In the parlance of her previous life as a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Kellie Leitch is scrubbing up to win the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada. This may eventually be to the detriment of the party — and almost certainly to political discourse in this country — but any diagnosis of the race that doesn’t see her as the winner is ignoring some fairly obvious symptoms.
On a personal level I would be more than happy to see her lose, preferably badly. That her platform is best known for divisive and xenophobic rhetoric is reason enough to hope Conservatives eventually pull the plug on her campaign. For now unfortunately her campaign’s vital signs are strong.
No shortage of upper or lower case liberals think that a Leitch led Conservative party is a prescription for a chronic case of Prime Minister Trudeau. That may be true, but counting on Canadians rejecting a malignant alternative is hardly the sunny way to win. If a toxic alternative was a guarantor of electoral success we would be days away from witnessing the inauguration of the first woman President.
Sorry, I know. Too soon.
Leitch’s lead in fundraising, and the overwhelming amount of media attention her campaign has received are reasons enough to think her chances of winning the race look good. Those are factors though that are subject to change, and another candidate could find themselves leading the money and mentions column as the race goes on. For Leitch it is the things that won’t change that make me certain the race is hers for the taking.
The first is the demographics of the Conservative party itself. According to Macleans profile on Leitch’s campaign manager Nick Kouvalis, the 100,000 members of the party who will be voting for their next leader are mainly white males over the age of 66. When Leitch blows her dog whistles about “Anti-Canadian Values,” that is a demographic likely to come running for a treat. Every old white guy is not racist, but a lot of racists are old white guys.
More to the point, it is a demographic that doesn’t consider the anti-Canadian values test as racist at all. Forget that Leitch has yet to explain how logistically or financially it would be possible to interview every immigrant, refugee and visitor to Canada. Never mind that without the ability to make mind readers out of border guards people being interviewed could just lie about what they believe. Not to mention there are any number of Canadians who don’t believe in the equality of women — to name just one Canadian value Leitch wants to screen for.
To the people this policy appeals to none of it matters. To them it is common sense to make sure every Tom, Dick and Mohamed trying to get into Canada likes double doubles, hockey, and whatever else is in included in their own interpretation of Canadian values.
Leitch’s campaign manager has shown an ability to find issues which resonate with an electorate. Their resolve only hardens as liberal and media outrage at those issues mounts. Rob Ford got elected talking about city hall lunches and watering plants instead of transit and city building.
Kellie Leitch does not have to win over most of Canada to win the party leadership. She simply needs to appeal to a demographic of the party membership who represent the bulk of voters in the leadership race. While her screening test is a bitter pill to swallow for many Canadians, there are likely enough party members who will see it as a cure for what ails this country. That is a prescription for a win.