Crawl Across the Ocean

Monday, February 28, 2005

A Short Walk in the Mud

I have to admit I was a bit puzzled by Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper's reaction to the budget last week, and I thought that Warren Kinsella was rightly critical of his performance (in his feb 24 post). More generally, ever since the last election, I haven't really gotten the feeling that Harper's heart is really in the battle to form the next government.

Despite widespread fatigue with Liberal government, the ongoing sponsorship scandal, the humourous yet disturbing mismanagement of the Missile Defence file, the inability to actually come up with a plan on Kyoto and the media predictably going straight from their 'Martin can do no wrong' storyline to their 'Martin can do no right' storyline, the Conservative party is failing to make much of an impact with voters and are still polling below the combined vote of the Progressive Conservative and Reform parties back when they were still separate parties.

Rather than focusing on reducing Federal intrusion in Provincial affairs and putting tax cuts ahead of spending, the Conservatives seem to be bogged down in an attempt to convince minority voters to vote for them because they are willing (just in this one case?) to deny rights to one particular minority the other minorities don't like.

But besides all this, there's times when I see Harper in a scrum with reporters and he just has this look in this eye, and I can't help but feel that he's thinking, "If these dumbass journalists ask one more ignorant question which shows how little they know what their talking about, I'm going to make what Chrétien did to that protester look like a friendly greeting." Not that I don't sympathize sometimes, but that kind of thing comes with the territory, being a leader of a federal party and all.

And it's not just me thinking this and wondering, "Has anyone seen Stephen Harper?"

You put it all together, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Harper take a short walk in the mud1 some time in the next year or two and announce that he is stepping down as leader of the Conservative party.

Which brings me to the reason I started writing this post in the first place, to speculate on a potential replacement for Harper. Now, Calgary Grit has a good post up handicapping potential replacements for liberal leader Paul Martin, but I thought that, rather than start with the prominent people, I would start with the qualities necessary for the job, and see if it brought anyone to mind. This way we won't be limiting ourselves to the obvious choices.

So what qualities would a good Conservative party leader have? (I'm trying to see this from the perspective of the typical Conservative voter which may be a bit of a stretch, but I'll do my best)

1. Ambition: One of the biggest problems with Harper's leadership has been the sense that he doesn't have the drive to do what's necessary to make the Conservatives into a party which can take power. A new leader would have to be someone who has shown a clear desire to set Canadian policy and to have clear ideas on what that policy should be - i.e. someone who really wants to run the country.

2. Improve relations with the U.S.: Given our strong economic and political ties with the Americans, it is essential that the new leader avoid getting dad angryimprove relations with our supremely powerful neighbours.

3. Proven dedication to Conservative priorities: For example, tax cuts and military spending (and not being happy with a budget which puts these off for years).

4. High Profile: While a party can succeed with a relative unknown at the helm, it would be advantageous to have someone already familiar to Canadians, especially to help with the trust factor which the Conservatives are struggling with.

So who fits these criteria? Stronach? Mackay? Lord? No, the answer is clearly: Paul Cellucci.

The timing is perfect since Cellucci is just coming to the end of his term as American ambassador to Canada. True, Cellucci is said to have a lucrative private gig set up but do we really think that the offer to become Prime Minister of Canada wouldn't lure him back into politics? If any public figure has shown an ambition to set Canadian policy over the last few years it has been Cellucci. Whether issuing vague warnings about our drug policies or rhetorically styling himself as the arbiter of Canadian sovereignty, he's probably made more headlines criticizing the government's actions than Harper has and Harper is the leader of the official opposition.

As for improving relations with the U.S., what could be better than having their former ambassador to us as our PM? Who could do a better job crafting Canadian policy to meet with the approval of the Bush administration than a man specifically appointed by them to manage our country?

In a similar vein, who could doubt the commitment to tax cuts and military spending of someone appointed by George Bush? And he not only has a significant public profile here in Canada, he's reasonably well known in the U.S. as well.

As an added bonus, Conservatives already like to dismiss any criticism of their policies as just being knee jerk anti-Americanism and that argument would be that much more effective with Cellucci officially running the party.

And finally, think of it from Cellucci's perspective. Is there a more time-honoured path to taking over the reins of an empire than by successfully running one of its outer provinces? I think not.

Sure, there may be some technical issues (e.g. citizenship) to overcome, but from where I stand it's all coming together for Cellucci in 2006.

1 Given 20 years of global warming and the difference in political tenure between Trudeau and Harper, I figure a long walk in the snow translates into a short walk in the mud.

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  • God knows the Tories can't do worse than Harper. How can they not be rising in the polls with the Liberals enduring a dragged-out inquiry, embarrassing labels being stuck on Martin ("Dithers") and a fairly uninspired budget. I find it hard to believe he's really trying.

    By the way, I sent you an e-mail recently. Did you have a chance to look at it?

    By Blogger Timmy the G, at 7:01 PM  

  • Hah! This is terrific.

    By Blogger Jon Dursi, at 7:38 PM  

  • Timmy - email received. I think the budget worked to the Liberals advantage but otherwise I agree. I believe the Conservative slogan for the next election will be:

    "Vote Conservative: We Dare You."
    Jonathan - thanks.

    By Blogger Declan, at 11:06 PM  

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