Saturday, April 22, 2017

CPC Leadership - The B-List (Alexander, Chong, Raitt, and Trost)

This is part of my larger series on the CPC leadership - see that post for my methodology. This post is on the four candidates who I think are unlikely to win the election, but who have significant support within the party - Chris Alexander, Michael Chong, Lisa Raitt, and Brad Trost.

Chris Alexander

Fiscal: 3/6 Pretty standard conservative policy on most things - lower taxes, balanced budget, blah blah. That'd be 4/6, but he supports a lot of fairly intrusive government programs in various areas, though - his daycare strategy is downright Paul Martin, and he believes way too much in the power of job creation programs.
Social: 1.5/4 Doesn't seem to have much to say here aside from the environment(where he's a bit Liberal-flavoured, but not bad). What does come up is unimpressive, though - a lot of stupid little tax credits, a lot of government micro-programs, and he's against legalizing pot.
Foreign: 4/4 Generally pretty good - specific policies on a lot of hot-button topics(Ukraine, Syria, Cuba, etc.), though the details can be a bit off. I think his Syrian plan is unrealistic, and the Ukraine policy gets the date of the Russo-Georgian war wrong by three years, but those are quibbles - it's a low-budget campaign, the staff work will improve if he wins. Also, his trade policy is excellent. He thinks like I do, more or less, and he talks about these issues seriously. Definitely his strongest point.
Governance: 1/3 Doesn't seem to much care about federal/provincial division of powers, and is proposing a lot of new programs in provincial jurisdiction. Nothing truly awful, but the continuation of a pretty mediocre status quo.
Decency: 1/3 He's been one of the biggest people throwing red meat at the alt-right. He was one of the people pushing the 'barbaric practices hotline", he's been doing "Lock her up!" chants, and the like, with no remorse that I can see. Not as enthusiastically terrible as some others, but not good.
Electability: 2/3 No real slam-dunks, but he's fluently bilingual, seems reasonably personable, and doesn't have any huge skeletons in his closet that I'm aware of.
Unity: 2/2 I can't imagine any Tories leaving the party over him.
TOTAL: 14.5/25 I can live with him, but I'm not enthusiastic.

Michael Chong

Fiscal: 5/6 His policy here seems pretty good overall - tax cuts, tax code simplification, and no wild cards. He name-drops Jim Flaherty way, way too much, but that's a minor sin. The biggest problem I have is that the bulk of his income tax savings go to the upper-middle-class, while the funding mechanism for them(removal of tax credits and a carbon tax) hits everyone quite broadly. That's going to cause some ugly distributional issues.
Social: 2/4 Nothing huge here aside from the carbon tax, but he gets serious points for being the only guy with the guts to propose it.
Foreign: 1/4 So far as I can tell, he has no posted foreign policy whatsoever. I suspect I won't hate whatever he does, but if he doesn't talk about it, he only gets token marks.
Governance: 3/3 His signature issue, and the one that IMO answers all the "Why are you even a Conservative?" questions - on this issue, he's a classical Reformer. I think his exact approach could use a bit of work, but he's talking about it seriously, and seems to mean it when he says he wants to weaken the PMO and give power to MPs. I have a ton of respect for that.
Decency: 3/3 No messing around with dark arts, no skeletons in his closet I'm aware of, and he resigned Cabinet over an issue of principle and shows up to events in Alberta to talk about the merits of a carbon tax. Full marks here.
Electability: 1.5/3 I'm generally a believer in the "People would rather vote for a real Liberal than a faux-Liberal Conservative" school of thought, and he does have some issues there. But otherwise, he's got a pretty good argument to make about why he's a good leader, and I think he'd do okay. His biggest problem is that the issue of principle he left Cabinet over was the Quebec-as-a-nation vote, which is one that will not win him many friends in la belle province. Bilingualism will soften the blow compared to some of his opponents, but he won't do great.
Unity: 0.5/2 He's pissed off a huge chunk of the party talking carbon taxes, and while I tend to agree with him, that's not going to help much. The only saving grace is that those people have nowhere to go right now, but they're a part of the party known for fissioning off(cf. Reform, Wildrose, etc.), so that won't help much.
TOTAL: 16/25 A bit of an oddball, but I actually like the guy. Not my first choice, but we could do worse.

