Diane Francis: Canada needs to pivot, hard, and John Baird is the right man for the job
Christmas came early this week for many millions. The stock market soared, Donald Trump’s impeachment nudged closer, Boris Johnson got elected, and Andrew Scheer resigned.
But the New Year will heap disappointment on Trump’s foes, Johnson’s followers, and Canada because Justin Trudeau remains prime minister. The only bright spot is that Scheer’s resignation paves the way for the Conservatives to find an appropriate and dynamic leader to get the country out from under the Liberals and their slavish adherence to a globalist agenda that is wrecking the economy.
To my mind, and many others, that new leader should be John Baird. I haven’t talked to him and he hasn’t thrown his hat into the ring as yet, but his no-nonsense style, experience, and business smarts are just what the country needs. For 20 years, he held important cabinet positions in Ontario then in Ottawa, and since 2015 has distinguished himself in the business world. Another good choice would be Rona Ambrose, also undecided at this point.
The next Tory leader must be in sync with the majority of Canadians who, to my mind, are social liberals and economic conservatives
Both are aligned with, and able to clearly and forcefully articulate, Canada’s traditional values. All Canadians understand (outside Ottawa) that this is a country that became prosperous as a result of freedom, entrepreneurship, business, free enterprise, innovation, hard work, human rights, the rule of law, and a great working relationship with our neighbour, the United States. The Tories must champion and embody those ethics.
Canada’s success as a nation is not the result of excessive taxation, government grants, regulations, nepotism, political or regional favouritism, think tanks, politicians without business smarts, or pressure groups. Canada is in decline because, as currently constituted, it’s a Liberal oligarchy that rewards its own and mostly ignores the rest.
The next Tory leader must be in sync with the majority of Canadians who, to my mind, are social liberals and economic conservatives. They are tolerant of all lifestyles and beliefs, but adhere to the bottom line issues of fiscal responsibility, efficiency and wealth creation incentives.
Canadians respect the rule of law and want it applied fairly. They don’t like governments that favour one region over another, or one ideology over another. They don’t like a prime minister who pressures the attorney general to get an out-of-court deal for a Quebec company. They don’t like a prime minister who wraps himself in the climate-change flag but charters two gas-guzzling jets for a national campaign that mostly flew over two provinces.
The next Tory leader must erect a big tent. Canada needs and wants an alternative, a Conservative party option based on nationalism, decency, fairness and economic opportunity. The party must have a leader and team that aims to attract and retain investment in Canada by offering competitive tax rates and a reduced regulatory burden.
The good news for Canada is that, as inappropriate as Andrew Scheer was, his popular vote count was higher than Trudeau’s. That means the electorate will reward the right Conservative leader, team, and message with a majority. To speed up that process, the right leader could strike a deal with the pro-enterprise Bloc Québécois to vote out Trudeau and bring about another election in a few months.
Meanwhile, Canada is saddled with Trudeau, who deeply insulted Trump at a recent NATO confab, is reneging on Canada’s NATO commitment to beef up our defence spending, and has broken ranks on other issues.
Canada needs a Canadian version of Donald Trump — genteel but strong — who is proud of the country and just as assertive about advancing its intrinsic values and interests.
Baird fits the bill, to my mind. He’s smart and likeable, but is dogged and self-assured enough to amputate what doesn’t work and move the country forward with what does.