Campaigning in a time of crisis: Tory leadership candidates carry on

Conservative leadership candidate Peter MacKay greets supporters at a meet and greet event in Ottawa, on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Disclosure: I am not a member of any political party and the following is not an endorsement for the Conservative Party of Canada.

Lost in what’s been one of the busiest news cycles of the past 40 years is the leadership race for the Conservative Party of Canada.

Party members began receiving mailin ballots this week in what’s being called a two-person race between Peter MacKay and Erin O’Toole.

With a ranked ballot, MacKay and O’Toole need to be wary of the also-rans.

With Justin Trudeau’s latest ethical breach and fiscal record, party members should consider that they are most likely voting for the next prime minister.

For Conservatives on the far-right, they should be cautioned about being purists. There are just not enough of them to form government. Conservatives need a bigger tent.

MacKay has the broadest appeal inside and outside the party – and the best chance to win an election. In a recent Leger Poll, 62% of Canadians said they believe MacKay would make the best Conservative leader.

Canadians, I believe, are fiscal Conservatives, but not social Conservatives. MacKay brings fiscal discipline and modern Conservative values as a refreshing alternative for voters who are ready for change.

MacKay decisively won both sanctioned debates, with a command of the French language surpassing expectations.

Of the four hopefuls, MacKay offers the most experience leading in government. As Minister of Foreign Affairs, MacKay brought Canadians home during the 2006 Hezbollah-Israel conflict, navigating the delicate diplomatic issues at the time.

As Canada’s longest-serving wartime Minister of Defence, he met with soldiers in conflict regions of Afghanistan.

His leadership, with Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose, removed political interference in awarding shipbuilding contracts with the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy.

He can work with global leaders. He signed a bilateral agreement for military, defence and intelligence co-operation with Israel, telling the Chief of the Israeli Defence Forces, “A threat to Israel is a threat to Canada.”

He has solid support from the military, veterans and law enforcement.

As Justice Minister, he introduced the Victim’s Bill of Rights with stricter rules for the sex-offender registry and penalties for impaired drivers.

He took on cyberbullying, making it a crime to share intimate images without consent.

The Conservatives need to do better in Central Canada, where MacKay lives.

With roots in Atlantic Canada, MacKay is well-known, with election victories that include defeating Green Party leader Elizabeth May in 2008.

He offers a balanced approach to resource management and the environment, which is the backbone to our economy and doesn’t handicap the West.

He models acceptance of our diverse reality – being the first to respond to racist attacks and condemn hate speech during a recent online event.

MacKay’s wife, Nazanin Afshin-Jam, co-founder of Stop Child Executions, is a former Miss Canada and outspoken human rights activist, who brings leadership in her own right to understanding Canada’s place in the world.

MacKay understands that the media is an essential part of democracy. He does not share the view that media is the “enemy of the people” and has built positive working relationships with the press, while creating an impressive online media presence.

Many political parties have chosen an unelectable leader. When the ballots arrive in the mail, Conservatives need to ask, “Which candidate has the best chance of winning an election?”

It’s Peter MacKay.