Conservatives pick their winner; candidate from Milton not looking all that good.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

May 19, 2017



Rona Ambrose has been a credible, if not admirable, leader of Canada’s official opposition. Indeed, she has grown from her disappointing early tenure as Harper’s first environment minister. But then Harper promoted her, so she must have exceeded his expectations, doing what the boss wanted all his appointees in that job to do – reduce the role of the ministry in protecting the environment.

Rona Ambrose

Rona Ambrose, current interim Conservative leader leaving politics heading for a US Think Tank

And she’s smart enough to understand that the voters won’t stand for the kind of nastiness, as she has put it, which had characterized the Harper years. So it is unfortunate that after thirteen years in the saddle she will be changing horses, vacating her parliamentary seat and heading for more lucrative work south of the border. Or a better metaphor, she’ll be leaving the daily fish bowl in Ottawa for one of those lucrative beltway political shark tanks.

Her job as opposition leader is almost over anyway and will disappear at end of the month, once her party has chosen its new leader. Of course one could be forgiven for not knowing that a national leadership contest is underway, unless he/she is an ardent political observer, an active member of the Conservative party or a journalist. For one thing there are way too many candidates, thirteen, to seriously follow and keep track of, each with his/her own particular spin.

Then there is the thinly veiled racism that has surrounded the campaign, particularly with some ‘socially conservative’ candidates. This has had the effect of souring the entire process and reflecting unfairly on all the other contestants as a consequence. One would have hoped these prospective party leaders had learned their lesson about race-baiting from the last election.

Kevin oleary

Kevin O’Leary tries to be Canada CEO for all of 30 seconds; chickens out.

Or It could be that the star candidate, that neophyte political wannabe, Canada’s Donald Trump and self-proclaimed Mr. Wonderful, Kevin O’Leary, after trying out to be Canada CEO for all of 30 seconds, has chickened out, deserted the fold and literally left town. But our hero and super star candidate was also a first class membership recruiter, and he has asked his now disillusioned supporters to shift their allegiance to Maxime Bernier, making Max the current front runner.

Bernier is best remembered as the incompetent minister of foreign affairs who left a pile of sensitive files with a biker-chick, his gang-linked girlfriend, and had to be fired as a result. But he is a francophone which the party thinks is big plus for winning seats in Quebec. Though he has a remarkable, some would say scary, libertarian outlook on politics, threatening to destroy Canada’s agricultural supply management system, co-incidentally one on which so many Quebec farmers rely.

Bernie may be a tad extreme but is true to the conservative creed. In fact all of the candidates are preaching smaller government, promising to balance the budget and willing to cut some taxes. It’s that old fake saw about how cutting taxes for the rich will rain down riches on the poor. Since only the wealthy create jobs we need more of them to be wealthier.

All candidates want to get rid of the carbon tax, except the moderate, and maverick, Michael Chong from near-by Wellington-Halton Hills. He would cut income taxes to make the carbon one revenue neutral, à la BC. Chong, like Bernier, is a reformer though his focus is on building a better working government while Bernier sounds like he’d like to get rid of government entirely.

Conservative MP Lisa Raitt asks a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 4, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Conservative MP Lisa Raitt

There are only two women in the contest, and both from Ontario. Kellie Leitch has spent a lot of time and effort pitching better screening of immigrants to make sure they are Canada-ready when they get here. Her single issue is called ‘Canadian values’ though, try as she might, she is still having trouble explaining what that means. So the right-wing media assumes she’s talking-up racism and they love her – which is enough to turn most reasonable conservatives to consider anybody but Kellie.

The other female is former Labour and Transport Minister Lisa Raitt. A former Toronto Port CEO, she is one of the few candidates who actually held a senior executive position in the business world. And perhaps that explains her reasonable moderation for most things political. But being moderate doesn’t get you headlines, and to win a nomination for leader of a party now out of power – it helps if you get media attention.  Raitt is the MP for Milton.

