Former Alberta Conservative candidate Gary Mar

Gary Mar for prime minister of Canada?

Don’t giggle. It may not be likely, but it could happen.

With Mar about to leave for a comfortable exile in Asia — but an exile nonetheless — such a notion must seem utterly fanciful.

And surely it’s the last thing from Mar’s mind at this moment, as anyone who observed his game but pained demeanour — a brittle grin pasted on his face — the night he lost the ballot count, and the premiership of Alberta, to Alison Redford.

But, as Tommy Douglas quoted from an English folk song in similar circumstances: “I am hurt, but I am not slain. I shall lay me down and bleed a while, then rise and fight again.”

So as unlikely as it seems right now that Mar might rise and fight again, he most likely will — and the eventual leadership of the federal Conservative Party is just the sort of place his laser-like political ambition might focus.

Think about it. In a heck of a lot of ways, Gary Mar would be a powerfully appealing candidate for the unprogressive federal Conservatives in the wake of the leadership of the unsmiling, cynical, ideologically fundamentalist and often capricious Stephen Harper.

Indeed, Mar really could be a uniter for the Conservatives — just ideologically pure enough to satisfy Harper’s hard-line legions, cuddly and warm enough to appeal to more Canadians than our edgy and easy-to-distrust prime minister ever could. The leadership of the federal Conservatives might even be a place where his disastrous private health-care faux pas during the Conservative leadership race could be turned to his advantage.

If Harper is right and his great success has been to make the Conservative Party the new Natural Governing Party of Canada, Mar is the kind of politician who could broaden and secure such a party’s base.

Moreover, the selection of a politician like Mar as Tory leader would send a powerful message to the traditionally Liberal immigrant and visible-minority voters the Conservative Party is so assiduously trying to woo. For while Mar is no immigrant — his family, after all, have been in Canada for more than a century, and he himself was born in Calgary — the fact he is a member of a visible minority is a lesson for us all about what families can achieve when they raise their children in this country, wherever they come from.

Naturally, Mar would have to have the ambition to press on in spite of the setback he suffered on the first day of this month — but anyone who knows Mar knows that this is a given.

And he would have to have the political calculation and skills to learn from his mistakes and ensure that he, not to mention his campaign team, don’t repeat them. Again, anyone who knows Mar knows that this too is well within his capabilities.

Could he be elected as a Member of Parliament upon his return from Asia? In Calgary? Do you need to ask, people?

Could he learn to speak French well enough to pass himself off as prime ministerial timber? I don’t know the answer to this question, but he’s a smart guy and I’m betting that he could certainly learn to speak our other official language better than Stephen Harper does. Perhaps we should keep an eagle eye on the expenses of Alberta’s mission to Asia for signs of a French tutor!

Could the Conservatives countenance another leader from Alberta? Probably not — but maybe if there was another, less successful, one in between …

Normally, of course, losing a political race is not considered a promising harbinger of political success to come — although history is replete with politicians like Winston Churchill who had to spend a sojourn in the wilderness before succeeding in the grandest ways possible.

Ironically, in a scenario like the one described here, Mar needed to lose the race to become Alberta’s premier. After all, no provincial premier has ever become Canada’s prime minister since Charles Tupper held the job of premier of Nova Scotia for the first three days of Canada’s life in 1867. He was PM for 69 days in 1896. There is a good reason for this. You can’t be the first minister of all the people when you’ve been as closely identified as one province’s spokesperson as a you must be to be a successful provincial premier.

So at least that’s one millstone that doesn’t hang around Mar’s neck!

So is he really a likely prime ministerial candidate? Who knows? I certainly don’t. But I’ll tell you one thing. I’m certain we haven’t heard the last of Gary Mar!

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, Alberta Diary.

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...