Conservative Leadership Debate 
Posted to Jim Elve's Group Election Blog

CPAC LIVE, Sunday, February 22 at 2pm ET / 11am PT
Conservative Party of Canada Leadership Debate

Here's my take on what each candidate will face during the debate.


During the Newsworld debate, Clement was very direct when he challenged Harper on his often repeated comments about 'defeatist attitudes' in Atlantic Canada. Harper was put on the defensive in that debate and must turn such criticisms into a strength by highlighting the federal government's failures to address regional disparity and talk about what ideas he has for the 'have-nots'. He has tried this tactic before - by comparing Albertan oil revenues of the past to the current clawback that Newfoundland faces - but he needs to be more forceful and show more confidence in his abilities to bring Easterners to a Harper led Conservative Party.

He must also direct attacks on his Alliance/Reform baggage (candidates will state the new party needs a new face, etc) into talk of his federal experience that Canadians will trust. Showing, again, confidence and enthusiasm for the background work he did for 'Clarity' legislation, his knowledge of the entire country from his family background and working with MPs from across the country would remind party members that he alone has the federal experience and 'timber' that Canadians, right across the country, want.


It would appear that Clement has the least to lose in this debate but I would say not the most to gain. He can attack both candidates on their weaknesses but, I think unfortunately for him, will probably not face very many questions from Harper or Stronach. He must work on getting more 'first place votes' on the ballot or else being everyone's second choice will mean nothing.

He must present his ideas, not only the other candidates weaknesses, and show how they will be supported on a national scale. His experiences in Ontario will need to be leveraged into how he can lead a national party and a federal government.

I think it will be tough for him to get the viewers attention as most will be wanting to see Harper and Stronach - a great performance by Clement is crucial to take 1st place votes from the other two candidates and, should Stronach crash during the race, ensure he gets enough of her supporters to prevent a Harper first ballot victory.


Most watchers will have their ears perked when Stronach speaks which gives her the best opportunity to greatly impress and improve her support and also the risk, should she disappoint, of falling out of this race soon.

She will be attacked mainly on her inexperience and the other candidates will question her knowledge of the pertinent issues. She will have to prove that she can bring the debate to a more detailed level than the soundbites have shown - the other candidates don't have to do this but she must.

When the candidates do attack her political inexperience she should expand on her strengths of foreign trade, international competition and what Canada needs to do to foster innovation and job creation - then lead into how our social programs can only be supported by a strong economy.

It will not take many stumbles or moments of repetition or hesitation for party members to make up their minds that she isn't ready for the job. Fortunately for her, I think members want to believe that she has the depth of knowledge required and if she can prove it, they will support her.

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