COLUMN: Retreads no solution for ailing Conservatives

A survey released by Mainstreet Research for the Postmedia chain of papers on Monday, showed Peter MacKay and Kevin O’Leary tied for the lead for a possible leadership contest to run the federal Conservatives. MacKay, a former cabinet minister in the Harper government and former leader of the Progressive Conservative party before the two right-wing parties merged in 2003. O’Leary is a former CBC media personality on the show, “Dragon’s Den”, and multimillionaire styled as “Mr. Wonderful” on the show on “Shark Tank” on ABC in the United States.  Both are well known and offer some positive qualities to be party leader. They also would be bad choices for the party. In fact, all the leadership hopefuls who’s names have been bantered about would be wrong for the job, at least if the job is to beat Trudeau in 2019.

Peter MacKay is a nice guy, and seemed to be a good cabinet minister, but he brings baggage. A lot of baggage. Never mind the use military helicopters to fly out from hunting camps, or other goofs that made headlines and the occasional punchline on This Hour has 22 Minutes. MacKay was the leader of the Progressive Conservative party and won leadership of that party on the promise he would not merge the party. Only to do so less than 18 months later. Yes the incident happened over a decade ago, but it still speaks to leadership style and character. There were many members of the old PC party who left after the merger with the Canadian Alliance because the party swung too far to the right. MacKay is the person who made that happen, and there is not a room big enough in 24 Sussex for that baggage.

Kevin O’Leary is the Canadian equal of Donald Trump. Not in racist rhetoric, but in bombast. Why speak in a room when you can shout. He presents as a condescending know-it-all who does not talk with, he talks at. In interviews over the last couple of weeks, O’Leary has shown he is a one-man band.  From taking on Alberta premier Rachel Notley or his slagging of investment in the Canadian economy. The last time a government was led by a one-man show, he lost the 2015 election. O’Leary is not the way forward for big-C Conservatives in this country.

The same goes for former cabinet ministers in the previous government. We get it, Harper ran the country for 10 years, they were part of the team, so they have some skills. Yet Stephen Harper ran a top-down government where ministers had to follow orders from the Prime Minister’s Office. If your claim to fame for leadership of a political party is your ability to follow orders from someone above, that does not cut it. Lisa Raitt, Michelle Rempel, Jason Kenney and other former ministers have some skill and appeal, but that will not be enough to defeat the selfie-king Prime Minister.

The new leader of the Conservative party will have to be someone younger, with a solid background in business or public service. A family person, male or female, someone who is known to the public, and has not made too many stupid mistakes that could be embarrassing. Top of mind is Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall, but he has stated he has no interest in the job. If someone could find a candidate of that caliber, then the Conservatives would have a good chance of unseating the Liberals. Retreads from the last government and Donald Trump clones need not apply.

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