A miss­ing can­di­date

Cape Breton Post - - Editorial -

In just over two weeks, the Con­ser­va­tive Party of Canada will se­lect a new leader. The per­son who should be elected, and with the best chance to de­feat Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau, is not on the bal­lot. It isn’t Kevin O’Leary.

The baker’s dozen list of can­di­dates is con­fus­ing. There are ac­tu­ally 14 can­di­dates since O’Leary with­drew from the race too late to have his name deleted. It’s a ranked bal­lot, where mem­bers can se­lect up to 10 can­di­dates in or­der of pref­er­ence. Points by rid­ings are more im­por­tant than votes cast.

At­lantic Cana­di­ans face some of the tough­est choices. There is no na­tive son or daugh­ter in the race. The clos­est is Lisa Raitt, who was born in Syd­ney but moved to On­tario and rep­re­sents the fed­eral rid­ing of Mil­ton. She has at­tracted sup­port from a num­ber of key Nova Sco­tia Tories, es­pe­cially from Cape Bre­ton. Kel­lie Leitch re­cently dis­cov­ered that her fam­ily has con­nec­tions among Con­way home­steads around Souris, P.E.I.

The de­par­ture of O’Leary, who de­cided he couldn’t win a fed­eral elec­tion be­cause he couldn’t speak French, has thrown the race wide open.

In a crowded field, it’s often nec­es­sary to take rad­i­cal po­si­tions to gain at­ten­tion, head­lines and sound bytes. Still, it’s un­set­tling to see so many can­di­dates will­ing to brush aside lim­its on a prime min­is­ter’s power and threaten per­sonal rights by in­vok­ing the notwith­stand­ing clause to over­ride the Cana­dian Char­ter of Rights and Free­dom.

Maxime Bernier wants to send asy­lum seek­ers home with­out a hear­ing. Steven Blaney wants to over­ride the char­ter to ban the niqab at cit­i­zen­ship hear­ings; Erin O’Toole and Brad Trost want to over­ride re­cent Supreme Court de­ci­sions; while Raitt would use the clause to en­sure the En­ergy East oil pipe­line is built to Saint John over any First Na­tions’ op­po­si­tion.

Leitch wants im­mi­gra­tion rules tight­ened and new­com­ers to pass a Cana­dian val­ues test. Pierre Lemieux is openly pro-life and wants to curb abor­tion rights.

Many of those po­si­tions have a pop­ulist ap­peal but de­value our char­ter rights.

The lead­ers – at least in terms of money raised - are Bernier, Leitch, O’Toole and An­drew Scheer. But a ranked bal­lot could thrust a dark horse into a pos­si­ble fron­trun­ner. It sup­ports the anal­y­sis that this race is wide open.

And the big­gest dis­ap­point­ment in this whole lead­er­ship race is the ab­sence of Rona Am­brose – the most pop­u­lar and com­pe­tent Con­ser­va­tive in the coun­try to­day.

She said she wouldn’t be a can­di­date when she ac­cepted the in­terim role in Novem­ber 2015. She let her fi­nal win­dow close last Novem­ber when she didn’t re­sign to be­come el­i­gi­ble to seek the party lead­er­ship.

Am­brose poses tough ques­tions and holds the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment to task with­out dis­parag­ing the na­tion or her Com­mons col­leagues. She is a skilled de­bater and could de­feat Trudeau.

The fate­ful de­ci­sion by Am­brose is one of the great missed op­por­tu­ni­ties in the his­tory of Cana­dian pol­i­tics.


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