The federal Conservative leadership race has already started
When a politician like Peter MacKay shows up on the cover of Hello! Canada, it makes me suspicious that some spin doctors may have been busy in the backrooms making it happen.
Similarly, when Industry Minister James Moore is making the rounds in the media to talk about how he's on the side of consumers—and not just some giant American telecommunications company—this doesn't occur by accident.
I take these unrelated events as signs that the contest to succeed Stephen Harper atop the Conservative Party is underway.
A Harper favourite, Jason Kenney, was given the early lead when he was first appointed as a parliamentary secretary to the prime minister. This was for the primary purpose of ethnic outreach.
Kenney did that job so well that Harper appointed him as the citizenship and immigration minister, where he could hand out cheques and schmooze at dinners across the country, furthering his leadership ambitions.
MacKay was left to deal with the dreadful F-35 fighter jet scandal as the minister of defence. He was also hurt by news reports about his costly hotel rooms abroad, which were arranged by the host countries.
And Moore, considered some to be a bit too pink for the old Reformers in the party, oversaw the Ministry of Canadian Heritage. There, he became more closely associated with the cultural elites that many Conservatives despise.
If Harper wanted to undercut MacKay and Moore out of the gates, he couldn't have done a better job.
But in the prime minister's recent cabinet shuffle, Harper levelled the playing field somewhat in advance of the race to replace him.
MacKay became the minister of justice, which offers a bit of gravitas and enables him to pander to those Conservatives who want to lock up anyone who smokes a joint.
Moore became the industry minister, where he's fashioning a new image as a champion of consumers. Not long ago, he married his girlfriend, Courtney Payne, which will probably make him more appealing to the family-values wingnuts in the Conservative fold.
And Kenney was able to drop the hot-potato citizenship and immigration portfolio. He's now the minister of employment and social development, where he might be able to shed the impression that he's a rabid right winger.
It's worth noting that a Kenney ally, rookie MP Chris Alexander, became the new minister of citizenship and immigration.
That enabled Kenney to attach his name to Alexander's statement celebrating Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the fast of Ramadan for Muslims.
So you see, Kenney is still able to practise ethnic outreach with the use of the ministry's resources. Remarkably, he can to do this without being attached to negative decisions concerning deportations and crackdowns on family reunification.
And Alexander can continue to recruit support for Kenney's leadership ambitions once Harper decides to leave office (or if he's voted out).
A fourth potential candidate to replace Harper, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, is more of a longshot because he hasn't demonstrated the same level of interest in rallying his own base of support.
And a fifth, former environment minister Jim Prentice, will probably be too forgotten and too far out of the political loop by the time Harper checks out.
For these reasons, I'm predicting that Kenney will become the next leader of the Conservatives, notwithstanding the recent publicity blitz by MacKay and Moore.
Kenney is a bachelor, but that never stopped Mackenzie King, who was the longest-serving prime minister in Canadian history. Nor did it impede Pierre Trudeau.