It's no secret that the merger of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada and the Canadian Alliance left a bad taste in a lot of mouths, from both camps: A lot of rock-ribbed CA/Reform members had a hard time swallowing the fact that they were getting into bed with the party of Mulroney, which their entire party had come into existence to try and fight. Likewise, a lot of PC party members had more than a few qualms about becoming the centre-right flank of a party made up overwhelmingly of the old Reform Party apparatus, associating it with a regional rump protest movement, at best. There were differences in technical details of how the party should be run, how a leader should be selected, how the party constitution should be written, and (perhaps the most heated arguments) what the party's policies should be.
There has been a wrestling match going on for the heart and soul of the Conservative Party of Canada since the day it was founded. And the only thing that pushed the issue to the side was the fact that the stars aligned, Justice Gomery wrote his report, and the Tories found themselves in government - in a precarious minority situation, which called for closed-ranks party unity to be the order of the day.
That was 3 years ago.
Since that first minority government win for the Tories, they've had another kick at the cat - and ALMOST made it across the "majority government" threshold, but not quite.
We're almost certainly headed for an election within the next year - and the general consensus seems to be that the Tories will not be able to win a majority government - if, in fact, they can win at all.
A third minority win - or a defeat - would almost certainly lead to Stephen Harper deciding to step aside as leader of the Conservative Party. And at that point, leaderless and possibly out of government, the schism that's been kept mostly quiet for the past 3 years will very publicly fracture wide open, for all the world to see.
The split will be mainly along Social Policy lines, as the "2 solitudes" within the Tories are pretty similar in thier fiscal ideas (or similar enough to not fight about them) and the next party to win an election based on promises of electoral reform will be the first (sorry, Manning-ites - I'm with you, but that dog won't hunt out East, where they've got all the ballots and are disinclined to give up that power). The social moderates, who are former PC's, former far-left fringe CA members or are young enough centrists to never have been either but can't stomach the Liberals, will rally behind their choice for leader. The hard-liners, social conservatives, will look at this as a chance to "take the party back" now that they don't feel they have to pander to Eastern moderates to hold onto power, and will try to consolidate their core power base behind a like-minded leader in the Reagan Republican, social-conservative tradition.
The article Mark pointed to from the Hill Times mentions a few possible names from each side, as well as an intriguing possibility, which they mentioned right at the end.
My question to YOU, both in the poll to your right and in the comments section for this post, is this: Which of the listed possible leadership contenders do you think would have the best chance at leading the Conservative Party of Canada, however it is remade into their own image as Leader, to a majority government?
Plenty to consider, here... someone who would appeal to old PC's and soft Liberals would have a good chance at winning a General Election - but too MUCH appeal to the centrists could spell trouble if the right-wing of the CPC splits off or stays home in protest of what they perceive as "Liberal Lite" policies. Likewise, a unifying force that can keep both sides of the party together but has little charisma, or too much political baggage, will likely never win a majority government. And then, of course, there's the fact that the eventual leader is probably going to have to be able to out-debate a Harvard scholar on live television.
That said, here are your candidates, as suggested in the Hill Times piece:
- Jim Prentice (Alberta)
- Peter McKay (Nova Scotia)
- Stockwell Day (British Columbia)
- Jason Kenney (Alberta)
- Jean Charest (Quebec)
So, Nation? Let's hear it - not who you'd PREFER, but who on the list above you think, as astute political observers, would have the best chance of holding the Tories together and winning over the rest of the country.