MacKay: Permanent Opposition leader an 'essential service' amid COVID-19 outbreak
OTTAWA -- While his competitors call for the Conservative leadership race to be delayed amid the COVID-19 outbreak, leadership hopeful Peter MacKay has come under fire for pushing for the timeline to be sped up.
Now, he's doubling down with an assertion that a permanent leader of the official Opposition provides "an essential service" in the COVID-19 outbreak.
"I would suggest to you that the role of a permanent leader of the official Opposition is an essential service, just like the media, and being able to hold the government to account…is an important part of our country’s democratic system," said MacKay in an interview with CTV Power Play Host Evan Solomon, aired Thursday.
While MacKay told Solomon he would accept the current timeline of the race as an alternative to speeding it up, he would not concede to have the race postponed.
MacKay, who many have deigned the frontrunner of the Conservative leadership race, has continued to campaign for the Conservative Party's top job despite his competitors' plea for an extension.
Erin O'Toole and Derek Sloan, two of the four remaining candidates, have both publicly called for a pause in the campaign. In a letter, Sloan called the current timeline not only "unachievable" but also "inappropriate and inconsiderate of Canadians who are faced with family health concerns and economic uncertainty."
O'Toole, in a video posted on Sunday, called for the race to be paused as well. He said that "Canada must come first."
During the interview, MacKay called into question the motivations of his competitors for wanting the race stopped. He told Solomon he "might ask the other candidates why it is they want it stopped."
When Solomon said that the COVID-19 pandemic is the reason the others want the campaign delayed, MacKay replied, "Is it?"
"Look, this is a competition," said MacKay.
"The competition has being going on for some time now, all the rules have been the same for everyone, this has not been an advantage to anyone, we are midway through the process now, the final determination of the ballot has been made, we’re continuing on, it’s causing no harm."
Still, there are those who have had some harsh words for MacKay as a result of his decision to continue campaigning and pushing for the race to stay the course -- or be sped up.
Green Party MP Elizabeth May told Solomon in a Thursday interview that she wasn't impressed with MacKay's approach.
"I don't know if Peter can get much lower in deciding to try to make hay out of this," May said.
Former prime minister Stephen Harper's one-time communications head, Andrew MacDougall, also had some stern words for MacKay in a column he penned for Maclean’s magazine on Thursday.
"To call it tone deaf would be to insult every failed Canadian Idol contestant, even the guy who didn't make it out of the parking lot in that audition in Whitehorse in 2005. To call it stupid would be to elevate Donald Trump to Mensa heights," said MacDougall in his opinion piece.
Still, MacKay remains unwavering in his push for the Conservative Party to elect its new leader — and to do so quickly.
"Why would we not continue on? There’s no harm being done to any of the important work that is happening around the country to combat COVID-19," said MacKay.
The Conservatives will elect their next leader on June 27 in Toronto.