The Peter Principle

Unless some business leader or rock star suddenly steps forward, the major candidates for leader of the Conservative Party have all announced. I hesitate to call them losers but they certainly don’t look like winners. All of the more promising possibilities took a pass for various personal and professional reasons: Lisa Raitt, Jean Charest, Rona Ambrose, Rod Phillips and the two Mulroney siblings, Caroline and Mark.

The party is left with Peter MacKay, Erin O’Toole, and a couple of even lesser-knowns. Andrew Scheer is beginning to look pretty good. He spoke decent French, which while denigrated at the time, is better than anyone whose hat is currently in the ring. Moreover, Scheer is a proven vote-getter, scoring more votes in the 2019 election than Brian Mulroney did in his 1984 sweep. If only Scheer’s kids didn’t attend private school maybe he’d still be leader today.

How important is French? Sometimes it doesn’t matter at all. John Diefenbaker’s French was non-existent but he still managed to win two-thirds of the seats in Quebec in 1958. Jack Layton spoke French, but was that really the reason he did so well in 2011, winning fifty-nine out of seventy-five seats in Quebec? The Parti Québécois just soared from ten seats to thirty-two in the most recent election because that’s how Quebecers vote; they flow en masse from hither to yon.

The real question is, why hasn’t Peter MacKay spent time learning French during his political life? MacKay’s recent declaration of his candidacy for leader demonstrated a total inability in French. He was a Member of Parliament for almost twenty years and held several cabinet posts. During that time, a tutor could have regularly come to his office at public expense. Or what about his last five years in the private sector. No time then either? For me, MacKay’s lack of French is just another sign that he’s a non-starter for prime minister. If he can’t make plans for himself, he can’t make plans for the country.

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