Horsing around at the Starting Gate

By Allan Fotheringham
1983 column

One wonders why all the fuss about the introduction of pay TV, with Hefner’s Bunnies corrupting our souls and eyeballs. Why bother when the best entertainment in the land is free? When the sight of red blood running in the aisles, Tories stabbing Tories and eviscerating one another in back rooms, front parlors and panel shows on the tube is the stuff of dreams? Was there anything so deliciously delightful as watching the abattoir of Winnipeg? We are in for a good four months — six if we’re lucky — of cross-Canada mud-wrestling featuring grown men in six-piece suits and sincere clichés. (The party, being this basically backward party, has no female contenders in this year of our liberation, 1983 — unless my MP, Vancouver’s Patricia Carney, decides to display her intelligence in a campaign to induce more female candidates, as the party so badly needs.) The field in the starting gate, with outriders to come:

Peter Lougheed: early leader. Only in the Tory party is leading candidate not running. Alberta premier is not chasing the job, but vanity a terrible thing if a spontaneous, arranged draft should come his way, as is contemplated if only Clark will get off the track. Proven winner in everything has attempted in life. No French. Grandfather was law partner of R. B. Bennett, was youngest member of the Senate at 35, was anointed in 1916 as Sir James Alexander Lougheed, the first and only Albertan ever knighted. Grandson would like to duplicate the feat, so to speak. Has window open, waiting for draft.

David Crombie: tiny, perfect munchkin attempting the Clark 1976 strategy — sneak up the middle while the giants stab one another. Has tried hard to raise profile across country. May need stool. Jogs, health okay. Clark fears his street smarts. Has some Diefenbaker French.

Bill Davis: still hated in Western Canada for defeating Clark government in 1980 by getting into bed with Trudeau. Has formidable weapon of Big Blue Machine, which has efficiency of a button-down Tammany. Wife against him going to Ottawa. Smart wife. No French, strange brand of English.

John Crosbie: most entertaining platform performer in land. Perhaps too entertaining. Uses Henny Youngman act to disguise gold-medallist mind and basic shyness. Wealthy in wallet as well as invective. Hard to build national power base from Newfoundland. Has no respect for Clark, helped to bring him down. No French, some English.

Flora MacDonald: still singed from last time. Does not trust Tory delegates anymore. Wisely.

Richard Hatfield: New Brunswick premier is longest-reigning premier in the country. Intends to remain so. Wouldn’t touch this gang with a 10-ft. maypole.

Jake Epp: has face of a saint. If so, what’s he doing in this party of assassins? Comes from Provencher, which was Louis Riel’s riding. In no danger of being hanged. Instead, will probably use Joe’s bloodstains as a formative lesson and may go home to Manitoba to succeed Sterling Lyon as provincial Tory leader.

Brian Mulroney: wafts charm like after-shave lotion. If stays out this time, finished as a serious contender. Nominally loyal to Clark, but his supporters torpedoed the leader in Winnipeg. Would control most of 650 Quebec delegates on entering convention. Now has caucus supporters, as opposed to last time. Remains to be seen if willing to become a French lieutenant to Lougheed. Unlikely. Will give up comfortable corporate executive jet life only in confidence he can win. Fluent in beer parlor and drawing room French. Lougheed is toughest competitor.

Michael Meighen: starting too late. Has Montreal base, now practising law in Toronto, a former party president. Bilingual. Ancestor was once in politics. Has contemplated in his tent too long.

Darcy McKeough: little time to get prepared by Clark’s desperation convention call — which was Clark’s idea. Former Ontario treasurer has been pulling a John Turner, idling on the Elba of corporate directorships and presidency of Union Gas, waiting for an opening. Chatham French. Business would love him. Only man in Canada to wear pinstripes wider than Keith Davey’s. Must move quickly.

Peter Pocklington: joke candidate. Unlikely starter. Will probably lend his money and Amway salesmen to another candidate. Does not know how to spell French. Would be wiser to run Wayne Gretzky.

Joe Clark: only man running against himself and losing. Heavy pressure to withdraw so Lougheed can accept a draft. Is a man with no vanity but some ego. A wise observer says he might make a useful prime minister in 1991 if he took a long breather as MP and observed himself. Attempting a panic-stricken coup, using a pre-emptive strike to force a leadership convention before his legitimate rivals can get organized. Views a return to real life with horror. A half-tragic figure.

Julian Porter: if he won’t become premier of Ontario, why not prime minister? Son of Ontario Supreme Court justice, high Toronto profile, witty speaker, former aide to Stanfield. Wife not bad-looking.

Dalton Camp: would be wisest leader but has been offshore too long.

Conrad Black: too young. Not proven. Doesn’t like Canadian writers.

Peter Worthington: possible candidate. No organization. Has personal money, no French. Would be fierce competitor, damaging to Clark. Could be one of highlights of claret-filled campaign.