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Sunday 16 Jun 2024

The Missing Candidates
David Simmonds

Andrew Scheer saw the writing on the wall and stepped down as leader of the Conservative party of Canada.  So far, eight women and men, including party co-founder Peter Mackay and third-place finisher in the last party leadership race, Erin O’Toole, have entered.

Candidates with a chance.

The other six declared candidates are Aron Seal, a former director of policy for two cabinet ministers; Rick Peterson, an Alberta businessman; Bobby Singh, an entrepreneur and former candidate; Derek Sloan, member of parliament (MP) for Hastings - Lennox and Addington;  Marilyn Gladu, M.P. for Sarnia - Lambton; and Richard Decarie, a former  political aide to Stephen Harper. They are all considered to be also rans; Mackay and O’Toole are the only two entries considered worth handicapping, so far.

The big news, this past week, is not who was joining the race, but who was staying out. Jean Charest, Rona Ambrose and Pierre Poilievre were all expected to join in, but pulled back at the last minute. These potential candidates may know something the others do not.

The Wellington Times has learned, from sources that we have agreed to keep confidential as they were not authorized to speak to us, the names of many other people who have also decided not to seek the leadership. Among them are former party leaders Stephen Harper, Joe Clark, Kim Campbell, Brian Mulroney, Stockwell Day and Preston Manning.

These non-candidates also include many Conservatives that are serving or who have served in other government?  Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario, who is busy recasting himself as Bill Davis 2.0, is not running.  Nor is Todd Smith, our local member of provincial parliament (MPP), in Wellington, who you would think would want to get out from under the weight of Doug Ford.

Daryl Kramp, our former MP is gone from provincial government. Ford cabinet heavyweights, such as Caroline Mulroney, Christine Elliott and Rod Phillips are also out. There has been a similar dead silence from Alberta premier Jason Kenney, Saskatchewan premier Scott Moe, Manitoba premier Brian Pallister, New Brunswick premier Blaine Higgs and Newfoundland and Labrador premier Dwight Ball; Conservatives all. 

The number of candidates is staggering.

Let’s look beyond the pool of elected conservatives and consider some individuals who have not thrown their hats into the ring.  Conrad Black is out, as he is busy packing up his 40,000 books for a move away from his Bridle Path mansion into a one-bedroom condo in Etobicoke. Another prominent Canadian not running is Margaret Atwood, who has recently made a career out of accepting awards.  Evidently, she does not see the Conservative leadership as another trophy she might add to her collection.  Former NHL coach Don Cherry is also conspicuously absent from the list of registered candidates, as is another recently turfed hockey man, Mike Babcock, former coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Absent, too, are Napanee rocker Avril Lavigne, whose name usually appears in lists like this one, and recently packed off back to British Columbia CBC news anchor. Ian Hanomansing.

Gerald Smithers, of Halifax, Nova Scotia, is not running either. Said Smithers, “I have no time for politicians. Why would I want to become one?” 

In fact, the number of Canadians not running for the Conservative leadership is expected to be in excess of 37 million, a staggering number, almost equivalent to the entire population of the country.  Whole communities, such as Wellington, Ontario, exist where there is no-one running for the leadership.  There must be some reason.

Most observers attribute it to what Charles Atlas called “dynamic tension.” On the one hand, the party base consists of many social conservatives. On the other hand, it isn’t a large enough base to win government, routinely, so the urge is there to reach out to more moderate voters, which doesn’t sit well with the base.  Moderate voters, however, are put off by the positions taken to mollify the base. The Conservative leader therefore spends a disproportionate amount of time managing this tension, which never goes away.

 A far more plausible explanation is that, on 7 December 2003, the date the  Conservative party was created,  the astrological forecast, according to a horoscope website I checked, for a person born on that date was for a bossy personality, with a risk of bipolar disorder. Maybe it was set in the stars to be a difficult journey for the party.

In our stars, not ourselves.

Maybe the fault, dear Andrew, may be in our stars, not in ourselves. Good thing they’ve got eight candidates already, then. Maybe the other 37 million of us are smarter than we realize.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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