Saturday, September 23, 2023

Paul Wells: The Conservatives are fast heading toward a big question about what kind of party they want to be—and there’s no easy answer

The race is, so far, substantially shaped by two people who aren’t currently in it: Rona Ambrose and Justin Trudeau. Ambrose, who shone as interim leader between Stephen Harper’s 2015 defeat and Andrew Scheer’s squeaker win in the 2017 leadership election, would be a presumptive favourite if she ran. If she’s preparing to throw her hat, presumably a white-brimmed Calgary Stetson, into the race she’s being good about message discipline: I’ve heard nothing to suggest she’ll trade her quiet private life for a return to politics. But neither has she said she won’t. So we wait.

Justin Trudeau raises the stakes on the whole exercise, because he spent 2019 demonstrating he’s not invincible. The assumption in 2017 was that Trudeau was a two-majority prime minister, if not more. In 2017, cutting the Liberals to a minority and picking up 26 seats would have sounded pretty good. Now that it’s happened, Conservatives are greedy. Which helps explain why Scheer was just hurried to the exits.

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