Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday May 18, 2022
Conservative Party leadership race divides along Harper, Mulroney lines
Stephen Harper and Brian Mulroney are at war again over the future of the Conservative Party.
While neither former prime minister has said so publicly, everyone knows Mr. Harper opposes the efforts of former Quebec premier Jean Charest to become Conservative leader, while Mr. Mulroney is a Charest supporter.
Mr. Harper speaks to a conservatism that supports lower taxes and balanced budgets, that places a lower priority on fighting climate change than on developing oil and gas. As leader, he paid careful attention to the needs of Western voters.
Mr. Mulroney’s supporters place a stronger emphasis on environmental issues and are less dogmatic on taxes and deficits. As leader, Mr. Mulroney paid careful attention to the needs of Quebec.
Mr. Harper and Mr. Mulroney have been battling each other, with the occasional armistice, since the 1980s: over the creation of the Reform Party, the 1993 election that practically destroyed the Progressive Conservatives and saw Reform storm into Parliament, the creation of the Canadian Alliance, and the merger of the Alliance with the PCs into the Conservative Party, which Mr. Harper engineered.
Mr. Mulroney worked in the background to help bring about that merger. But he and Mr. Harper became estranged and remain estranged to this day.
Mr. Harper, as prime minister, clashed with Mr. Charest as Quebec premier. Mr. Charest takes a pragmatic, centrist, flexible approach to politics that Mr. Harper considers Red Toryism, or Liberal Lite.
But many Canadian voters like leaders who take a pragmatic, centrist, flexible approach to politics. (Truth be told, on most days that is how Mr. Harper governed.) It is easy to imagine Mr. Charest doing well in the suburban ridings surrounding Toronto and Vancouver that invariably decide the outcome of elections.
Conservative leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre, in contrast, is combative, ideological and populist: He cheered on the truckers and their supporters who occupied downtown Ottawa. He is given to simplistic nostrums on such issues as inflation and taxation.
He is also highly intelligent and politically savvy. Red Tories may have no time for him, but red-meat Tories like him fine. And he grasps the social-media component of politicking in a way Mr. Charest clearly does not. (The Globe & Mail)