Michael Harris was not impressed by the final Conservative leadership debate:
For what felt like hours, the candidates alternated between snarking at their colleagues and making grandiose claims about their own fitness for high office — the latter usually amounting to a reference to the real jobs they had before stumbling into the distorted universe of contemporary politics.
The more the hopeful talked, the more it became apparent that defeat has taught them nothing:
Former House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer offered fresh proof that his party is where dinosaurs go when they retire. With a smarmy smile pasted on his youthful face, Scheer insisted that the Conservatives were not crushed in the last election by Justin Trudeau and the Liberals because of their policies in government.
Heavens, no. It wasn’t the dysfunctional fighter jets without price-tags, the snitch line, the long string of deficits and the burgeoning national debt that put an end to a decade of Harperian bliss. Nor was it the serial lying, the politicization of the Justice department, the RCMP and just about every other department of the public service that could be brought to heel by executive intimidation.
It wasn’t a hopelessly one-sided Middle East policy, the abandonment of Canada’s veterans, the instinct to bomb first and talk never, or the personal destruction of the PMO’s enemies in trumped-up police investigations and show trials. (Luckily for the rest of us, the biggest one — the Duffy trial — went terribly wrong for the government.)
No, see … the policies were great. Canadians loved them. It was just that they weren’t explained properly, said Scheer, pointing a rhetorical finger at rivals Chris Alexander and Kellie Leitch. He, grinning Andrew, will be the Explainer-in-Chief and bring the voters back to the CPC tent, or boat, or whatever it is.
There was one exception. Michael Chong's time as a Conservative has taught him a few things:
Chong, who took on Harper as a Conservative minister and paid the price, knows that without a credible environmental policy — including a carbon tax — the Tories will never win in a city like Toronto. Now, facts may not matter much in this race, but I can’t be the only one who remembers that Stephen Harper proposed a cap-and-trade system in 2006 and 2008 — years in which the Conservatives won federal elections.
Chong has learned something. The rest of the pack have had no teachable moments.