The Conservative Party of Canada has but a few short months left before it must decide if its members want real, progressive change in party policies and leadership; or, will it stay the course which led to its defeat in last fall’s federal election.
While it carries out its role as the official opposition in parliament, the Conservative party must prepare itself for a leadership convention, likely to take place within the next year and a half.
While no one has officially stepped forward as an official candidate, the names being bandied about most often reflect anything but progress as Jason Kinney and Peter MacKay have both hinted strongly that they might seek the leadership role.
Both MacKay and Kinney played strong roles in Stephen Harper’s government, but, as party leader, neither would indicate to voters any significant changes in the direction or policies of the Conservative party.
Kevin O’Leary, Canada’s answer to Donald Trump, has also indicated a strong interest in the Conservative leadership. He enters the game with no background or experience, but that might also be his greatest strength. Although, as tough as O’Leary can be, he would be fighting an uphill battle if pitched against Justin Trudeau.
The Liberals emerged victorious in last fall’s election because the party ran a generally positive campaign, which offered significant change from former Liberal governments. The party also fielded a diverse slate of candidates, many of whom were new to federal politics.
The Conservatives had become stale and offered much of their same old philosophy based on the premise that they knew better than the Liberals how to govern Canada. It turns out that Canadian voters were tired of that approach and wanted more than a simple change in partisan politics.
The Conservatives went down to defeat in October 2015 because they had learned nothing from the defeat of Brian Mulroney’s Conservative government in 1993.
There are strong hints that the same Conservative old boys backroom gang of political know-it-alls are going to be up to their old tricks in the coming months as the party moves to its most critical leadership campaign in many decades.
If rank and file Conservative members stand idly by while the party backroom boys carry on with their manipulative plots in seeking their favourite candidates and convention delegates, the party will again incur disastrous results in the next federal election.
The only way the Conservative Party of Canada can regain the trust of Canadian voters and, thus, offer a serious choice between Conservative or Liberal candidates, is to make it loudly and publicly clear that the days of backroom manipulation are gone forever.
Of course, the key to any future success for the federal Conservatives is to elect a leader who is not burdened with any backroom luggage, and that almost certainly means eliminating anyone who is tainted with memories of Harper’s era of leadership.
If the Conservatives are unable to change, the party will also be unable to win the next federal election.
You might ask: “What role will the NDP play in the next federal election?”
The answer is short and simple because the party has stumbled so badly under Thomas Mulcair’s leadership: the NDP might have a hard time even fielding a full slate of candidates.
Other than in Quebec, where the Bloc will undoubtedly elect a few candidates, the next federal election will be a two-party race between Trudeau’s Liberals and the Conservatives, under a new leader.
The NDP will be fortunate if it wins more than a dozen seats across Canada.
If the Conservatives stick with the old boys, Trudeau will romp to an easy second term as prime minister.
– Sandy Macdougall is a retired journalist and former city councillor.