Pity the poor federal Conservatives.
After nine years in power, they’re back to the opposition benches. And like many former ruling parties after a stint in power, they are without a permanent leader, and will have to spend some time licking their wounds.
The problem with transfers of power in Canadian politics is that they are usually done when the voters are heartily sick of the governing party. You can come in on a wave of change and enthusiasm, and be kicked out eight or nine years later with a hearty “Good riddance!” from the electorate.
The Tories are currently licking their wounds.
But the Tories – and the NDP, and the Green Party’s Elizabeth May – are going to have to pick themselves up, and soon.
It’s tough to be in opposition against a new and still fairly popular governing party. But the role is vital.
Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose is making a few stabs at Liberal policy, weighing in on the Energy East pipeline and is pushing for the TPP trade deal to be ratified. She’s suggesting governments look at doing something about sky-high real estate prices. So far, it’s been a mixture of talking points left over from the campaign, and a few jabs at the Liberals’ weak spots.
Whoever takes on the full time job of Tory leader will have to do that, and much more. They will have to hold the Liberals’ feet to the fire on a broad range of issues. They will have to criticize from a place of principle. And they will have to articulate a vision of what a new Conservative Canada would look like – a task made more difficult after a majority of the country decisively rejected the notion of another Conservative government.
The job of an opposition party is twofold – they must hold the government to account, and they must audition to replace them.
If you do the first job well enough, ironically you might fail at the second.