This week promises to be a busy one in Canadian politics, especially in regard to the Conservatives leadership race. With only a matter of days to decide if candidates are getting in or out of the race, we should start to see some announcements this week and see who has  decided to take the plunge. Well it looks like we have our first name to officially do it, and it’s one you likely have never heard of:

Canada, meet Bryan Brulotte, Quebec businessman and long time Conservative backroom operative. He is the CEO a staffing firm, along with being an Honorary Colonel of the Governor General’s Foot Guards. While he’s never been elected to anything before, he’s been involved in conservative politics for nearly three decades. In short, he’s going to try to position himself as “the Outsiders Insider”. Or maybe more as the “Insider with a Heart of Gold”. Or however else you’d like to frame it.

Now one could easily dismiss Brulotte’s candidacy, especially in a field that rumoured to attract much bigger names than the last Conservative leadership race did. He has no national profile to speak of at all and no elected history, both of which hurt in a race like this one this time. So why pay attention to his nomination, outside of the fact that he’s the first to jump in? That’s the $300,000 question that he’ll need to answer for himself. But while he lacks profile and candidate experience, there was something that jumped out at me when I read about his decision to take this leap; he’s bringing ideas to the table, ideas that are different proposals from what we’ve heard from these Conservatives in a long time. What is he suggesting? Well here is a smattering of ideas he suggested when interviewed by the Canadian Press yesterday:

  • In a twist on Universal Basic Income, he’s proposing moving Canada’s tax system towards a negative income tax, which sees the government top-up incomes for people who make less than a certain amount.
  • He’s also proposing a luxury tax, on second vehicles or luxury cars, as a bid to reduce carbon emissions as part of a climate strategy
  • He calls carbon taxes an effective policy tool, but believes a federally-imposed one can’t work, in part because natural resources are provincial domain. But he also thinks so because every local economy has different needs, and different abilities to manage emissions.
  • He supports a woman’s right to choose, and on same-sex marriage looks forward to his first chance to march in a parade

In my view, these are interesting things to see a Conservative candidate talking about right off the hop of a new campaign, mostly because these are issues that Conservatives tend to ignore all together. Are these ideas the solutions that the country needs? That’s totally up for debate. But what Brulotte seems to be doing here is trying to start a conversation about issues that are concerns of consensus for the vast majority of the country, but that Conservatives have refused to accept the consensus on.

While there may not be a lane in this race for a long time backroom operative with no elected experience to speak of, there may be a lane for a socially progressive “big ideas” candidate, one who is proposing policy ideas that brings the Conservatives out of the dark ages of denial and brings them closer to the present day. In order to pull that off, a lot of things need to go right. One thing that Brulotte is trying to do is attract new supporters to the Conservative party with a social media campaign and newspaper ads, but also as a way to raise his profile. But while that sounds like a decent strategy to start, it looks like there were some issues with the execution of it in French:

Ouch! Yeah, paying big bucks to run ads in French newspapers, ads that contain multiple mistakes in French, that hurts and doesn’t scream of a campaign that completely ready yet. It also doesn’t help the candidate and their goal of becoming better known when your introduction to a section of the electorate contains spelling mistakes. We’ll see if that leaves a mark in the end or not. But in the meantime, the race is on and we have our first runner in the race with more to come sooner than later. We’ll see who else decides to take the plunge and see if their entries make bigger waves than the first candidate has.