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Can Peter MacKay save the Conservative Party of Canada?

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Peter MacKay shakes hands with outgoing Conservative leader Andrew Scheer. Image: Andrew Scheer/Flickr

There are those who say we should be bracing ourselves for the return of President Steve.

Say it ain't so!

We can expect know soon if Stephen Harper is going to re-emerge to make a re-run to re-lead the Conservative Party of Canada in the wake of the reversal delivered by poor Andrew Scheer, whose leadership was done like dinner the instant the microwave dinged and Justin Trudeau managed to squeak back into the Prime Minister's Office with an underheated minority government.

That was last October 21, in case you'd forgotten already.

At any rate, all the candidates to lead the party of Preston Manning, Stockwell Day and Mr. Harper are supposed to be present and accounted for next month, prepared to part with their prohibitively large "qualification fee," and it sure doesn't sound as if it's going to be a very big crowd now that most of the obvious candidates have quietly slipped out the fire exits.

Well, maybe instead of Mr. Harper, who is said to actually be enjoying retirement, it'll be Christy Clark (who had a reasonably electorally successful run as premier of British Columbia from 2011 to 2017) who will step off the plane from a sojourn in India and announce she's going to save the CPC from the prospect of another generation of failure.

Or maybe Jason Kenney really will hand the keys to the premier's Tory blue Dodge Ram to some other Alberta Jason so he can step up and save Canada's Conservatives from 40 more years in the wilderness, which is what seems likely to happen if Elmer MacKay's kid manages to grab the brass ring -- as is apparently the most likely outcome.

Leastways, Peter MacKay isn't the candidate I'd be worrying about the most if I were Gerald Butts or another of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal political strategists. Mr. Kenney probably is.

The younger Mr. MacKay late of Central Nova -- the last leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, which folded its tent with his intended or unintended assistance at the end of 2003 -- is probably not the dumbest politician in Canadian history. But that doesn't necessarily make him smart enough to beat Mr. Trudeau, and I'm not saying that's a particularly high a bar to get over, either.

On the other hand, Mr. MacKay did once beat Jim Prentice in an election race, and no one else ever managed to do that … except Rachel Notley, of course.

Anyway, it sure seems as if the most obviously electable candidates have already exited -- Jean Charest, Rona Ambrose and even Skippy Poilievre. Either that or they haven't put in an appearance at all. Caroline Mulroney? Hello? Are you there?

What's more, it looks as if they all know something we don't -- like the old CPC hive mind has come up with the one candidate to rule them all, as right-wing parties everywhere tend more and more to do these days, and everyone else is expected to sit down and shaddup or risk being dive-bombed by the helicopter candidate's quietly financed kamikaze candidate. (Enough naval aviation metaphors already! -- Ed.)

Well, at least Erin O'Toole (Erin O'Who?) is apparently in, with yesterday's rumour he was out having proved to be, well, a rumour.

Good lord, the press has been reduced to speculating about the likes of Michael Chong, the last good Tory, or Michelle Rempel, the queen of Twitter blockers, stepping up for the job! Richard Decarie? Marilyn Gladu? Rick Peterson? Aron Seal? Bobby Singh? Derek Sloan? Vincent Guzzo? Rudy Husny? Who are these people? Has anyone except their mothers ever heard of them?

Even the party's most connected media observers seem to be getting mixed signals.

Don Braid, the 2,000-year-old mouse of Canadian journalism, went so far as to endorse two possibilities in his Postmedia column last week, an editorial decision worthy of The New York Times, only not quite as funny because the stakes are so low.

Mr. Braid's first choice was Mr. Harper. And if Mr. Harper decides not to come out of retirement and save the world, his second-first choice was Ms. Clark.

Sounds like a man waiting for the phone to ring if you ask me. And if Mr. Braid's phone isn't ringing, you have to wonder if there's anyone left at the other end of the line to spin the dial, although it may not have occurred to many reporters of his generation that phones don't really have lines, let alone dials, any more.

Some exceptions may apply, of course. But don't look at me. I'm no Conservative insider, and the only members of that party who talk to me are old Tories who know even less than the media does.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions at The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Image: Andrew Scheer/Flickr

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