Conservative leadership race serves up a menu of meh

“A new Conservative leader cannot come soon enough.”

An interesting, though not entirely unsurprising, poll was released by the Angus Reid Institute on June 1, 2020.

Angus finds that two-thirds of Canadians (67%) are saying the federal government has done a good job over the past months in responding to the pandemic, and more than half approve of the Prime Minister (55%) in his work as well.

A majority in each region of the country says the federal government has handled the COVID-19 outbreak well. And, the Liberal Party of Canada now holds a six-point advantage in national vote intention. 37 per cent of Canadians say that they would support the Liberal candidate in their riding if an election were held, while 31 per cent say they would support the Conservative Party.

Further, half of Canadians (49%) say that Canada is on the right track, while 34% disagree and 17% are unsure.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s approval rating is highest in Quebec (60%) and Atlantic Canada (60%) and lowest in Alberta (35%) and Saskatchewan (31%). Trudeau’s approval is 59% in B.C.

Again, not surprising.

What I find a little surprising is that the Conservative Party continues to sit at just above 30% despite the fact that they are being led by a guy (Andrew Scheer) who is not only a lame duck, but has done his best to appear as far from compassionate as possible for those who have lost their livelihoods during this pandemic.

For example, Scheer called the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) a disincentive for people to return to work. Where all these magical jobs people are turning down are, Scheer didn’t specify. It’s simply another dog whistle. Those on CERB are lazy and taking advantage of you, the good Conservative taxpayer. Pfft, I say.

A new Conservative leader cannot come soon enough.

However, it’s a slim and not too very inspiring final four for the leadership. Peter MacKay, Leslyn Lewis, Erin O’Toole and Derek Sloan are still in the race.

MacKay and O’Toole have been around long enough for most voters to recognize their names. Derek Sloan became a bit of a mini hit this spring with his deplorable comments questioning the loyalty of Canada’s Chief Medical Officer, Theresa Tam, something he remains steadfastly unapologetic about. Seems like a nice guy.

I confess I had to Google Leslyn Lewis because I didn’t know much about her, and what I found convinced me I don’t want to know a lot more. She’s a candidate who feels gay conversation therapy is a good thing and marching in a pride parade is a bad thing. She seems nice.

But, most polls indicate it’s a two man race. A poll by Mainstreet Research in May has Peter MacKay in the lead with 40 per cent, but Erin O’Toole (34%) has a slight edge in second choice supporters.

Lewis has nine per cent support and Sloan only five, so they are not looking like major threats.

It’s the edge in second choice backers that could make this more of a dog fight. Mainstreet says that while Lewis and Sloan’s backers would mostly make the other their second choice (hardly shocking), on another vote, the majority would swing to back O’Toole.

That’s not good news for MacKay if the the vote goes past two ballots.

If you will recall, the Conservative Party was given the gift of Andrew Scheer in 2017 because the vote went to 13 ballots. It’s much the same way the Liberal Party received the gift of the incredibly vapid Stephane Dion in 2007.

The loser in the 2017 Conservative scenario was Maxime Bernier, so it could be said that the Party dodged a bullet, as Bernier was likely to take it even further from the mainstream.

Would Bernier have performed any better in the last federal election than Scheer? That’s debatable.

There does appear to be a solid 30 per centish of Canadians that will vote Conservative no matter who the leader is, while the other 70 per cent of Canadians divvy up the left leaning votes.

If that’s true, then it could follow the leader hardly matters, although one of Scheer’s biggest problems was being unable to excite that base enough to get them to the polls in big numbers.

And when you have elections that are decided on a razor’s edge such as the one in 2019, getting those voters to the polls can make a huge difference.

Will MacKay or O’Toole prove to be the lightning rod that galvanizes Canada’s Conservatives?

Magic Eight Ball says unlikely.

Carolyn Grant is editor of the Kimberley Bulletin.