Don Martin: Raitt promises to file down hard-right edges of Harper era
Conservative MP Lisa Raitt asks a question during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Monday, Oct.3, 2016. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
Published Thursday, November 3, 2016 5:54PM EDT
For a job description that polls suggest will mean being the Official Opposition leader until at least 2023 when Liberal-weary voters finally pink-slip the Trudeau government, there's an impressively long lineup of candidates vying for the Conservative leadership.
But quantity does not equal quality.
Of the 12 entries so far, it takes a vivid imagination to see five of them as serious contenders for the keys to the leader's Stornoway residence.
And of the remaining handful, maybe three have the right stuff to challenge for the prime minister's job.
One of them is Lisa Raitt, a former top-tier cabinet minister from Ontario who served as a model of integration for progressives trying to have sway in Stephen Harper's Reform-rooted party.
She dived into a crowded field today, a race which will be difficult for her to win.
Her French is poor, her national ground game is small and being a last-minute entry will make fundraising a challenge against rivals who have a six-month head start with their hands out.
Even her closest caucus colleagues were betting a few months ago that Raitt was out of contention, partly due to the challenge of coping with her new husband's diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s.
But with his encouragement to run, Raitt is all-in and she brings a force of personality, a strong business background, Atlantic Canada connections, including Peter MacKay's advice, and softer policy positions to a race largely missing those elements.
Raitt's entry is important because, along with rivals like Erin O'Toole and Michael Chong, she will file down those hard-right edges of the Harper era to set up a middle ground showdown against the Liberals in three years.
A kinder, gentler Conservative party armed with a strong economic legacy is the only route out of the current wilderness.
If voters sense the Liberals have squandered megabillions of deficit dollars to no discernable impact on the economy while continuing to flaunt their fundraising and perk entitlements, the job of Conservative leader could become significant sooner than expected
It would be more about serving as prime minister in waiting than opposition leader in exile.
And that's the Last Word...