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Peter MacKay's critics say the main reason he should not be Conservative leader is that he is not that conservative.
Conservative incumbent Pierre Poilievre hugs his wife Anaida after holding onto his seat in the Carleton riding in Ottawa in the 2019 federal election.
Conservatives are often concerned about the unintended consequences arising from tight regulations. It seems the rigid rules governing their own leadership campaign may be having some unexpected results.
Pierre Poilievre is the third prospective candidate in three days to drop a bombshell announcement around supper-time, withdrawing from a race in which he was considered one of the front-runners.
The party imposed strict financial and membership requirements on prospective candidates to ensure there is no repeat of the 2017 race, where there were 13 names on the first ballot.
But the need to garner 3,000 signatures from 30 ridings in seven provinces, not to mention an entry fee of $300,000, means candidates with a real prospect of winning are becoming rarer than Alberta Liberals.
In a statement, Poilievre said he did not realize how hard a leadership bid would be on his family and that his heart is not fully engaged in the leadership race.
Whatever the real reason for the Carleton MP pulling out, it’s not that. He was fully aware of the potential cost on his family time when he started pulling together a team that included former cabinet minister John Baird and ex-Conservative campaign manager, Jenni Byrne.
Discussing his exit with smart, veteran Ottawa types, three possible explanations were posited – one, a brewing scandal; two, making way for Stephen Harper; or, three, a recognition that the money and support was just not there to produce a winning campaign.
The third option seems to me the most plausible – Byrne would have sniffed out a scandal early in the process and that would have been that.
Harper is like T.S. Eliot’s Macavity, the Mystery Cat – suspected of all kinds of villainy but never found at the scene of the crime. His entry remains possible but improbable, like reports of raining frogs.
That leaves the likelihood that Poilievre’s campaign team was finding it harder to secure money and endorsements than anticipated.
At the start of this week, there was the prospect that Poilievre would be joined in the top tier of candidates by former Quebec premier Jean Charest and the party’s ex-interim leader, Rona Ambrose.
Now they are all out.
It’s always dangerous to talk about inevitability in politics
There is a sense among many Conservatives that the race may turn into a coronation for Peter MacKay, although Erin O’Toole may have something to say about that.
Yet even he may feel pressure to stand down. Colin Carrie, the Conservative MP for Oshawa, is the latest caucus member who supported O’Toole last time to come out in support of MacKay as the best person to “unify, modernize and strengthen” the party. Another of MacKay’s former colleagues, Pierre Paul-Hus, came out Thursday to endorse him – support that may prove crucial in the Quebec City area.
It’s always dangerous to talk about inevitability in politics. It’s as well we are approaching the end of the week – there’s only one day left for declared or prospective candidates to pull out at 5pm, although there’s always next week.
But it does seem to be MacKay’s time to claim the crown. It’s certainly his to lose now.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020