For the few innocent souls who genuinely like long, drawn-out political campaigns, this was nirvana. For the vast majority of us, however, it’ll only serve to prolong the agony of the circus-like environment that’s already beginning to develop.
Will Kevin O’Leary, the brash media personality who carries his own portable soapbox, declare his intentions? How about former Toronto city councillor Doug Ford, who has plenty of intimate knowledge about political circuses? Is Peter MacKay, the newest partner in the law firm Baker & McKenzie, biding his time or is he done with politics? Or will the party change its rules and allow interim leader Rona Ambrose to run?
That’s the sort of speculation you’ll regularly see in the media because there’s a real appetite for these “inside baseball” stories. What’s more important at this stage for Canadian conservatives, however, is to determine the right path for the next Tory leader to take.
Former prime minister Stephen Harper had many achievements on the domestic and international front. Alas, his managerial style and full-time emphasis on political campaigning, strategy and communications regularly frustrated progressive Conservatives – and, at times, non-progressive Conservatives.
When Harper stepped down as leader, various ideological camps – left-leaning Red Tories, right-leaning Blue Tories, libertarians and others – were chomping at the bit to either take or maintain control. They wanted to establish their own mark, leadership style and political branding.
That’s a natural component of any leadership campaign, be it friendly or feisty. The concern is that an all-out political war could potentially leave some irreparable battle scars.
Politics in Canada, much like in other countries, has changed. Party loyalty isn’t the highest priority. Personal ambition often gets in the way of progress. Staying on message pales in comparison to expressing a personal opinion to anyone who will listen. And replacing a once-powerful political leader with a less-than-adequate choice could lead to dissension within the ranks – and a possible revolt.
To help prevent this, here are four key areas to build a political consensus:
- Emphasize fiscal conservative policies to rebuild trust with Canadian voters. This includes the need for small government, lower taxes, eliminating bureaucratic waste, and prudent spending on social services. These are bread-and-butter issues for Canadian conservatives, and they would be foolish to either ignore them or pay lip service to them.
- Protect Canada’s new role as a leader in foreign policy. Our country’s historical role as a peacekeeper is important to preserve, but so is the respect we’ve achieved on the international stage in support of safety and security, and leading the fight against terrorism. These Tory values resonate with Canadian values, and must be defended at all costs.
- Eliminate the temptation to engage in racial/identity politics. The previous federal government made a huge tactical error in its handling of the controversial niqab debate in Quebec and Syrian refugee crisis. While the government had some popular support, it also created an image of fear and intolerance in some communities. This divisive strategy doesn’t need to be repeated again.
- Ensure all right-leaning individuals remain comfortable in the party. The big tent philosophy during the 2003 Canadian Alliance-PC merger brought old friends and old rivals back together. It would be an unmitigated disaster if petty feelings and finger-pointing led to another Conservative crack-up. Hence, the best solution is to create one moderate, cohesive small “c” conservative party that appeals to Canadians from all walks of life.
There are many challenges the new Tory leader will face. By building a political consensus in these policy areas, the task at hand will become less problematic and more beneficial to the overall success of Canadian conservatism.
Troy Media columnist and political commentator Michael Taube is also a Washington Times contributor, Canadian Jewish News columnist, and radio and TV pundit. He was also a speechwriter for former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.