Tonight’s CPC Leadership Debate in Edmonton

If you are not watching the debates I encourage you to give them a try. It's deeply encouraging, downright fun, listening to so many intelligent, descent, knowledgeable and capable people. I love the good natured back-and-forth between Maxime Bernier and Steven Blaney - look at the expressions on their faces - you can see that they're having a great time going after each other. Watch also the smiles on the faces of the candidates when the cameras are not directed at them. Lisa Raitt had a beautiful smile on her face when she arrived for the West Island debate. See Andrew Scheer, looking like a big kid, Brad Trost, Erin O'Toole, Andrew Saxton and others, all speaking with great confidence and understanding. They are good natured, positive and pleasant people. We are truly blessed to be able to choose from so many talented people who can lead us into the future.

So here we are - with the vote only a few weeks away - trying to put their names into some kind of order.

One good measure is the understanding of responsibility. After the vote one of the candidates will be forced to take responsibility for the party and our great nation. The others will be released and free to go about their lives in peace. One good way to score the candidates is to disqualify them outright if they fail to recognize the severity of that responsibility. Wonderful idiots, after all, are still idiots.

After that there are many basic issues of character. We want a leader who "says what he means and does what he says." For this reason I personally take off big points for talking about "values" (whatever those might be from one day to the next,) publicly or privately speaking about an important subject in a way that suggests a misunderstanding, trying to be politically correct rather than taking the time to communicate about an issue in a meaningful way. Fortunately the candidates do fairly well overall with these basic issues.

Some other key issues include caring and management style. Does the candidate sincerely care about people? What kind of team will the candidate build? How?

During the West Island debate Rick Peterson mentioned that his wife comes home from her job and tells him all about her day at work. He said that he listens to her and discusses with her possible solutions to problems. It certainly wasn't a big issue to the audience in general but it was a key moment for me. I'm sure the other candidates have a love for their communities. Perhaps, like Peterson, they even married people who are involved in community service - I don't know but I'm confident that it must be. Still, I heard it first from Peterson and that's big in my mind.

Also during the West Island debate Kevin O'Leary said, to loud applause, that he's in favor of such liberal notions as legalizing pot. In fact he openly called for moving the party towards the political left - a space previously occupied by people we don’t agree with, many of whom have moved way off the political spectrum altogether in recent years. When Steven Blaney rightly pointed out that the economy would suffer from such action the audience booed - but Blaney did not back down. That's Conservative Leadership. Thank you, Mr. Blaney.

Tonight, once again, I heard another key concept that I've been hoping to hear. You recall the excellent book by Doris Goodwin called Team of Rivals. I was hoping to hear one of the candidates mention that he was looking forward to building a cabinet with all the fabulous people who were on the stage in Edmonton tonight. Once again I heard it first from Rick Peterson.

If you are like me you were probably focused on the U.S. Presidential Election in 2016 and missed the first year of this leadership race. So now the pressure is on to catch-up and prepare to make the best possible decision for the near future.

Between now and the next Federal Election we have two key goals that we need to accomplish:

The first is to pick the best possible leader for our party and for our country. Excellence is the most powerful foundation on which we can build our future together. By choosing a skilled and capable leader of good character we will establish that solid foundation. From there we will be able to accomplish anything together.

The other key goal for us, as rank and file members of the Conservative Party of Canada, will come after we have chosen our next leader. We will each need to work hard - at home, at work, in our communities and especially in our social media communications - we will need to work hard to explain our choice of leader and our party platform. As St. Augustine explained in his book, The City of God, the proof is in the details. (See Book VI, concerning the historian Varro.) We will have to communicate the details of our party platform and the reasons we have for our confidence in that platform. We will need to show the whole world why we believe that our leader is the best leader for our great Canada. Most important of all: We will need to work hard to win the hearts and minds of all voters - many of whom are against the Conservative Party on principal and some who don’t even bother to consider issues in a rational way - it's a big job.

Fortunately our Lord has blessed us with Justin Trudeau. Trudeau is probably the most powerful secret weapon our party could possibly hope to have. With Trudeau working to force liberals to compare the budget, spending priorities, job creation and security situation today with what we had just a year or two ago under Conservative leadership… Well, it seems that a big part of our work is already being done for us.