Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday May 27, 2017
Conservatives return to the scene of Stephen Harper’s last stand to pick a new leader
As noted by at least one scribe with a long memory, when Conservatives last gathered at the Toronto Congress Centre — a convention hall in north Etobicoke, down the road from Pearson airport — it was for a notable rally on the second-last day of the party’s ill-fated 2015 campaign.
What that evening seemed to present was a portrait of a party down to its last resorts. Stephen Harper, a man otherwise determined to be seen as a serious person, was campaigning in the company of Rob and Doug Ford and delivering a stump speech that relied on cash-register sound effects.
And two days after that rally with the Ford brothers, the Conservatives were reduced to 99 seats. Nearly all the ridings in the vicinity of the congress centre went to the Liberals, with Conservative incumbents falling across the crucial Ontario suburbs of Etobicoke, Brampton, Mississauga and Oakville.
The 2015 campaign precipitated Harper’s resignation. But the year-long campaign to replace him has not quite amounted to a repudiation of his time in office. And the return of Conservatives to Etobicoke this weekend, this time to crown Harper’s successor, offers an opportunity to measure what has changed, and what hasn’t.
What will assuredly change is the face of the party. By sometime Saturday night, the Conservative Party that was reconstituted after the schism of the 1990s will have its second leader.
Each of the 13 candidates also offers some kind of change from the Harper era. Maxime Bernier, for instance, wears nicer suits. Erin O’Toole is a military man. Andrew Scheer promises to be friendlier.
But as Michael Chong has learned in suggesting that the Conservatives might get on side with pricing carbon emissions, there are limits to how much change they are interested in entertaining right now. Or at least what kind of change. (Continued: CBC)