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What you need to know about COVID-19: August 7, 2020
Election night was not a good one for Peter MacKay, the former minister of justice and attorney general of Canada.
The longtime Central Nova member of Parliament, who now calls Toronto home, watched the results at the campaign headquarters of Kim Fawcett, the Tory candidate in the riding of Scarborough Southwest, for whom he had been campaigning.
Fawcett lost Monday, as did Nadirah Nazeer, another Toronto conservative candidate MacKay had helped during the race, along with most every Tory running in the GTA, where the success of Trudeau’s Liberals allowed them to hold onto power.
Back in Central Nova, which had long been dominated by MacKay and his father Elmer before him, a high-profile Conservative parachute candidate, country singer George Canyon, also fell to a Liberal, in this case incumbent Sean Fraser.
“It was a disappointing result,” MacKay told me over the telephone Tuesday, adding, “In the aftermath of an election loss it is always time to take stock of what the party really believes in, and there will be ample time for that.”
If there are questions about Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s inability to take down a weakened Liberal government, MacKay said they are not coming from him.
MacKay, you may recall, was the leader of the Progressive Conservatives when it merged with the Canadian Alliance to form the Conservative Party of Canada.
Late in the recent federal election campaign, when Scheer’s performance seemed to falter, a story appeared in The Globe and Mail hinting MacKay’s supporters might be laying the groundwork for him to replace the current leader.
MacKay said that he found those reports “mortifying,” adding that he had “done everything in his power to support Andrew and to support Conservative candidates.”
When I asked if he aspired to Scheer’s job he replied: “I have always said that I haven’t ruled anything out. But the job is not open, and I am supporting Andrew -- full stop.”
That doesn’t mean MacKay doesn’t have a thought or two about the shortcomings of the Conservative campaign that just ended.
The party’s environmental policy was one. So was what MacKay calls “connectivity.”
Scheer’s campaign, for example, identified affordability as one of the major issues facing Canadians, but then had trouble “coming up with practical solutions” for it.
You can’t spend your way to prosperity, said MacKay, repeating a key conservative belief, “but you can’t give tax breaks all the way to it (prosperity) either.”
Communicating ideas and principles was another problem for the Conservatives, in his view, particularly when it came to countering some of the “uneasiness” about the party’s social policies on matters like women’s reproductive rights and immigration.
Even so, MacKay said that he thought that it would “be a little closer, that it might have flipped our way.”
How, in that case, Scheer would have built enough support to govern is another matter altogether.
But Monday’s results, he said, have left the country on “the brink of a very dangerous place.”
MacKay wasn’t so much referring to the resurgence of the Bloc Quebecois, even though he called it the story of the campaign, as he was “the bigger, more ominous story emerging in the West” where two-thirds of voters didn’t support the government.
He hopes that Justin Trudeau hasn’t misinterpreted Monday night’s result as “endorsement and vindication” for more “madcap spending” as well as “exploitation along fiscal and ideological lines.”
MacKay has been in minority governments as a Stephen Harper cabinet minister. It will take a lot of skill and diplomacy for Trudeau to moderate all of that western anger he told me.
No matter how astute the prime minister, MacKay knows from personal experience that minority governments seldom last for long. “So in a relatively short time we will be doing this all again,” he said.
At that point, someone different could be at the helm of his party.