Halifax Daily News
candidates vying for leadership
of the Canadian Progressive Conservative party. David Orchard, a
long-shot candidate, supports full representation (proportional
Handicapping the Tories
By Charles Moore
February 7, 2003
As the federal PC leadership race hits full
stride, one thing's for sure -- it doesn't lack diversity
an unexpected entry of a heavyweight like former Ontario premier
Mike Harris, the field of serious contenders for the federal
Progressive Conservative leadership is now pretty much formed, with
two Nova Scotians in the vanguard.
Peter MacKay, 36, is touted as the early front-runner. The former PC
Parliamentary House leader and justice critic, first elected in
1997, has the widest name recognition among the five declared
Son of former Mulroney cabinet minister Elmer MacKay,
erstwhile Crown attorney Peter MacKay has a keen interest in
law-and-order issues, and staunchly opposes gun control. On social
policy, he inclines to the Red Tory side of the spectrum.
found it challenging over the years to draw a clear bead on what
MacKayĺ─˘s vision is. His rhetoric runs to broad generalities. In a
recent speech he declared: ĺ─˙It is time to leave this decade of doubt
behind us and with renewed energy ... find the path to return to
government.ĺ─¨ But what path would that be?
ĺ─˙We need to be clear with
Canadians what we stand for as a party ĺ─¨ what our vision is for this
country ... It is time to return to our basic values ĺ─¨ values which
made this country great.ĺ─¨ A few hints here: ĺ─˙rewarding hard work;
celebrating innovation; treating nations with respect, especially
our relationships with our closest ally, our largest trading
partner, the United States;ĺ─¨ making Parliament ĺ─˙accountable and
democratic,ĺ─¨ making Canada ĺ─˙compete in the global market;ĺ─¨ showing
taxpeayers respect by government.
Fine words, but essentially
cliches. One wishes MacKay would step out from behind the screen of
safe platitudes and explain clearly his vision for Canada.
complaint can be made about Scott Brison, MP for Kings-Hants, who
pledges to run an ĺ─˙ideas-based campaign,ĺ─¨ and didnĺ─˘t waste time
following through. In a thinly disguised jab at MacKay, Brison
observed that ĺ─˙If we present milquetoast, mediocre, pablum policy,
we wonĺ─˘t offend anybody, but nobody will notice us, either.ĺ─¨
Befitting a former vice-president of the Toronto financial firm
Yorkton Securities, Brison says he would be an ĺ─˙entrepreneurially
focused leader,ĺ─¨ eschewing the safe middle ground, and adopting an
agenda that ĺ─˙rewards hard work and investment, instead of punishing
initiative and ambition.ĺ─¨
He wants to terminate regional
development programs like the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency,
and use the freed-up $447 million ACOA funding to make Atlantic
Canada a federal corporate tax-free zone modelled on Irelandĺ─˘s
Brison would also radically overhaul the
employment insurance system, with individual accounts from which
clients who rarely draw benefits could access funds for RRSPs or job
training; cut off corporate welfare; establish closer economic ties
with the U.S., including a ĺ─˙continental perimeterĺ─¨ joint Canada-U.S.
agreement on customs and immigration to ensure ĺ─˙unfettered access to
the U.S. market;ĺ─¨ and hammer out a new health-care deal that would
restore federal funding with no strings attached, but aelso
incorporate private health-care options to enhance consumer choice
and shorten waiting lists in the public system.
conservative platform will appeal to ĺ─˙blueĺ─¨ Tories, but his toughest
obstacle may be as the first openly gay leadership candidate in Tory
history, something more socially conservative party supporters will
likely find difficult to accept.
Saskatchewan grain farmer and
free-trade opponent David Orchard, 51, has lots of ideas too ĺ─¨ all
pretty much diametrically opposed to Brisonĺ─˘s economic and foreign
policy positions. Nobody can say the Tories donĺ─˘t welcome diversity.
Orchard is a strong environmentalist who opposes genetically
modified crops and supports the Kyoto accord. He is stridently
against economic globalization and NAFTA, and wants to move away
from raw materials export toward a more value-added economy. He
favours proportional-representation electoral reform, and says he
wants to rebuild the Canadian military, but is ĺ─˙strongly opposedĺ─¨ to
joining the Americans in a war on Iraq.
one suspects Orchard is in the wrong leadership race for a man of
his convictions. He would have fit better in the one that was
decided a couple of weeks ago.
Calgary property lawyer Jim
Prentice, 46, includes uniting the Progressive Conservative and
Canadian Alliance parties as part of his platform emphasis. Largely
unknown outside Alberta, Prentice also says Canada must reinvest in
the military, foreign service, foreign-intelligence capacity and a
foreign-aid program, and strive to be the best in the world by
taking take the lead in research and development.
He also wants ĺ─˙a
more effective and open Parliament,ĺ─¨ but offers no specifics on what
that means. Prentice has to be considered a long shot.
You have to
wonder why former Quebec MP Heward Grafftey would want to enter this
race at age 74. Perhaps the former science and technology minister
in Joe Clarkĺ─˘s short-lived 1979 government is shooting to be
Canadaĺ─˘s Ronald Reagan or even Strom Thurmond (minus the racism, of
course). Seriously, it probably has more to do with the party
needing a credible and fluently bilingual leadership candidate from
Grafftey, who has always been colourful in a quirky sort of
way, says he wants to put an end to the ĺ─˙elitismĺ─¨ in the PC party.
He professes to be ĺ─˙progressive in social policy and conservative in
ĺ─˙I want to lead a peoplesĺ─˘ party,ĺ─¨ declares
Grafftey, ĺ─˙which, after the next election, will form a peoplesĺ─˘
government ĺ─¨ a government for and of the people, not a government
for the special interests.ĺ─¨ Good luck to you, Mr. Grafftey.
Personally, at this stage of the game, I like Scott Brisonĺ─˘s
economic prescriptions a lot, but smart money probably wouldnĺ─˘t bet
against Peter MacKay.