He can’t speak French, he views the media as either a vanity mirror or the enemy, and a rubber boot has more ideas.
So why is Peter MacKay the favourite to become the next leader of the Conservative Party of Canada?
Chaos. The truth is the CPC is a hot mess at the moment. It is desperately looking for the stability of a well-known party figure to restore order. Pierre Poilievre, Rona Ambrose, and Jean Charest didn’t want the job. That is the best thing MacKay has going for him, no serious rivals, and trouble in the CPC family.
At his official campaign launch, MacKay couldn’t even manage token French, those dreadful, memorized, stumbling mutilations of the language politicians try to pass off as fluency when in Quebec. He was roasted in Quebec papers for his illiterate assertion “J’ai sera candidate.” The Journal de Quebec responded with the headline “Good Luck Mister.”
How could a guy live and work in Ottawa for more than a decade and still not be coherent in one of the country’s two official languages?
That is a question that becomes all the more damning, because so much language-training is available to MPs and cabinet ministers in the nation’s capital.
MacKay has yesterday’s solutions to tomorrow’s problems. That hardly passes the “Greta” test, and none of it will fly with young Canadians.
MacKay is no more electable outside the semi-friendly confines of the CPC than Harper was in 2015. The party has learned nothing from consecutive electoral defeats. It continues to blame “messaging” instead of piss poor, out of touch policy. And marching in a gay pride parade one day before Conservatives pick their leader at the convention, as MacKay has said he will, looks more like optics than a change of heart.
His signature move as a Progressive Conservative was to abandon the party’s traditions, the better to embrace the Reform vision of Harper. It was not a merger so much as a surrender.
To diehard Progressive Conservatives like David Orchard, it was also treachery. In presiding over the demise of the PC party, MacKay did exactly what he promised Orchard he would not do — lead the party into merger oblivion.
As for the value of MacKay’s resume as a Harper cabinet minister, it is highly dubious. It was MacKay who named Michael Sona as the culprit in the Guelph robocalls scandal — and he did it before Sona had been formally charged. That is not normally what justice ministers do.
As minister of defence, MacKay became famous for being photographed hopping in and out of the cockpit of a fake F-35 Stealth fighter jet. He was less forthcoming with real information about this troubled aircraft, including its mind-blowing cost and chronic problems.
It took the Parliamentary Budget Office and Kevin Page to reveal that the government had monstrously lowballed the most expensive acquisition to that point in Canadian military history. And the deception had been done deliberately, ostensibly to spare Canadians from “sticker shock” if the real price were admitted.
MacKay was also part of the CPC caucus that voted unanimously not to exempt Veterans Affairs from government-wide cuts, a move that would reduce their benefits, including their medical care.
Harper wanted to balance the budget in time for the 2015 election, regardless of whether that meant ending postal delivery, closing scientific facilities or cutting services to veterans. MacKay went along.
The follies MacKay committed during his tenure as a Harper cabinet minister were sometimes funny, sometimes outrageous.