The Conservative leadership race, after Peter MacKay

With Peter MacKay on the sidelines, the Conservative leadership field is a wide-open desert expanse

Kevin O'Leary, Kellie Leitch, Brad Trost in a Conservative leadership race minus Peter MacKay

Kevin O’Leary is interviewing Tory leadership candidates in a quest to find one worthy of endorsement. (Illustration by Sarah McKinnon and Richard Redditt.)

So it turns out Peter MacKay won’t be running for the Conservative leadership. That’s a shame, because he would have entered the race with certain advantages over the other candidates. For instance, some Canadians have heard of him.

MacKay could have quietly let it be known he was sitting out the race for family-based reasons. Instead, he issued a lengthy statement. Hundreds upon hundreds of words were put to the task of cushioning the blow for the many that Peter imagined to be heartbroken by the news.

It wasn’t enough. Like me, I’m sure you all took the rest of the day off and imagined a montage of never-to-be MacKay campaign high points set to that wistful Green Day song.

The best part of MacKay’s statement? “I feel it is time to decide, so as not to negatively impact others.” Translation: “I could have kicked all your asses — for I am the Impactor of Others! Marvel at the theoretical strength of my non-existent candidacy!”

Peter MacKay on the sidelines means more Kellie Leitch in the headlines. The Ontario MP was last seen in the 2015 election calling for a tip line so we could squeal on the “barbaric cultural practices” of our neighbours. (The Conservatives lost, of course, and the tip line was never established—so I just call Leitch personally to complain when my neighbour Andrés plays lawn darts with his shirt off.)

Leitch now wants the government to screen potential immigrants and refugees for their views on “Canadian values.” In other words, our country officially has its own off-brand Trump—most of the intolerance with only a fraction of the charisma.

How would Leitch’s plan work? No one knows. What is a genuine Canadian value? Equality? Flannel, maybe? Some parents still spank their kids—do they pass the values test? Last week I saw a guy wearing wool socks and Top-siders at the beach. Not in Kellie Leitch’s Canada, you don’t, leg terrorist.

Leitch is very good at making news. She recently described the Liberals as being caught up in “their shirtless selfie delirium.” She liked this line so much she said it to reporters three times in a single scrum. Guys, are you writing down my spontaneous zinger?? 

Get used to it. To stay in the spotlight, Leitch will need to keep saying provocative things. But should she vow to criminalize veganism before or after she proposes a ban on European players on Canadian NHL teams?

Either way, most observers don’t think Leitch has a legit chance. But it’s worth noting she isn’t the most retrograde candidate in the leadership field. Saskatchewan MP Brad Trost, who recently joined the race, is obsessively focused on gay marriage. (He doesn’t care for it.) On his website, Trost touts himself as “100 per cent conservative.” One hundred per cent—he’s purebred! This means there is literally no aspect of Trost that is not conservative. His hairstyle, his sartorial preferences, his love-making techniques—this guy has declared himself cautious and traditional in every possible sense.

Trost even chose to launch his campaign while on vacation with his family—in Asia. Most candidates attend their own campaign launch, but not Brad Trost. He’s too conservative to risk it.

Meanwhile, another Saskatchewan MP—Andrew Scheer—has stepped down as party House leader to “explore” a leadership run. This is an age-old tactic. At the risk of spoiling the outcome, very few explorations ever seem to end with the politician discovering, “I am woefully unqualified.”

Speaking of which: The former eminence grouch of Dragons’ Den recently said he continues to “interview” leadership contenders in a quest to find one worthy of his priceless endorsement. Otherwise, Kevin O’Leary may reluctantly (wink) be forced (wink wink) against his will (wink with the other eye because the first one is tired now) to run for the leadership himself.

Hasn’t O’Leary been doing these interviews for months? Why are they taking so long? He’s probably tricking candidates into bringing over a coffee cake and spilling their strategies so he can ultimately turn on them, shouting, “You’ve just been Dragon Denned!” (In my imagination, O’Leary has trouble coming up with catchphrases.) Whatever is going on, I’m starting to wonder if maybe Kevin O’Leary likes being the focus of attention.

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