August 17, 2000
The Tories after Joe - THE COMMENTARY
By Joseph Planta
VANCOUVER -- Joe Clark, as the brilliant Dalton Camp told us a number of Friday’s ago, is set to take on the riding of Kings-Hant in a by-election. Should he lose, which is a possibility since Joe is demonstrating how hapless he actually is, his leadership must be called into question. The difference between now and in 1998, when Jean Charest abandoned the Tories in favour of Grit leadership in Quebec, is that there are now suitable contenders for Tory leadership. (In 1998, if you’ll recall there were candidates like socialist David Orchard and backroom king Hugh Seagal running against Joe.)
The one man poised to win not only the leadership, but seats is Peter MacKay. He’s the darling of the Hill and folks like Barbara Yaffe and others across the nation are endorsing his assent into Tory leadership. Unlike his colleague Jim Jones, the sole small-c conservative in all of Ontario, McKay has denounced all flirtations with the Canadian Alliance.
MacKay comes from deep Tory stock. The son of former cabinet minister Elmer MacKay, who is the loyal guy who stepped aside in 1983 to unleash Brian Mulroney upon the Commons in a by-election, his loyalty was evident in his offering of his own Nova Scotia seat to the Rt. Hon. Joe, should he want a by-election. Joe refused and his balking left the Tory fortunes in the hands of MacKay and Elsie Wayne who did their best in the Commons during Question Period.
MacKay is bright, young and articulate. He was recently voted the Hill’s sexiest MP, besting Stockwell Day who received votes, even though he’s not even in the house yet. He’s working on his French, which is only evidence of a guy wanting the trappings of power.
The Tories need new blood. The biggest Tory stars currently are Joe Clark and Elsie Wayne. Mrs. Wayne, who is a great politician is in her late ‘60s and that doesn’t translate well in the celluloid swamp. MacKay is over a decade younger than Stockwell Day and if Mr. Day uses the slogan it’s time for new blood, selecting him over MacKay would be absurd against the CA analogy.
The on-going appearances of Catherine Clark, Joe Clark and Maureen McTeer’s extremely photogenic daughter, are specifically programmed to give Canadians the spin that the ageing Tories have in fact new blood injected. Brian Mulroney, who’s younger than Joe, would make the better leader, perhaps. But, how many people are willing to swallow the name Mulroney again?
I guess, the Tories have to change. The Tories need to accept the fact that the choice du jour is the Canadian Alliance for voters right-of-centre. They’ll probably end up going back to the Tories in a decade’s time, but the continued presence of Tories on the political scene will yield itself the mantle of fringe party and perhaps split the right-wing vote. If that’s the case, then God help us with another term of Liberal arrogance.
Whatever happens, look out for Peter MacKay. His star is about to rise.
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