By Kristy Koehler, February 7 2020—
I had high hopes for Peter MacKay when he called out Andrew Scheer for the “stinking albatross around his neck” that was his social conservatism.
MacKay though, seems to have picked up an avian necklace of his own in the form of a scattered, slapdash campaign that’s trying to be all things to all people.
The Conservative Party of Canada is on the hunt for a new leader after Scheer was unable to deliver a win in the federal election. By all accounts, Scheer should have come away with the victory. Instead, he failed to connect with voters and was unable to answer simple questions about protecting the rights of all Canadians. Beholden to dairy farmers and to an imagined “base” of voters who, quite frankly, would have voted Conservative even if Scheer had managed to untie his tongue and get out from under the rug of social issues, he failed to bring any coherency to his policies. His incessant attacks on Justin Trudeau rather than a discussion of the issues and presentation of Conservative alternatives to Liberal policies frankly grew tiresome.
MacKay threw his hat in the ring for the Conservative leadership position after Scheer’s resignation and seemed the likable alternative to the former leader’s milquetoast, robotic persona. MacKay expresses a commitment to Canada’s military — despite a few scandals as Defence Minister — and he initially presented himself as the antithesis to social conservative dogma.
He hasn’t exactly come out swinging though. While he may not be suckling at the bovine teat of Big Dairy and playing duck and weave with reporters on social issues like Scheer, MacKay is pandering with platitudinal posts and desperately needs to get a handle on his social media presence. He’s “posting cringe” as the kids say, with ridiculous statements about putting “shoulder to wheel” and being “proud because Canadians make me proud.” It’s mind-numbing.
In the same virtual breath, he’s tweeted that “pride parades are important” and then praised himself as a “tough on crime architect” where he “worked to end parole for life sentences.” He’s congratulated the UK on Brexit and promised that Canada’s embassy in Israel will be located in Jerusalem. He’s cherry-picking a little from column Lib and a little from column Con with no real plan to tie it all together.
A Scheer-esque “look how much money Trudeau spends on insert-item-here” post called out the prime minister’s expenses on yoga sessions but the post stood in stark contrast to his neon-vomit, seizure-inducing video ads from days before. Who is running his Twitter feed?
Apparently, the Trudeau posts were made before MacKay could vet them and he indicated that he wasn’t very happy with them and would try to do better and be more “civil.” When asked about it by a journalist, MacKay’s PR team stepped in to shut the interview down. How’s that for civility? To his credit, MacKay conceded that the journalist was just doing her job but it’s a bit early in the ol’ campaign to start walking out of interviews. This leadership race was supposed to be a coronation for MacKay, but his PR team is stealing the jewels right out of his crown.
At this point I don’t know if MacKay is a pro-military Liberal, a gun-loving Centrist or an actual Conservative. I have yet to see a Tweet about fiscal policy. It’s great that he loves the military, but how is he going to meet Canada’s commitments to NATO? How will he get water to Indigenous communities? What is his plan to ensure Canada’s economy thrives?
He’s got some time to turn the big blue bus around but he needs to stop trying to please everyone and start talking about some issues Canadians care about. MacKay’s mangled French is also a serious problem, but that can be tackled when it becomes clear where he stands on key points. He might be experienced, capable and even likable, but his campaign is a mess.
MacKay seems to pride himself on his ability to unify and participate in “big-tent” conservatism. At this point though, that big tent is a red-and-white big top and he’s more carnival barker than national unifier. He needs to corral his cat circus campaign ASAP — before the Conservatives select another hardline SoCon for a leader whose big dead bird sinks the whole ship.
This article is part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet’s editorial board.