Do Conservatives want to be in politics or government? Party stalwarts sound off on leadership

Click to play video: 'Energy, economy central to maintaining Conservative coalition: Panel'
Energy, economy central to maintaining Conservative coalition: Panel
WATCH: Energy, economy central to maintaining Conservative coalition: Panel – Apr 24, 2022

The next leader of the Conservative Party of Canada needs a vision to take the party — and the country — forward through turbulent economic and geopolitical times, according to two conservative stalwarts.

Speaking to West Block guest host David Akin, former Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said whoever ends up the next Conservative leader needs to focus on the economy “in 2025 and beyond.”

“The economy is going to be the number one issue, the economy that individual Canadians face in their household in terms of budget terms, and just Canada’s overall economic health,” Wall said in an interview.

“I think there is clarity in that for Conservatives, and I think whoever comes out of this leadership campaign will find it easier to unite the party if they remember the fact that the economy, as James Carville reminded Bill Clinton, it is the economy, stupid. And I think it will be for the next number of years.”

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That message of the need to unify the Conservative party’s disparate camps was echoed by James Moore, a former Harper-era cabinet minister from B.C.

Click to play video: 'Can Pierre Poilievre’s populist pitch for Conservative Party Leadership translate to GTA gains?'
Can Pierre Poilievre’s populist pitch for Conservative Party Leadership translate to GTA gains?

“The Conservative party needs to come out of this race, I think, more unified than all of its constituent parts. So it’s one thing in the race to have some division and diversity and push and pull and people disagreeing — all that stuff is good, and it’s important for the party to hash out differences and disagreements,” Moore said.

“But at the end of the day, if all these folks come together and they are larger and stronger, more efficient, more effective, better communicators and come together as a team, I think the Conservative party in this campaign will be in a phenomenal position to offer Canadians the opportunity to be the next government of this country.”

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In both the 2019 and 2021 elections, the Conservatives managed to win the popular vote. But in Canada’s first-past-the-post system, the party’s strong regional presence in Alberta and Saskatchewan does not translate into enough seats to win government.

To put it another way, the party can take 60 per cent plus in the Prairies without having an opportunity to craft policy.

Different Conservative leaders have tried to address that problem in different ways — Andrew Scheer by trying to put a friendlier face on Stephen Harper’s policies, Erin O’Toole by tacking to the political centre on issues like the carbon tax. Neither were successful.

“If you look at the fact that no prime minister in Canadian history has ever won four in a row, it seems like Justin Trudeau is on the back nine of his time as prime minister of Canada,” Moore said.

“The next election, certainly after this (support) deal (between the NDP and Liberals), looks very much like a change campaign where the Conservatives will be in a position to be seriously considered as the next government of the country.”

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As of Sunday morning, the Conservative party was recognizing eight candidates for the leadership — Pierre Poilievre, Patrick Brown, Leslyn Lewis, Jean Charest, Scott Aitchison, Marc Dalton, Roman Baber and Leona Alleslev. Candidates have until the end of the month to fork over the full $300,000 entrance fee, and until June 2 to sign up members to support them in the race.

The next Conservative leader is scheduled to be selected on Sept. 10.

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