October 26, 2020

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Time for Tories to lead way with female leader

Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/12/2019 (314 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

There has never been a more opportune time for the Conservative Party of Canada to elect a woman as its leader. For a party in desperate need of an overhaul, it’s almost a necessity.

Andrew Scheer announced last week he’s stepping down; it doesn’t matter why. Whether it was the revelation the party was paying for his children’s private school tuition or a self-realization after weeks of reflection that he has no future as leader, it’s the right move. He was never the right person for the job, which he demonstrated in spades.

Scheer’s departure requires no post-mortem; no drawn-out, in-depth analysis of the causes or triggers is required. It would serve no purpose. He should be thanked for his public service and allowed to leave with dignity.

Far more important for the party now is who his replacement should be.

The timing is good: a new leader installed in 2020 would allow that person to sell herself to Canadian voters. She would have plenty of time to set the party on a new path before the next federal election, likely 18 to 24 months from now.

And yes, it should be a she.

The Conservative party is at a crossroads. It needs to decide what it wants to be: a one-dimensional, old-style organization that drags around social-conservative baggage or a modern, progressive one with smart, practical ideas on how to run the country.

Conservative MP's pay their respects to Leader of the Opposition Andrew Scheer following the announcement he will step down as leader of the Conservatives. His departure leaves the Conservative party at a crossroads. It needs to decide what it wants to be: a one-dimensional, old-style organization that drags around social-conservative baggage or a modern, progressive one with smart, practical ideas on how to run the country. (Adrian Wyld / Canadian Press files)

Conservative MP's pay their respects to Leader of the Opposition Andrew Scheer following the announcement he will step down as leader of the Conservatives. His departure leaves the Conservative party at a crossroads. It needs to decide what it wants to be: a one-dimensional, old-style organization that drags around social-conservative baggage or a modern, progressive one with smart, practical ideas on how to run the country. (Adrian Wyld / Canadian Press files)

Right now, the party’s image is hopelessly lost in the former.

There would be no better way to change that than to elect an experienced female leader who could not only embrace progressive conservatism, but sell it to Canadians as the preferred option to govern the country. It would be an instant image-changer that would give the party much-needed political currency in regions of the country such as Ontario and Quebec, where it faltered in the last election.

More importantly, it’s time for Canada to elect a female prime minister.

It has never done so. Tory prime minister Kim Campbell occupied the office for four months in 1993, when she replaced outgoing leader Brian Mulroney. But she didn’t attain the position through a general election.

She subsequently lost her Vancouver Centre seat, and her party was reduced to two seats, in the Oct. 25, 1993, federal election.

Canada has done a poor job of attracting women to politics, both at the federal and provincial level. All current provincial premiers are men. Some provinces, such as Manitoba, have never elected a female premier. Women are continually underrepresented in the country’s legislatures.

More importantly, it’s time for Canada to elect a female prime minister.

What better way to set a new tone than to elect a female prime minister?

In order to do that, all parties need to do a much better job of attracting candidates to leadership races.

For the Conservatives, it would be good politics and good policy to elect a female leader. The party needs someone who can, without reservation, embrace modern, progressive political thinking, including full support for LGBTTQ* rights and a woman’s right to choose. It needs a leader who’s comfortable marching in a Pride parade.

A male leader could do those things; a female leader also could do them — and bring a different perspective to the cabinet table.

Strategically, it would be brilliant. What better way to challenge Canada’s "feminist" Liberal prime minister than to put him up against a strong female candidate? It would be a game-changer.

The biggest mistake the Conservative party could make would be to elect another leader who has even a hint of social-conservative baggage. It would set the party back years. It would also assist Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in any effort to regain the majority status he lost in the October election.

It won’t be long before the Liberal party elects its first female leader; it seems a natural evolution. If they were smart, the Conservatives would get there first.

It’s time.

tom.brodbeck@freepress.mb.ca

Tom Brodbeck

Tom Brodbeck
Columnist

Tom has been covering Manitoba politics since the early 1990s and joined the Winnipeg Free Press news team in 2019.

   Read full biography

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