Note: A previous version of this post referred to Kellie Leitch as “Ms. Leitch” instead of “Dr. Leitch”. I don’t know how I forgot she was a doctor, but I’m deeply sorry that I did.
Why I Don’t Want Kellie Leitch to Lead the Conservative Party
A couple months ago, I wrote of Kellie Leitch:
I remain genuinely unsure what Kellie Leitch’s goal is. I went into this blog convinced she was another hypocrite who was only using queer Canadians when it suited her racists agenda. And yet, she voted yea to Bill 279 (to treat gender identity as a protected class) despite almost every single one of her cabinet colleagues opposing it. She does appear to have a principled and reasonably long standing support for queer rights. She voted the party line on whipped bills (as does basically every MP in Canada), but when she’s allowed to vote her conscience, we see that it is rather different than many of the other Conservatives. She may be a political opportunist who can sense which way the wind blows. Or she may be trying to change the conservatives from within.
I spent weeks wondering: is Dr. Leitch just a political opportunist, or is she driven by real (albeit misguided) principles? This week, she provided me with an answer :
“Tonight, our American cousins threw out the elites and elected Donald Trump as their next president. It’s an exciting message and one that we need delivered in Canada as well. It’s the message I’m bringing with my campaign to be the next Prime Minister of Canada.”
So political opportunist it is then.
Let’s be clear, Kellie Leitch isn’t Donald Trump. She’s calculating and clever. She isn’t going to get embroiled in pointless feuds. People are genuinely worried that Trump might declare a literal shooting war if a foreign leader tweets the wrong thing at him. No one is seriously concerned Kellie Leitch would do the same.
Donald Trump hasn’t even taken office, but already his election has changed America. His supporters, emboldened at the thought of no longer being held accountable for bigotry are chomping at the bit. Real people, vulnerable people, are being hurt because of this.
Even if (hypothetical) Prime Minister Kellie Leitch governs soundly and sensibly, even if she never enacts a tip-line for “barbaric cultural practices” and never sets up screening for “anti-Canadian values” , her candidacy or victory represents a real risk to black, indigenous, southeast Asian, and Muslim Canadians. As much as we’d love to believe otherwise, there are dangerous racists in Canada. A win for Kellie Leitch on a platform of “Canadian Values” and coded anti-Muslim rhetoric would give this small minority social license to harass, attack, and intimidate. A win by Michael Chong or Eric O’Toole would not.
Unfortunately, there is a real risk that Kellie Leitch could become the next leader of the Conservative party (and from there, possibly PM). It’s a crowded field and she’s learned the correct lessons from Donald Trump. Milk every controversy for as much media attention as possible and strongly appeal to the parts of your base most concerned with the changing appearance of Canada.
It’s rich that Kellie Leitch, who received her bachelor’s at Queens, holds an MD and an MBA, and has worked as a surgeon, professor, MP, and cabinet minister, can campaign on a message that the “elites” need to go. A politics without elites would by necessity be a politics without Dr. Leitch.
But this only scratches the surface of my disagreements with Dr. Leitch; I oppose every policy in her platform. I think her plan to put an absolute cap on government spending is silly. The government needs the flexibility to meet any obstacles it faces. Prime ministers from Pierre Elliot Trudeau to Brian Mulroney to Steven Harper all understood this. I oppose her stance on marijuana – I think prohibition doesn’t work and most Canadians agree with me. Myself and others think that her proposed screening for anti-Canadian values in immigrants is easily subverted and a solution in search of a problem.
I encourage everyone else who opposes Dr. Leitch to focus on her policies and why they’re bad for Canada. Insofar as our values differ from those of Dr. Leitch, we should take the time to explain why. We should seek dialogue with her supporters and seek to allay their fears. We should be proud defenders of globalization and immigration and all the benefits they have brought. We should not retreat into our filter bubbles and dismiss the rest of Canada as the wrong kind of people. That kind of retrenchment doesn’t have the best track record right now.
I think there are much better candidates in the conservative leadership race. Michael Chong, for example, has an excellent record on social issues and supports carbon pricing. He and I have policy disagreements, but a Conservative Party of Canada led by Michael Chong would be a contender for my vote in the next election. Given that the NDP has abandoned me, I would dearly like to be able to make a choice between two parties with sound policy proposals and positive plans for Canada going forward. I could not do that with Kellie Leitch at the head of the Conservative Party.
4 Things You Can Do To Help
Kellie Leitch is relying on free media attention to differentiate her from a crowded field. Under no circumstances should we advocate for deliberate suppression of stories about Dr. Leitch. And yet, outrage generates clicks. As long as Kellie Leitch can profit from her simple algorithm – say something objectionable, but not so objectionable that the party kicks you out, wait for the media to write a hundred stories about it, profit from the increased name recognition – she’ll continue to use it.
We can attempt to complicate her algorithm by removing the financial incentive to focus most of the media coverage that the CPC leadership race is getting on her. There are a few ways you can do this.
- Promise yourself that you won’t share any news stories about her electronically. By all means, tell you friends. But don’t share it on your Facebook wall where it will generate clicks.
- If you must visit a news article about Kellie Leitch (say to research for a blog post about her), visit with an ad-blocker. You’ll notice that I’ve used [N] style references throughout this post. Those are all links to recent stories about Kellie Leitch. I’d ask that anyone who cares about her not winning the leadership race not visit them without an ad-blocker.
- Share this information with your friends. If they post a story about Kellie Leitch, gently tell them why this is a bad idea. Don’t get angry. Your friend is doing nothing morally wrong. But they are contributing to the outrage cycle and if you can stop it, that’s great. If they don’t understand the threat Kellie Leitch poses, show them some of the hate crimes that have been committed in America since Trump was elected and explain to them that Kellie Leitch winning an election would possibly have the same consequences. You can link them to this post if you’d like (I don’t have ads on my website and make no money if you do). Or you can show them how Trump’s win has already emboldened the alt-right in Canada.
- If you’re a member of the Conservative Party of Canada or plan to become a member before the leadership race membership cut-off of March 28, 2017, you can act more directly to ensure that Kellie Leitch does not win the vote. It doesn’t matter how you rank the candidates, as long as Kellie Leitch is ranked last (although if you care at all about climate change, you may want Brad Trost ranked low on your ballot as well).
Kellie Leitch has gained name recognition and a measure of popularity with her stances. But she’s also made a lot of enemies. She leads the field in both favourability and unfavourability ratings. The next leader of the Conservative Party will be picked using instant run-off with ranked ballots. If Kellie Leitch is at the bottom of most people’s ballots, she can’t win.
Let the next Canadian election be about which policies will bring us peace, order, and good government. Let’s not bring race and belonging into it.
Kellie Leitch related links (don’t visit without an ad-blocker):
Epistemic Status: Ethics?