Still, the emptiness of the MacKay campaign in the early going has been a wonder to behold. “Canada is strong because Canadians make it strong,” MacKay tweeted in one of a series of social-media Zen riddles. O’Toole, a cheerful lawyer and Royal Canadian Air Force veteran who was first elected in a 2012 by-election and served briefly as Harper’s last veterans affairs minister, was left to bluster that at least he stands for more than that. He’s here to “start fighting and take Canada back,” he says, while MacKay represents “Liberal lite.”

This is the narcissism of small differences taken to new heights. MacKay and O’Toole are soft-spoken lawyers, Dalhousie grads and sons of elected politicians, with professional experience in Nova Scotia and Ontario. If you locked them for a day in separate rooms with pens and the same list of 100 issues, you’d discover that they had written identical views on 97 of them. The absurd dynamic of a leadership contest requires that each describe the other as a peril to the nation, until the day one wins and appoints the other deputy leader.

Could someone open a window? It’s getting a little close in here.


So in a party that’s obsessed with oil and gas, here’s a candidate who worked in the industry longer than some of its MPs have been alive. A candidate who had an entire career in the private sector that so many of her political lifer colleagues revere. Gladu learned a rough-and-ready French during business trips to Quebec. She is refining it in lessons and takes evident pleasure answering reporters’ questions in French. She’s only been an MP since 2015, but O’Toole had been an MP for about as long when he ran for the leadership the last time.

In the last Parliament, she briefly chaired the Commons status of women committee. “When I was chair of status of women, we studied why there are not more women in politics. Two of the main barriers are ability to fundraise and ability to network.” The main difference between this year’s Conservative leadership race and 2017’s is that candidates need to raise more money and collect more signatures. Gladu suspects that helps explain why she’s the only woman with a record in electoral politics in the race. “I was disappointed” by the rules, she said. Can she stay in? “That is the question.”