I don’t think I have seen people less interested or enthusiastic about a federal party leadership race than I have with the current Conservative Party of Canada one.
The pandemic has put the race on the back burner of people’s minds of course but the indifference to this race was evident well before the crisis hit.
While discontent with Trudeau is clearly widespread, it doesn’t seem to have inspired a large number of people to get involved in seeking a conservative replacement for him.
I ran a poll on Twitter yesterday and the results are interesting. I know that twitter polls come with a huge bias based on who is holding it but with my following being predominantly conservative and with nearly 2000 responding the results are worth examining.
Many responded by saying “none of the above” which I can understand. All the same, one of these people is going to be leading that party soon and will be the best hope of unseating the Liberal government in the next general election whether we like it or not.
The most striking thing is the lack of support for Peter MacKay.
MacKay was considered to be the heir apparent to the Conservative throne by many. This can be seen with the large and impressive list of endorsements he boasts with many sitting and former MPs and Senators in the mix. MacKay is clearly the establishment candidate.
Unfortunately for MacKay, grassroots type conservative minded folks tend to loath establishment candidates and it is showing.
Parties have moved away from delegate style leadership races and embraced one member, one vote systems. This has been a great evolution from a democratic point of view. This has been a terrible development for an establishment candidate such as MacKay. It really doesn’t matter who endorses him if the rank and file membership rejects him.
Mackay is going to have to really connect with ground level members if he hopes to win this race in the end. With the pandemic halting travel and large gatherings such as rallies, he is going to have a hell of a tough time trying to change the tide here. Face to face meetings with members in order to build grassroots support are impossible right now.
Erin O’Toole was the first MP out of the gates in pursuit of the leadership. He was able to hold gatherings and meetings with members before the pandemic and it appears to have paid off. While O’Toole has never been one of the most visible members of the Conservative caucus, he has been able to bring himself into the sights of the membership as the most viable MP seeking the leadership at this time. I think that the leadership could very well be his to lose at this point.
Leslyn Lewis was a virtual unknown before this race. She has run an impressive campaign so far and is building a good base of support. Her lack of a public, elected track record is a disadvantage right now though and I don’t know if she can overcome that. Lewis will have a strong finish nonetheless in this race and will have established herself. She is young and could very well end up leading the Conservatives in the future.
Derek Sloan is already in “also ran” status in this race. While he is young and energetic, his social views represent those held by the populace in the 1950s. He is endorsed by Campaign Life and will garner the support of those who feel compelled to support the most socially conservative candidate in the bunch no matter what. Thankfully that is a small segment of the party membership. Sloan provides a service in drawing the strongest of socons to himself so that the other candidates don’t have to deal with fringe supporters loudly demanding that they end gay marriage etc.
This is an important race despite public disinterest in it right now. I do hope that it gains steam and attention once the quarantine ends. We desperately need to replace Justin Trudeau in the next general election and who we choose to run against him will determine whether or not that is going to happen.
Hopefully the debates can light some fire under things when they come.