Nation, on March 25th I set-up a poll on the Blog, and asked for your comments on a Hill Times piece about the future of the CPC and their political leadership. Recent news stories have illustrated the stark divide between the old PC faithful and the Reformers who sit in the current caucus, so this is perhaps as good a time as any to go back and take a look at your responses to the question: WHOM is the most likely candidate to hold these factions together and go on electoral victory, when Stephen is gone (not just to Europe for meetings, but for good)?
Let's handicap this race...
Jim Prentice - the winner of the poll, with 39% support. I think Prentice is a hell of a good man, an outstanding minister, and one of the most "baggage-free" of the contenders, having been a candidate for the PC leadership, but never the actual Leader. The thing that works against Prentice here is basic geography - this party has been working its tail off since the day it was formed to cast off the stereotype as a "Western, Calgary-centric" party... to name its second consecutive leader from Calgary wouldn't help their case with Central Canada. Without Central Canada, there's no majority. The odds: 7:3
Jean Charest - garnered 26% among the E.S. Nation. Charest gives the Tories their best chance of winning in Quebec - although his own numbers have been sliding there lately. The huge liability with Charest is his political baggage: A former leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, and a close associate of Brian Mulroney, Charest represents everything that the Reformers were protesting AGAINST when they formed their protest movement. He appeals to Central Canada - more than most of the contenders, anyway - but do you really see the old Reformers coming out to support someone who was very recently sitting under the banner of the Quebec Liberal Party? The odds: 3:1
Peter MacKay - scored 18% support in our poll. MacKay can be accused of peaking YEARS too soon. He's 44, and he's already been the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, and deputy leader of the CPC. He's been a part of the public consciousness for 12 years, and has remained relatively scandal-free during that time. He was seen as Harper's heir apparent, however the party's implosion in Atlantic Canada has left him a lonely Tory voice in a sea of red. His PC roots and ties to Mulroney through his father are a bit of a problem within the party, but he IS after all the man who brought the PC's to the table with the Canadian Alliance in the first place. Also, the "disrespects women" label, right or wrong, could come back to light in an election campaign, costing much-needed women's votes for the young, photogenic leader and denying him his majority win. The odds: 8:3
Jason Kenney - captured 9% support in our poll. Kenney is another young MP, although his rise has been far less rapid than that of McKay, having just hit the national spotlight recently. He's gotten good press in his current role as Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. He first won office in 1997 as a member of the Reform Party, and is seen as a stalwart fiscal and social conservative. He's an engaging individual, and very quick on his feet in a debate. Where Kenney runs into trouble is with the fact that the current leader of the CPC is the MP for the riding next door to Kenney's Calgary South-East. The Progressive Conservative faction would have a hard time accepting Kenney's social stances, and the nation as a whole hasn't seen fit yet to give a majority government to a bilingual, socially and fiscally conservative former Reform Party member from South Calgary (not even after AdScam) - and the second time is unlikely to be the charm. The odds: 6:1
Stockwell Day - Having captured 5% support in our poll, Day has proven to be a much more capable Colonel than he ever did a General. As the former leader of the Canadian Alliance, who eventually saw members of his caucus split off to sit with the PC's in protest of his leadership, Day is a classic example of a good politician whose handlers tried to package him as more than he was. Stock did very well in Alberta as the Provincial Treasurer under King Ralph, and was seen as the White Knight of the Canadian Alliance when he ran for and won their leadership. His religious views were, in my mind, unfairly mocked in the press during the 2000 Federal Election - but those stigmas tend to stick in the public consciousness. His social policies are tough to swallow for the PC's and "Blue Liberals", making a successful leadership run and subsequent majority incredibly hard to achieve, and he is clearly the most baggage-laden, deserved or not, of all of our candidates. The odds: 15:1