Earlier this month, a mere year into the race to choose a new leader for the Conservative Party, Michael Chong declared it was “time to get serious.”
“It is time to say ‘Enough!'” Chong said in a note to supporters after a group of young men wearing Make America Great Again hats were reported to have profanely heckled a reporter at a Conservative debate.
“No more catering to anti-immigrant sentiment … Or discussions on climate change that don’t actually include any plans to address climate change. Or an obsession with screening immigrants for somebody’s perception of what Canadian values are.”
Conservatives, Chong ventured, need to be a “credible, serious” party, not one that tries to “fool people with shiny objects or appeals to their baser instincts.”
Of course, it is Michael Chong’s opinion that the Conservative Party would be most credible with Michael Chong as its leader.
Chong was perhaps the loudest Conservative critic of Kellie Leitch’s proposal to screen visitors for Canadian values. He was the only Conservative MP to vote in favour of a Liberal motion to study Islamophobia. And his proposal to price carbon emissions is the most substantial attempt by a Conservative leadership candidate to confront climate change.
Coincidentally, or consequently, he appears to be a long shot to become the next Conservative leader.
“It is time for adult conversation,” Chong concluded. “Many of my fellow leadership contenders seem to be running simply to be leader of our party. I am running to be leader of our country.”
Therein lies Chong’s real argument: not merely that the Conservative Party should be serious and credible, but that it should also try to win — and that it’s in danger of setting itself up to lose.
Beyond the choice of the next leader, that might be the most interesting question about the Conservative Party: will it sound anything like Michael Chong?
Or has the die been cast for a Conservative Party that will be skeptical, at best, about widespread immigration and loudly opposed to taking serious action on climate change?
Chong didn’t name any of the candidates he had in mind. But when the candidates gather in Toronto tonight to debate each other one final time before voting begins Friday, it’s entirely possible Chong will once again hear things that disappoint him.
Leitch’s values-screening has been the most talked-about proposal of the campaign, but she hasn’t been alone in fretting about those who arrive at Canada’s door.
Maxime Bernier, a presumptive front-runner, has suggested, obliquely, that “radical proponents of multiculturalism” want to “forcibly change the cultural character and social fabric of Canada” and proposed reversing the Liberal government’s increases in the annual intake of immigrants.
Brad Trost has vowed to suspend immigration from countries or regions that “support, encourage or harbour terrorists or Islamic extremism.”
Steven Blaney has…