The Conservative Party has some major soul-searching to do as it regroups and potentially re-invents itself ahead of the next federal election in 2019, says The West Block’s panel of experts.
The field of possible contenders to permanently replace Stephen Harper as party leader is widening by the week, with Lisa Raitt, Kellie Leitch, Maxime Bernier and Tony Clement all likely in the running.
The final choice may be very reflective of the party’s overall political trajectory in the coming years, said the Ottawa Citizen’s Mark Kennedy. And that, in turn, could depend on how the Canadian electoral system itself changes under the Liberal government.
“If we move towards a system of ranked balloting where, in the next election, Canadians get to also put on their ballot their second choice, that’s a scenario in which the Tories would be wise to become Tories again,” said Kennedy.
“In other words, Progressive Conservatives. Because if they stay hard-right, there are fewer people that are going to look to them as their second choice.”
Someone like former cabinet minister Peter MacKay would become a more obvious leadership pick for a Conservative Party veering closer to the centre of the political spectrum, said the Toronto Star’s Susan Delacourt. If the party stays to the right, Jason Kenney becomes far more plausible.
“This is going to get wonky,” Delacourt predicted.
And then there are the wild cards. Someone like businessman Kevin O’Leary, who began hinting at a possible run earlier this week, is unlikely to make the cut, Kennedy speculated.
“He has a bombastic approach on-air to getting exposure for himself,” he noted. “He will quickly learn if he decides to go into politics, that to be successful, you actually have to get people around you to follow you, to believe in you, and you have to work with people. If you want to be a leader, that’s a big part of the job.”
Delacourt was even less optimistic about O’Leary’s chances.
“I don’t mind having him around for entertainment, as long as nobody takes him seriously.”
Watch the full panel discussion above.