The race to be the next leader of the Conservative party has begun, and rules and entry standards have been set higher than ever before, in an attempt to narrow the race down to very serious and competitive candidates.
One of the big themes of this leadership race is the search for a balanced conservative identity that joins each wing of the party, but also gears toward a platform that can secure a majority government. The clear fact is that the Canadian people have rejected Andrew Scheer as Prime Minister because of his failure to connect with them on a relatable level. At the end of the day, the future of the CPC must be one that looks toward the future and one which rejects any rigid attitude that makes Canadians question their rights and freedoms.
This clearly puts some reason to the fact that Peter MacKay and Erin O’Toole have really separated themselves from the pack and shown that they are moving on from a rigidly social conservative standpoint which has focussed on social and moral issues. On the other side of things, this is why some of the other leadership contestants are poised to struggle if they maintain a totally social conservative platform.
Leslyn Lewis and Derek Sloan have both highlighted their full identity as social conservatives, standing pat on their divisive views on moral issues which have plagued conservatives in the media. They’ve focused their platforms and policy ideas toward highlighting the importance of traditional family values and rejecting the expansion of sexual freedoms including homosexuality, abortion, and conversion therapy. The dilemma with such narrow policies is that they realistically isolate and neglect so many voters on such circumstantial issues.
Although social conservatives absolutely deserve a strong voice within the party, it must be realized that in order to retake the leadership of Canada, progression and modern views are needed to revamp and re-establish the party in the eyes of all Canadians. Peter MacKay is and will always be a prominent trailblazer in the conservative community. He was the last leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada and was a co-founder of today’s modern party along with former PM Stephen Harper. As well as being Stephen Harper’s right hand man for more or less his entire time in government and holding several very important cabinet portfolios, Peter MacKay is undoubtedly the frontrunner and the man to beat in this leadership race. When it comes to policies, MacKay has been quite clear that his focus is on uniting the party and focusing on economic priorities, not on debating social conservative issues. He is in pursuit of untangling the mess that Justin Trudeau has put the country in and seeks to unite the currently divided regions of Canada through dialogue, economic cooperation, and innovation.
Peter’s main challenger in this race is Erin O’Toole, who is serving his third term as MP for Durham. Before his political career, Erin spent about 12 years in the RCAF serving as a captain. Following his time in the military, he went on to graduate from law school and had success practicing corporate law in the private sector, primarily dealing with energy issues in western Canada. Being one of very few sitting conservative MPs in the GTA, Erin puts forth a platform of urbanization of the party; gearing it towards a larger central body of Canadians as opposed to focussing on the established western base of conservatives.
One of Mr. O’Toole’s more unique policies is addressing freedom of speech and tackling cancel-culture and virtue-signalling-based politics. He has put forth the notion that conservatives should have their own plans to address priorities such as climate change and aboriginal reconciliation, and not just stoop to the liberal standards of throwing money and attention at such issues. He’s highlighted the importance of a strategic approach and with conservative values in mind, to really shift our country away from the past and into a new future.
It must also be mentioned that with internal leadership elections, public endorsements hold a degree of influence to sway members, but at the very least, they put realism and backing into the campaigns of frontrunners. With this leadership race, endorsements are distributed between the two top candidates, but the distinction of quality vs. quantity of endorsements is evident and will be considered between now and voting day on August 21th.
So far, Peter MacKay has by far the most official endorsements, ranging from sitting MPs, several senators, provincial politicians, and a plethora of former politicians. Although Erin O’Toole’s endorsements don’t stack up just as high as Peter MacKay’s, but he’s attracted the vocal support of conservative kingmaker and Alberta Premier, Jason Kenney. Needless to say, Premier Kenney’s support for Erin’s candidacy really elevates his positioning to compete with Mr. MacKay in this election.
When it comes down to it, the next conservative leader needs to be able to do more than unite the party. We’ve had enough of Justin Trudeau, and our next leader has to be able to take him down and unite our country from coast to coast to coast. Our next leader needs to have the capacity to usher in a new era with a conservative government at its helm. Ultimately, they have to lead with conservative values, but be tolerant and accepting of those of others, and be willing to work across party lines to put together the Canadian nation.