The federal Conservative leadership race has already started

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      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.


      We're now using Facebook for comments.



      Aug 17, 2013 at 1:02pm

      Harper is stepping aside?

      James G

      Aug 17, 2013 at 1:39pm

      Although we do not know his federal party preference, I think the poll is incomplete without the name Naheed Nenshi.


      Aug 17, 2013 at 3:12pm

      James: Nenshi is non-white, Muslim, socially progressive, and has stood up to “conservative” special-interest groups such as the Manning Centre while probing possible violations of electoral laws. Do you really think there would be a place for him in today's Conservative Party?


      Aug 17, 2013 at 3:31pm

      Isn't it about time somebody considered desertification of the Conservative Party. Every election there are problems. In and out, overspending, misreporting, robo-calls. We've had helicopter MacKay, gazebo Tony, Bev 'not' Oda,... ... and now ethical issues in both the Prime Minister's Office and Party HQ relating to potential fraud. Also, the first Contempt of Parliament ruling in Commonwealth history, and Cadman Affair.

      Perhaps there is more truth than error in this John Baird clip from April 2006.

      Quinn M

      Aug 17, 2013 at 3:58pm

      If Naheed Nenshi were to run for a seat in the House of Commons, my guess is he would stand as an independent, or if not that, then as a Liberal.

      Won Hung Lo

      Aug 17, 2013 at 4:27pm

      Canada is truly a land of opportunity. The fact that a joke like MacKay can become this country's Minister of Justice. Better as poster boy for a laxative.

      Just sayin

      Aug 17, 2013 at 6:29pm

      I'm more intrigued by his wife, it's all a little too perfect. Go look her up, you'll be surprised by her skills, training and background...


      Aug 17, 2013 at 7:44pm

      @James G: Naheed Nenshi is a well known Alberta Liberal, if you have the guts to call yourself a Lib in any capacity in Alberta and win, then there is no question of running for the Reform/Conservative leadership.

      James G

      Aug 17, 2013 at 8:27pm

      No-one can say when a post-Harper Conservative Party will be in search of a new leader. We therefore can't project what such a reinvention would look like. I am familiar with what Mayor Nenshi means in Calgary and of that cities growing political weight in both Canada and in the Conservative Party. Provincially, he has considerable influence inside the Alberta P.C.s. Given what I see as an increasing confluence of opinion caused by international financial and environmental factors. Liberals would have nothing to prove nor gain by nominating Nenshi. Conservatives, if given a term out of office could resurrect the Diefenbaker gambit of going with an outsider and at the same time complete the outreach project to new Canadians.

      Quinn M

      Aug 17, 2013 at 11:39pm

      @ Also, call me crazy, but I think if Harper leaves before the next election, Preston Manning would be a fantastic leader for the party. As a grassroots, environmentalist fiscal conservative he could really turn the Conservatives image around.