Stronach the tonic for Canada
When Belinda Stronach entered
the race to be leader of the newly merged Conservative Party
of Canada almost two months ago, she was immediately ripped
apart by the media and party stalwarts on her political inexperience,
scripted and wooden media responses, and perhaps most crucially,
her inability to speak French.
Though the media and public initially fawned over her telegenic
presence, there was a general understanding that her initial
high rating in the opinion polls would soon be bogged down
by her many political faults — despite assembling a
star campaign team.
Moreover, opponent Stephen Harper seemed to have a lock
on the leadership race thanks to name recognition, party
power-brokers and fervent voter allegiance in the West carried
over from the former Canadian Alliance, the dominant faction
of the new party. Though voters should always support any
challenge to entrenched authority (including the weak attempt
of the third candidate, Tony Clement), many at the time felt
Stronach’s well-financed campaign would do little to
change the tide so clearly in Harper’s favour.
But it soon became apparent to Conservative voters that
Stronach had more substance and political savvy than most
earlier believed. Emphasis on job creation and employee empowerment
has resonated with Canadians disaffected by the slumping
economy; mortgage and tuition tax deductibility was appreciated
by homeowners and students, and her vigorous support of same-sex
marriage — that respected the will of individual religious
institutions — gained her the support of a majority
of Canadians and religious moderates.
But what of her continued inability to speak French, so
valued by vote-rich Quebec? Even with the frenetic pace of
campaign life, she has honed her French pronunciation skills
and is able to sound off with apparent comfort. Functionality
and fluency are a few high-priced lessons away, and not a
Criss-crossing the nation and listening to the concerns
of alienated voters in the West, Quebec and the Maritimes
has exhibited Stronach’s genuine desire to ameliorate
long-standing divisions incurred over years of Liberal party
neglect. The protocol of political appeasement, so favoured
by former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and his successor,
Paul Martin, is bereft of vision and creativity.
All these are reasons why Stronach is deserving of the Conservative
helm — much more so than either Harper, who enjoys
appeasing holdovers of the Canadian Alliance, or Clement,
who enjoys appeasing nerdy high school Conservatives.
Though you may vehemently disagree with their stances visionary
conservatives Bill Davis, Brian Mulroney and Mike Harris
all support Stronach’s candidacy. And if a poll released
this past Sunday is accurate, so do a majority of Canadians.
The Acrobat Research poll gives Stronach 46 percent of Canadian
votes compared to Martin’s 37 percent, more than either
Harper or Clement head-to-head with the current prime minister.
Electability be damned.
This Saturday’s leadership vote will be prophetic
and reflective. The Conservatives can win the next federal
election and cast off negative perceptions, but a Harper
or Clement win will only perpetuate the party’s past
woes. The undeniable first-ballot choice must be Belinda