Lisa Raitt

Fiscal: 5/6 For someone who's always struck me as a very red Tory, this is surprisingly aggressive policy. Broad-based tax cuts, balancing the budget, upping TFSA limits, spending reviews, expanding use of P3s, and even a taxpayer protection act(which I thought went out with the 90s). She's still a bit fond of fiddly incentivization for my taste, she's pro-supply management, and she's light on concrete proposals, but this is still good stuff despite that.
Social: 1.5/4 There's almost nothing here besides healthcare. It's not terrible healthcare policy(though it does run afoul of the whole "The Constitution says that healthcare should be provincial" thing), but there's basically nothing on the environment, law and order, free speech, religious hot-buttons, or anything else.
Foreign: 2.5/4 Thin, but good. Rebuilding the armed forces, UN reform(which will never happen, but is good to support), plus the usual support for allies and opposition to dictators. There's no explicit mention of free trade, but infrastructure to support trade is mentioned. She'd get more if she expanded it out, I suspect, but this isn't bad.
Governance: 2/3 The only thing here is a one-sentence "Decentralizing Government" policy, but that's the core of what I want from governance policy, so it's worth some points.
Decency: 3/3 Like a lot of others, she gets full marks here simply for being inoffensive. It saddens me that the bar is so low, but it's good that she can clear it, unlike the ones who would prefer to dig a tunnel underneath the bar.
Electability: 1/3 She doesn't speak French, and she has a tendency to be pretty mushy and non-specific. She'll help shed some of the baggage of the Conservative brand, I think, but it'll be hard to make a positive case for why she should win, which means she'll be relying on Trudeau offending the public badly. That's not a good bet.
Unity: 1.5/2 She's definitely on the red side, and from Ontario, which will make the West think a bit about fissioning off Reform-style, but I don't think she'd offend them enough to pull the trigger.
TOTAL: 16.5/25 I tend to roll my eyes at fluffy red tories, but they're a lot better than Bible-thumpers or alt-right edgelords(or, god help us, the ones who are two or three of those at once). I wouldn't be terribly enthusiastic about PM Raitt, but I'd vote for her.

Brad Trost

Fiscal: 4/6 Pretty generic conservative policy here. Balanced budgets, some tax reductions, and so on. Nothing bold or special except eliminating capital gains taxes(which, like Bernier's proposal to do the same, I oppose for being too distortionary), but generic conservatism is still good here.
Social: 0/4 On top of being a massive Bible-thumper, he seems to have also jumped on Trump's Muslim ban idea. Not just no, but hell no.
Foreign: 2/4 Doesn't have much here, but there's some good talk on trade.
Governance: 2/3 Again, not much here, but loosening internal trade barriers within Canada is good policy, and his approach to regulatory harmonization also seems sensible.
Decency: 0.5/3 He loses points for the Muslim ban, and he genuinely claims that "Democracy is under attack" because a library kicked him out one time, but at least it's not a centrepiece of his campaign to act like a jerk towards people. That drags him above zero, slightly.
Electability: 0/3 No swing ridings anywhere would vote for him between now and the heat death of the universe.
Unity: 0.5/2 We as a party have a history of treating social conservatives pretty badly. They have no other options, because everyone else outright despises them, but we can't run on their pet issues and expect to win, so we dangle a carrot or two in front of them and then exploit them. If one of them was in charge, we'd lose, but it'd help prevent their resentment from building up to toxic levels, which could otherwise happen. That's worth a bit. That said, he scares the crap out of all the other parts of the party, so it's not worth very much.
TOTAL: 9/25 Less obnoxious than some, but still a pretty terrible candidate.

(Next: The C-List)

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