in the next federal campaign. There are a number of things to hash over regarding Erin O’Toole’s election to the head of the CPC table both in a nation-wide sense as well as some items locally.
First, has there ever been a contrast as stark as the futures of Peter MacKay and Leslyn Lewis?
The presumed favourite heading into the leadership election, MacKay’s career as a politician is likely dead and buried. His inability to thump O’Toole in his Atlantic Canada stronghold and his stunning loss in La Belle Province will likely lead to the former Deputy PM’s political decommissioning.
On the other hand, Dr. Lewis’ equally stunning win in Saskatchewan and ability to make inroads with the CPC electorate has the Toronto lawyer’s star on the rise.
At the bottom of this leadership barrel is Hastings-Lennox and Addington MP Derek Sloan. While there was much discussion Sunday night among the TV pundits about the ability to tack right for Conservative voters in a leadership election and then tack to the centre to appeal to a larger swath of Canadians, Sloan pole vaulted to the far right during the campaign and started to build permanent shelter there.
His comments about reopening the debates on abortion and gay rights if he was leader and vowing to vote against a federal ban on the pseudoscientific practice of conversion therapy were, to put it nicely, ‘out there’ on the far right end of the political spectrum. Those views were only a lead-up appetizer to Sloan’s abhorrent attack on Canada’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Theresa Tam where he questioned Tam’s loyality to the country and asked if she worked for “Canada or China?”
Sloan would do well to turn his attention back to his constituents in the south Hastings and Napanee areas. To hear more than one voter that picked Sloan in the 2019 Federal Election tell it, while they might not have agreed with then-incumbent Mike Bossio’s politics, the Liberal candidate was at least available, engaging and willing to get answers to federal questions. This leadership daliance has likely put a strain on Sloan’s relationship with and ability to serve his electorate.
So what of the ‘True Blue” Erin O’Toole, the former Sea King Helicopter pilot who was stationed at CFB Trenton at the start of his 12 year military career? Given that over two-thirds of Canadians voted for progressive parties in the last federal election, the task entrusted to O’Toole is more formidable than any of the search and rescue missions he would have undertaken during his time with the 423 squadron
After attempting to engage all locales on the right, he will have to tack towards the centre in order to inspire Canadians to choose a Conservative candidate in the next Federal runoff. This will be no easy task in the first-past-the-post system.
An economic recovery plan in the aftermath of COVID-19 that’s better than what the Liberals are offering, a workable climate change action plan and staying out of the populist playbook still disdained by the majority of Canadian voters is a good start.
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