It’s the end of the week and the start of a new month, which you’d think might mark a good time for folks to do a few things a bit differently. But for the Conservatives and their leadership contestants, that doesn’t seem to be on the agenda. After re-starting their suspended campaign a couple of days ago, there has been a flurry of activity and it seems that there has been some pent-up need for the candidates to keep down the same path they were before.
This especially seems to be the case for Peter MacKay, who seems to be hellbent on making up for the month or so that he lost that he couldn’t use to continue to undermine his own campaign and good name. If you remember before the suspension, MacKay was going through a wild series of self-defeating and embarrassing mistakes and gaffs, most involving tone-deaf messaging on Twitter or spelling mistakes that told Canadians he though diversity was something that we needed to overcome. It was some bad, amateur hour stuff for sure. To use a boxing analogy, the suspension of the race saved MacKay at the bell, but instead of saving him from another boxer beating him up in the corner, it was saving Peter from all the fierce punches he kept throwing at himself.
Now the race is back on and things are tighter than it seemed like it would be. While fundraising numbers out the other day show that MacKay has raised the most money, it shows that his main competitor Erin O’Toole had 1,200 more donors that he did. Add to that the surprising strength of both social conservative candidates in this and we’re seeing a clear repeat of 2017, where the social conservatives are set to become kingmakers again. MacKay seems to be in a bit of a panic and what happened last night is the greatest indication of that. But to set the scene for that, let’s go back to the Fall when MacKay helped to kick this all off & took a stand, one that seemed to be very on-brand for him:
Ahh yes, remember the “stinking albatross” comments about Andrew Scheer and social conservative issues? MacKay took a stand and pointed out the obvious, stating that the Conservatives couldn’t win if they were embracing those issues and allowing themselves to look like bigots because of the company that they keep or the voters that they court. Back in the Fall into the winter, that seemed to be the defining battle of the conservative movement, which it seemed would come to a head in this race with MacKay as the major proxy for change. He even threw down the gauntlet on social matters, saying that he would be marching in the Toronto Pride Parade too. Well something funny happened along the way it seems, these comments from Petey just before the pandemic hit:
Hmmm, that seemed like quite the equivocation from MacKay on the initial comments but also was a typical attempt to position himself politically. By that point it was becoming clear that if he was going to win that it likely wouldn’t come on the first ballot & that he’d need second ballot support from social conservative members to win. So that happened, an attempt to walk back his firm stance, but not something that went too far. But then last night that firm stance really disappeared, with MacKay taking a new position that blew a lot of minds:
Wow folks, wow. MacKay has gone from calling social conservative issues the “stinking albatross” around the neck of his party all the way to now trying to adopt that smelly bird and make it his own. To prove that point, he actually sent out an email blast to all Conservative members trying to smear Erin O’Toole with the allegation that he’s not transphobic enough. “See, I didn’t vote for that transgendered bill, unlike that O’Toole guy” was the approach, one that I’m sure will be amazingly well received whenever Petey takes part in that first pride parade, whenever that’s allowed to happen. It’s quite the departure from just this January, when he was decrying comments against the LGBTQ community by others potential candidates saying “nobody should be running for office on a platform to roll back hard-won rights.” Hmmm, what exactly do you call what MacKay did just last night?
And with that move, Peter MacKay is nearly finished the process of eating himself whole as he now tries to win this race by any means necessary. His good name, track record and past views seem to matter no longer, as they all seem to be viewed as barriers to his election by his campaign team. And that problem that MacKay rightly put his finger on back in October, well he’s now doing his best to try to make it his kid. With that email blast, MacKay isn’t just trying to get onside with the ignorance that he used to decry, he’s trying to adopt it and make it his kid.
For Conservatives, this has to be probably the most disturbing development yet, the Derek Sloan situation aside. In a race that started as an apparent attempt to drag their party into the 21st century has now turned into an ugly competition to see who can be the strongest champion of their biggest problem. Instead of trying to rid themselves of that stinking albatross, they are now trying to become its biggest proxy. That’s something that you can’t just undo or that will be forgotten after this race. That email tonight likely makes it too late to undo the damage that MacKay has inflicted to himself, his campaign and his reputation, all without improving his chances of winning the leadership. Coming out of this week it’s becoming clear that the only true winner of this race will be the Liberals, as the Conservatives now seem hell bent on leaning into the problem they face, rather than doing the hard work to fix it.