Brad Wall should not ignore the call of duty

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FirbyIt’s time for Brad Wall to take French lessons.

Saskatchewan’s still-popular premier may wish to keep the job he has, but the conservative movement in Canada desperately needs him to apply for another one – leader of the federal Conservatives.

Without Wall at the helm of the federal party, the next federal election is destined to be a boring no-contest sleepwalk for Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. And the absence of a truly worthy opponent to the incumbent party is not only bad for those who disagree with its policies, it’s also bad for democracy.

The one big disqualifier for Wall is his unilingual status. But, as Stephen Harper demonstrated, you don’t have to be proficient at Canada’s other official language to be accepted, you just have to make a sincere effort.

There are a number of reasons why Wall needs to step forward:

He is a Canadian conservative. Unlike the embarrassing Kelly Leitch – with her Trump-like notion of screening refugees and new immigrants for “Canadian values” – Wall’s conservatism seems to be forged more in a Canadian tradition. Conservatives in this country aren’t looking for a populist knockoff of Donald Trump; they want a true conservative who understands that we want both common sense economic leadership and a social conscience.

He has guts. Under intense pressure from both the prime minister and two of his fellow western premiers, Wall stood his ground against a carbon tax. I don’t happen to agree with the premier’s argument that a carbon tax won’t work, but I do profoundly appreciate the courage he has shown by holding to his beliefs, and the awareness he has shown for the tax’s potential impact on the province’s industries.

He is inspiring. When Brad Wall chooses to deliver a barn-burner of a speech, he can bring the house down. He speaks with clarity, authority and passion. He can get people pumped up. Inspiration is, after all, an essential skill in leadership.

He has an authentic personality. Wall feels like the real deal. He doesn’t sound like someone reciting sound bites generated from focus groups. You can tell that his ideas are coming from the heart. And, wonderfully, he is not afraid to show a little impatience and anger.

The current pack is dismal. There are 14 – FOURTEEN! – declared candidates for the Conservative leadership. And, as always, quantity comes at the expense of quality. While some of those candidates do have achievements to their credit, none stands out as an obvious choice. You could argue that it is inexplicable why some even think they have a shot.

A Forum survey of 1,143 Canadians in October, admittedly very early in the contest, found that more than half of respondents – 54 per cent – said they would prefer “someone else” than the names tested by the polling firm. The early leader was Quebec MP and free-trader Maxime Bernier, followed closely by old Ontario PC hack Tony Clement, who has since withdrawn. Mercifully, Leitch trailed well back, with only five per cent support.

“None of the candidates have really excited anybody and I think that’s depressing the race right now,” said Forum president Lorne Bozinoff.

So, while nothing in politics is certain – consider the late Jim Prentice, who was certain he would win the 2015 Alberta election – there is an extremely high probability that if Brad Wall entered the leadership race (and crammed those French lessons), he would win.

Would he want it? The hesitation is understandable. Don’t kid yourself; rebuilding the federal Conservative brand, especially in the face of Trudeau’s ongoing honeymoon, will be a tough challenge. Chances are the new Conservative leader would need two elections to realistically have a shot at gaining power.

Or not. With the right leader, someone who could articulate the dreams, desires and frustrations of ordinary Canadians, and someone who could bring the common man back into politics, anything can happen. If ever there was a moment when duty called, for Brad Wall, this might be it.

Veteran political commentator Doug Firby is president of Troy Media Digital Solutions and publisher of Troy Media.

© Troy Media

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The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

By Doug Firby

Doug Firby is an award-winning editorial writer with more than four decades of experience working for newspapers, magazines and online publications in Ontario and western Canada. Previously, he served as Editorial Page Editor at the Calgary Herald.

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