The smart money is riding with Bernier come May 27th, particularly now that he has been given a big boost by Canada’s most famous dragon. But the voting is by a mail-in preferential ballot where party members get to rank their choices in the order they would like to have them, or strategically in order to keep some other candidate from winning. So the term ‘front runner’ could well be a misnomer for this box of political chocolates.

This leadership race could be described as a crap shoot, but at least it won’t be a bun fight, since it’ll all be decided by the click of a computer key. Being number one in a poll of thirteen candidates doesn’t mean being number one after the computer does its thing, adding in all the secondary choices. And it’s entirely possible that a candidate could win the election by riding to the top as the most popular second or third choice.

Ranked ballots were used before when the party elected Stephen Harper in 2004, but it was a smaller field of candidates then. Thanks in part to Mr. O’Leary there are about a quarter of a million eligible voters, though not all will vote, especially if Kevin fans decide to sit on their hands rather than vote for Mad Max. The Liberals had almost 300,000 members/supporters on their rolls but recorded less than half that number when it came time to vote at their leadership in 2013

Interestingly, the Conservatives, who have dismissed using a ranked ballot for national elections, are perfectly comfortable with exactly that process for their own leadership contest.

Bernir and girl friend

Maxime Bernier thought to be the front runner who may not have enough second choice support.

Anyway, I’m betting on front-runner Bernier to bring home the prize. And if the world worked the way it was supposed to, Kellie Leitch should finish last, given her polarizing approach to politics.

While the more moderate candidates like Michael Chong or Lisa Raitt might offer the best chance for the party to appeal beyond its ideologically-driven base, that is not going to happen. Chong’s support for the carbon tax makes him a long shot. And Raitt doesn’t sound like she really wants the job, suffering from a disorganized campaign and message. And if her recent interview with National Post columnist John Ivison is to be taken seriously, like Ambrose she may also be heading for the door.

Rivers-direct-into-camera1-173x300Ray Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington in 1995.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.     Tweet @rayzrivers


Background links:

Ambrose –   Candidates –    Nastiness –    Conservative Leadership

Leadership Voting –   Racism and the Tories –   Leitch Video –   Rebel News

Pro Bernier –   Not Bernier –   Lisa –   Lisa Could Win –   Strange Campaign

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3 comments to Conservatives pick their winner; candidate from Milton not looking all that good.

  • Stephen White

    Andrew Scheer and Erin O’Toole have, combined, over 60 caucus members supporting them. They are considered front-runners and one or both of them will likely square off against Bernier in the final balloting. Oddly, the article doesn’t even mention them or contain a single reference about their policies or platforms. Instead, the focus is on:

    (a) Bernier whose policies are exceptionally right-wing even for Conservatives;
    (b) Leitch who is fixated on tests for immigrants, and is widely considered a joke;
    (c) Raitt who has run a dismal campaign by any standards;
    (d) O’Leary who is no longer in the race; and
    (e) Chong who isn’t even a front-runner.

    Not exactly insightful reporting.

  • I'm alright now

    As to “Canadian Values”, I shared a house just over a year ago with a some interesting people; The first a failed refugee claimant living and working illegally for cash and being endlessly exploited by a parade of unscrupulous business operators,
    The other a recent Doctoral studies student from Egypt, “I am studying Chemistry, but not how to make bombs.” This was the very first thing he said to me upon meeting and mere days after the Bataclan massacre in Paris. I advised the well studied, but poorly learned Doctor to be that, “This would not be wise to repeat. Ever.”
    We had a number of conversations and invariably he would pose questions but the most troubling one was, “Why do Women seem to have or enjoy so much power here?”
    Is that Canadian enough for you Ray?

  • Many of us south of your border have long looked at Canada as a sophisticated, wise balance between the old Empire of Britain and the new Chaos of immature American political life. But in reading this I keep wondering why so many have not learned that Trickle Down economics was a fraud. And why, as appears here, there is still no distinction between big government and intrusive government. I find it hard to accept that Canadians are not wise to these points. Or, maybe I’ve been too eager to reassure myself there are actually sophisticated and competent governments somewhere.