Don Martin: MacKay fires first shot in a leadership takedown
Peter MacKay has never mastered the art of the zinger. The former Harper cabinet minister of many portfolios talks in basic bland - rarely creative, never particularly thought-provoking and usually fluently scripted.
So when he took aim at Conservative leader Andrew Scheer's election performance using a crisp, beautifully-timed analogy and analysis, it was not MacKay's natural voice speaking spontaneously.
Scheer's failed campaign for the prime minister’s job, MacKay muttered on a Wednesday panel in Washington, was "like having a breakaway on an open net and missing the net."
That sure sounds like a professional zinger writer's hand to me with the delivery carefully plotted by a superior gang of Ottawa strategists.
Coupled with his stinging critique of Scheer's social conservative history being a "stinking albatross" around the leader's neck, it signals the opening shot of a leadership takedown that could see MacKay heading up the Conservatives a year from now.
The bonus is how MacKay's criticism perfectly encapsulates the frustrations seething in Conservative ranks right now.
They had a weakened Justin Trudeau opponent flailing behind them. They had a clear shot in their sights. And they whiffed on scoring the winning goal.
But to articulate it in front of reporters, knowing it would take social media milliseconds to reach Canadians ears, suggests Peter MacKay is officially an impatient heir to the tarnished throne.
So this is the moment he's putting his ambition in the window to see if it sells, starting at the caucus meeting next week.
Of course, it remains a headscratcher how Scheer, of all the loser leaders on election night, is the one with the blades at his back.
Justin Trudeau is denied a second Liberal majority and, with a net loss of 26 seats, is on a trajectory to a second place party. Jagmeet Singh's NDP drops to fourth place while losing more than a third of his seats.
Yet there's nary a discouraging word inside or outside the caucus challenging their iffy leaderships.
But Scheer is now facing a dangerous sniper taking deadly aim at his head with a growing list of supporters behind many grassy knolls.
Perhaps now is the time for the boring, besieged Andrew Scheer to mount a more aggressive defense of his position.
First stop: Hire some high-calibre zinger writers to return MacKay's fire.
That’s the Last Word.