Yin and Yang: Two possible Conservative leadership candidates make their cases

  • National Newswatch

Author, speaker, and digital public affairs strategist Mark Blevis is attending the 2016 Manning Centre Conference and will be offering brief reports and analyses for National Newswatch readers over the coming days.


They talk in stories, shared the stage at the Manning Centre conference and they'll each be the first to tell you they haven't made a decision about running for the Conservative leadership. Beyond that, there's very little in common with businessman reality-show star Kevin O'Leary and principled MP Michael Chong.Preston Manning introduced both potential leadership candidates during a session titled "If I Run, Here's How I'd Do it." The room was surprisingly only about half full for a session that was highly anticipated and drew enough additional journalists to make the media gallery standing-room only.At 44, Chong seems to qualify as part of the "next generation" Manning suggests will be key to recharging Canadian conservatism. He told the story of his Dutch-Hong Kong heritage and how his parents' families came to Canada separately yet under similar circumstances -- they'd both been either defended or liberated by Canadian troops on foreign soil and decided to make Canada their home.It was, in Chong's words, "a Canadian story; a conservative story." He believes that Conservative Party success building trust among Canadians will hinge on sharing these types of stories in which Canadians can see themselves. Chong also outlined a number of keys policies based on conservative values which include conservation of the environment.O'Leary, famous for his no-holds-barred verbal sparring, was subdued as he shared his experiences teaching Canadian engineering students who are more interested in accessing his Rolodex for high-paying U.S. jobs than they are, apparently, in his lectures. It offered the perfect segue to his playground of criticizing economic policies and the people who create them. He pitched a pipeline referendum and suggested that the Liberals would be wise to pass Ranked Ballot as our federal election voting system as quickly as possible. His arguments are familiar and their delivery well practiced.While O'Leary may have the attention afforded by his celebrity status, he will be 62 in July. That puts him at 65 in time for the next federal election, which is probably not what Manning has in mind when he talks about passing the torch to the next generation.That doesn't seem to bother O'Leary. He's relishing the spotlight and the uncertainty he's created about his formal political ambitions among the media and pundits. He's gone so far as to leave the door open for a possible run at the Liberal leadership, something he's convinced will be necessary before long. Chong, on the other hand, expects to make a decision on his leadership aspirations in the coming weeks.A second "If I Run, Here's How I'd Do It" panel with Lisa Raitt, Tony Clement and Maxime Bernier is scheduled to take place tomorrow afternoon.