Federal Tory delegates hope Wall considers move
HE MAY BE THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN SAVE THE FEDERAL TORIES
“I’m not running federally,” insisted re-elected Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall in his post-victory press conference before the question was even posed.
He said he doesn’t know what he’ll be doing in four years, but “I ran for the term.” However, circumstances change. One former Conservative staffer remembers working in Ottawa in 1998, when federal Progressive Conservative leader Jean Charest said he would never leave the capital to become Quebec Liberal party leader and take on the Parti Québécois.
As we know, Charest eventually buckled to the public and political pressure to respond to the call for a strong federalist leader in Quebec City.
The suggestion among a number of influential Conservatives is that now that the Saskatchewan election is out of the way, there will be intense pressure placed upon the premier to toss his hat in the ring for the 2017 leadership vote.
An informal Draft Wall campaign has formed. It will tell him that there is a team ready to run his bid, that money is available and that research among delegates suggests he is seen as the only candidate who can save Canada from prolonged Liberal rule. But in this case, the goal is not just save the country, but to salvage the Conservative coalition.
The mission, should Wall choose to accept it, is to defeat the telegenic scion of a political dynasty that many true-blue Conservatives consider an abomination — I’m talking, of course, about former justice minister Peter MacKay.
The old schisms in the party run deep, even if Stephen Harper was successful at pacifying the warring tribes. There is a groundswell of opinion among what might be considered the party establishment that the day after MacKay wins the leadership, the party would split.
Hence the enthusiasm to recruit Wall, despite his reluctance and his apparent inability to speak French.
HE JUST NEEDS TO LEARN ENOUGH PHONETIC FRENCH TO GET THROUGH TWO DEBATES.
The suggestion is that, if the Draft Wall campaign fails, Jason Kenney could be persuaded to run, to avoid a Progressive Conservative coronation, in a race dominated by such perceived Red Tories as MacKay, Lisa Raitt, Kellie Leitch and Michael Chong.
Should Kenney also demur, there is one more name being touted as someone who could defeat MacKay — Stephen Joseph Harper.
The former prime minister’s return is being mooted by serious people, in a political resurrection that would echo that of the current prime minister’s father.
“No other candidate could defeat him in the leadership of our party,” said one respected senior Conservative. “It’s the ‘break glass in case of emergency’ option.”
The lure for the former prime minister would be to protect the legacy of a durable Conservative coalition that might be threatened under a leader whose blue credentials were questioned by many of the rank and file.
“The math changes when people start to think the whole experiment is at risk — when we start looking down the barrel of a Peter MacKay leadership,” said the insider.
The contest is in its nascent stages. Leitch and Maxime Bernier will be first to break cover, presenting their papers to the party later this week. Both have signed up more than 300 members across 30 ridings in seven provinces.
Bernier has an intriguing libertarian pitch based on individual freedom, personal responsibility, fairness for taxpayers and respect for provincial jurisdictions.
Tony Clement says he is encouraged by the feedback he is getting for his “potential candidacy.”
But, if you were handicapping the race, all three would be offered long odds at this early stage.
As for the over-caffeinated speculation about reality TV star Kevin O’Leary, most party insiders suggest if his campaign were a business, it would be Bre-X Minerals — the infamous Canadian mining scam where the chief geologist fell out of a helicopter.
“I don’t know anyone who thinks O’Leary is getting in,” said one senior party figure.
Meanwhile, Wall continues to deny his divinity, even as his disciples become ever more feverish. It’s like the scene in Life of Brian, where the eponymous hero says he’s no Messiah. “I say you are Lord, and I should know, I’ve followed a few,” replies a devotee.
“He’s not just a leadership candidate, he’s a premier,” says one Wall advocate. “He just needs to learn enough phonetic French to get him through two debates.”
The Saskatchewan premier is a good candidate — charismatic, smart and an excellent speaker. But it might be a little more complicated than that to beat Justin Trudeau.
Then again, for a number of Conservatives, that is a secondary consideration.