Alliance race reveals Canuck character

This weekend’s Canadian Alliance Party leadership election will not only provide voters with a better idea of who stands to give the Liberal party their most aggressive competition in the next federal election, but will make a powerful statement regarding what the Canadian public truly values in a leader.

What makes this leadership race most interesting is the surprising similarities between Preston Manning and Stockwell Day, the two heirs-apparent deemed most likely to compete for the leadership of the Party. Both profess a strong Evangelical faith. Both have ties to Alberta provincial politics, Day as the recently-departed Treasurer for Ralph Klein’s Conservatives and Manning as the son of long-time Premier Ernest Manning. Even outside the political arena, both Day and Manning admit an amicable relationship with each other.

What, then, will set one candidate apart from the other? Day claims Manning has taken his political agenda as far as he can, that a new approach is needed to dethrone the Liberal majority government. Manning countered by pointing out Day’s lack of federal political experience and subtly exposed Day’s desire to once again buy a late ticket to ride a bandwagon bound for success–a trend in Day’s more recent political career.

If we dare compare the leadership race of this Canadian small "c" conservative party to that of the Republican Party in the United States obvious differences arise. In the U.S., a brash Senator from Arizona, John McCain, rose to challenge a quieter, more established Texan, George W. Bush, with unmatchable financial backing. Americans chose between military hero and presidential heir, between displays of outspoken belligerence and coy manipulation. In Canada, however, the similarities between Day and Manning suggest members of the Canadian Alliance must distinguish more than the obvious when electing their party’s leader. What, then, will Saturday’s election say about what Canadians desire in a leader?

First, it will expose what we as a nation value more, either Manning’s experience or Day’s potential. It will also comment on whether we recognize Day’s charisma to be more important than Manning’s vision, or vice versa. Finally, it will make a powerful statement about what Canadians recognize to be more indicative of an effective leader: the success Day enjoyed as Treasurer in a prosperous province, or the notoriety Manning has endured through facing the challenges of watching a party grow from grass-roots to Official Opposition in just over a decade.

It’s interesting that the leadership race within this new party will say more about what Canadians desire in a leader than any federal election has in recent memory.

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