Last week Tony Clement announced that he would seek the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada. The amount of excitement this engendered on-line, especially locally and also of course, in the Toronto Star, was underwhelming. This was disappointing to me because whatever your political stripe, whatever your personal bias, surely people who are interested in the preservation of a strong democracy, recognize that it is in everyone’s best interest to have dedicated and capable people ready to take over the reins of power, should they be called upon to do so.
Tony Clement comes to the table with more actual experience in public life than any of the current Tory candidates and indeed, more than our current Prime Minister. Still in his fifties, a reliable age for effective leadership, he has held several important Cabinet posts both provincially and federally.
For those of you who remember the SARS crisis during the administration of Premier Ernie Eves, it was Tony Clement, as Minister of Health who made a significant contribution to the control and eventual elimination of that epidemic. He also held one of the more important economic portfolios in the Harper government and did much to control drastic overspending of taxpayer dollars.
In addition to important provincial and federal contributions Tony has proven to be an effective constituency man, in the footsteps of Andy Mitchell and Stan Darling. He understands the old phrase,” I dance with them that brung me!” He has been an effective steward for Parry Sound Muskoka and has represented our interests effectively, both here and in Ottawa. He also understands the importance of grass-roots politics and he always remembers where he came from. He won the last election against a tough opponent and a popular Liberal Leader because of his experience and the high regard in which he was held by many of his constituents. He has proven over the years that he is a survivor.
Now he is not perfect, thank goodness. When you are in public life, people are much more prone to focus on your warts, perceived or otherwise. There is no question that Tony can at times be aloof, even apparently rude at times. He needs to work on that. He can also be supportive and compassionate, as I can personally attest. In a strange way, he is both an introvert and an extrovert. He does not always appear comfortable in crowds and yet, if you put a guitar in his hands and a mike at his mouth, he will perform anywhere, any time and on short notice!
Nor is Tony as inflexible as some people believe him to be. My guess is that he will always be a fiscal Conservative. But on social issues he has evolved. He recently admitted that he has changed his views on some same sex issues. When asked why, he said it was because he listened to his kids. Not a bad place to start!
The bottom line for me is my belief that every political party should have strong, principled leaders with vision and discipline. We do not always have to agree with their policies, that is what politics is all about, but we do need to have these debates with credible and experienced leaders.
In my view, Tony Clement has the experience and the credentials to seek the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada. Echoing the Welcome sign to Huntsville, Tony has touched the past and is therefore well equipped to embrace the future. I know the criticism will come, but most of those will not be voting in a Conservative leadership election. I believe the Conservative Party is fortunate to have Tony Clement as a serious candidate for leadership. The more others complain about him, the more worried they must be that he might just win. After all, this is not his first rodeo!
Don’t miss out on Doppler! Sign up for our free, twice-weekly newsletter here.