Gut reactions to early Conservative Party leadership contenders

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The 2017 Conservative Party leadership contest was the most exhilarating period of my career as a political commentator.  In light of the direction later taken by the candidate I supported at the time, it was also one of my worst miscalculations.  For that reason, to say nothing of my non-residence, I will not support any candidate in the 2020 contest as passionately as that one.  And if my name is still lurking somewhere in the bowels of the Conservative data mining operation, I expect it to be expunged.

That said, we do have a fairly lengthy list of confirmed and potential candidates.  And it just wouldn’t be a proper holiday celebration if I didn’t say something pithy about each one of them.

Bryan Brulotte, organizer/CEO of MaxSys Staffing: Save your money, Bryan.  Save your money.

Pierre Poilievre, finance critic/MP for Nepean—Carleton, ON: Poilievre – or Grimey, as he likes to be called – is one of the most instantly dislikable people in a chamber designed to attract instantly dislikable people.  Known more for his Question Period antics than his policy gravitas or grasp of basic economics, Poilievre’s constant, seething contempt for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seems less like that of a political opponent and more like that of a guy who still isn’t over his high school girlfriend dumping him for the captain of the basketball team.  While provoking disgusted groans in some quarters, the possibility of his entry has earned praise from others who believe the next voice for Canada should sound remarkably like a deflating balloon animal.

Michelle Rempel Garner, industry critic/MP for Calgary—Nose Hill, AB: If not for Poilievre, Rempel Garner would earn the strongest ew from me.  She is reliably pro-LGBTQ, and her work for the cause of Yazidi refugees has been exemplary.  However, her combative approach to Western concerns diminishes her appeal outside Alberta and Saskatchewan.  Worse, her combative approach to herself diminishes her appeal to anyone who considers hotheadedness a drawback in this job.

Candice Bergen, House Leader/MP for Portage—Lisgar, MB: I’m told she was very good on Murphy Brown, but my parents know that show a lot better than I do.  I did like her on Sex and the City, though.

. . . Sorry, what?  Wrong Candice Bergen?  Oh.  Yeah, I don’t know what this one’s deal is.  Next.

Michael Chong, democratic institutions critic/MP for Wellington—Halton Hills, ON: Pundits agree that the next iteration of the Conservative Party must be fully modernized on LGBTQ issues, reproductive choice, and – perhaps – climate change.  Don’t expect them to modernize enough that they’ll accept a leader who supports a carbon tax.  A pity for those of us hoping for a respectably pro-market platform.

Erin O’Toole, foreign affairs critic/MP for Durham, ON: He seems like a nice enough guy.  He has military experience.  He’s from Ontario.  Other than that, he comes off purely functional, like a towel rack or a mixing bowl.  The party could do worse, but they could certainly do better.

Jean Charest, former premier of Quebec/former federal Progressive Conservative leader: A leader from Quebec seems like an obvious solution to one of the party’s most serious electoral deficiencies.  Charest has been on the scene long enough to have access to a wealth of political talent.  Unfortunately, he may have been on the scene too long to enjoy whatever success might have been his 10 or 20 years ago.  Plus, this.

Peter MacKay, former . . . lots of things: A similar problem faces Canada’s own Moai, to a lesser extent.  Had he decided to run for leadership in 2017, he likely would have taken it in far fewer than 12 rounds of voting.  As he is one of two names being bandied about as a good idea, the likelihood is still there.  But, as the scion of a provincial political dynasty with occasional ethical problems who is often portrayed as having lifelong leadership ambitions, it won’t be easy to frame him as a corrective to Trudeau.

Rona Ambrose, former interim leader: But it would be easy to frame her as a corrective.  Confident, but not hotheaded; loyal to her party, but more so to her country’s best interests; Alberta-born, but federal-minded; and a woman, which makes it much easier for her to counter Trudeau’s hollow feminism.  Best of all, she is the only person on this list to meet my most important prerequisite: My respect for her outweighs my contempt.  All this may be moot if Trudeau offers her a diplomatic post, which he would have been wise to do a month ago.  She has enough of a sense of national duty to put her own prospects aside and take it.

Stephen Harper, former prime minister: Don’t let the fact that Michael Harris wrote the accompanying article stop you from mulling this one over.  Some of my Tory friends have expressed their hope that Harper will make a comeback.  Which is the worst idea I’ve ever heard.

Photo Credit: CBC News

More from Jess Morgan.    Follow Jess Morgan on Twitter at @JessAMorgan89.

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