By Trevor Busch
Bow River MP Martin Shields believes the federal Conservative Party’s leadership campaign needs to significantly narrow the field of candidates before any one representative resonates with the party.
Set for May 27, 2017, the leadership election will be selecting a replacement for former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who stepped down from the leadership in 2015 after suffering defeat at the hands of Trudeau’s Liberals.
As leader, Harper led the party through five general elections, forming two minority governments (2006 and 2008) and one majority (2011).
With a current field of 14 candidates all vying for the party’s top role, Shields, who represents the Conservative Party, doesn’t blame Canadians for displaying a lack of interest in the campaign in late 2016.
“We’re in a democracy, and if you’ve got people willing to pay the price to get into the game, you can get there. But (14) is too many. For people to be able to focus, what do they have, 30 seconds to answer a number of questions? You’ve got too many names in the game. It’s sort of like the Republican Party, when that started, you had that whole line across the stage.”
The current candidates include Chris Alexander, Maxime Bernier, Steven Blaney, Michael Chong, Kellie Leitch, Pierre Lemieux, Dan Lindsay, Deepak Obhrai, Erin O’Toole, Rick Peterson, Lisa Raitt, Andrew Saxton, Andrew Scheer and Brad Trost.
Rona Ambrose is the party’s current interim leader.
Identifying frontrunners from less popular candidates is difficult when more than a dozen candidates have thrown their hats in the ring.
“Well, if somebody’s asking me who stands out, with 30 second clips and you’ve got (14) people up there, it’s tough for people to distinguish themselves, for people to say here’s the ones that really interest me, and here’s the ones that fall off the table for me. So I think as that gets to the next and the next forum, we’re going to see some people dropping off, and I think that’s a good thing, so people then have more chance to say now here’s the stronger candidate that appeals to me, because when you have (14), it’s very hard for people to figure that out,” said Shields.
Shields was unwilling to suggest any candidates that might appeal to him as the potential face of the party moving forward in 2017.
“At this point, no, the field has to get narrower.”