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Conservative Leadership Contenders Need To Step Up Their Game

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The Conservative leadership race is finally attracting attention. Kevin O'Leary's entrance into the campaign has finally achieved what has been missing to date, i.e., interest.

With fourteen in the race, is it time for a few to take "a walk in the snow?" Is it time for a number of the contenders to set aside egos and throw their support behind a serious candidate (of which there are some very good ones)?

O'Leary was right on one point, why have a debate when the so called policy discussion is limited to 20 second sound bites. Debates of the size that we have seen to date virtually eliminate the need for anyone to defend their policies in detail. Once the debate thankfully comes to an end, neither the public nor party members have any further understanding of what a candidate is proposing or the implications of those policies.

conservative leadership race
Leadership candidates participate in the Conservative Party French language leadership debate, Tuesday, January 17, 2017 in Quebec City. (Photo: Jacques Boissinot/CP)

Instead it is left up to the media to offer their explanation of a candidate's position and after watching the mess in the United States, do party members really want to leave it to the media to explain Conservative policy positions?

If we use O'Leary's entrance as an example, there have been media comments that the Conservatives might elect a reality TV star. This is supposed to be a major knock on O'Leary, but if we stop and think about it, Canadians elected a drama teacher and that drama teacher is now running the country. The media seem desperate to create another Donald Trump, but they are two different individuals in two different countries.

O'Leary gets knocked for being a business man with no political experience. Canadians elected a drama teacher whose only experience was managing a classroom and whose claim to fame was his hair and his father's name. It will be policies that count and we need O'Leary, Raitt, O'Toole, Leitch, Chong, Bernier, Alexander, Scheer and Blaney to start putting them forward for both scrutiny and debate.

History has shown that more than one leadership vote has come down to who is everyone's second choice.

I have also seen mention that party members might fall into the trap of electing someone simply because they can win and beat Trudeau. One would hope they do just that as unfortunately politics is about winning. With few exceptions such as Pierre Trudeau's implementation of wage and price controls (Anti-Inflation Act 1975), coming second in an election doesn't see your policies implemented by the winner.

All of the above names have the potential to beat Trudeau and excluding O'Leary there is a lot of political experience in that group. Party members will have an opportunity to look and judge.

It is time now for all of the contenders to step up their game and show party members and the public what they stand for. It is also time to focus on constructive debate and leave the name calling and insults out of it. History has shown that more than one leadership vote has come down to who is everyone's second choice. It pays to play nice if you want to win.

Let us remember that when this leadership race is over Conservatives have to unite to work together to win in 2019; otherwise it is four more years of Justin Trudeau. Can we really afford to let that happen?

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