Décarie was barred, Karahalios disqualified

With a week to go before the deadline to become a verified candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada, three Campaign Life Coalition-endorsed candidates met the threshold of $300,000 and 3000 signatures to qualify. A fourth, Richard Décarie, had been barred three weeks earlier from running by the Leadership Election Organizing Committee (LEOC).

Décarie was not told the reason he was disqualified, although party sources indicate that it was because he erred in filling out the 40-page application form. Most observers assume it was because he was outspoken on abortion and same-sex “marriage.”

Campaign Life Coalition celebrated the fact that their three endorsed candidates submitted the entry and deposit fees and requisite number of signatures signing their nominations but the celebration was short-lived. The same day, Jim Karahalios, a Cambridge lawyer and former member of the party’s policy committee, was disqualified from continuing his leadership race.

The CBC reported LEOC said a complaint was received about Karahalios on March 9, “in relation to statements made by Mr. Karahalios through email, mail and social media earlier in the month.” Political insiders suggest that it was his fundraising appeal to supporters saying if he was elected prime minister he would never allow sharia law and sharia finance to be established in Canada. He has also been critical of Erin O’Toole’s campaign chair, Walied Soliman, a Toronto lawyer and former close confidant of Patrick Brown. Soliman is an expert on sharia finance and Karahalios implied that he might influence O’Toole to establish elements of Islamic religious law in Canada. Karahalios sent a March 7 email to supporters with the subject line: “Say No to Shariah Law. Stop Erin O’Toole.”

The Globe and Mail reports that the Urban Alliance on Race Relations filed a complaint, accusing Karahalios of racism in a Facebook post. The alliance claims that the post includes a picture of Karahalios surrounded by “images of angry black men and women, a few of whom appear to be holding either baseball bats or pieces of wood.” Nigel Barriffe, president of the alliance, said in his complaint that “this image is profoundly insulting and deeply racist.”

A ruling was made against Karahalios by the Chief Returning Officer on March 17 and he immediately appealed the decision to LEOC’s dispute resolution appeals committee (DRAC). That ruling is not public and it might have been a disqualification or might have been loss of part of the $100,000 compliance fee the party makes candidates pay to ensure good behaviour. DRAC announced that Karahalios was disqualified.

Karahalios said in a statement the party is trying to “hijack democracy by removing my name from the ballot.”

CLC initiated a campaign demanding National Council overturn the Karahalios disqualification. Karahalios has filed a petition with the Superior Court of Justice in Ontario asking for the decision to be overturned.

In a press release, CLC national president Jeff Gunnarson called the decision “an outrage,” noting that, “Thousands of our supporters answered our call to sign nomination papers and donate towards the Karahalios, Lewis and Sloan campaigns. Even though the barriers to entry were clearly designed by LEOC to keep out grassroots, non-establishment individuals like Jim, we helped him and the other pro-life candidates overcome them with a strong and effective grassroots campaign, by marshalling thousands of supporters to sign their nomination forms and donate.” Gunnarson recalled Karahalios’ resume that included past Electoral District Association president and serving on the party’s National Policy Committee where Karahalios proved he was “a true conservative,” and said the “grassroots party members have a right to vote for him in this leadership race.”

Gunnarson told The Interimthat while he understands many pro-life grassroot party members will be upset and want to boycott the leadership campaign out of frustration with two pro-lifers being nixed from the race – first Décarie and then Karahalios – he had a simple message: stay engaged. “To those who have taken out memberships, signed nomination forms, and donated to candidates, thank you, stay in the process, don’t give up.” He said, “We still have two candidates worthy of support.” For those who have yet to become a Conservative Party member, Gunnarson pleaded, “please do so because it is vital that we show our strength and we show that innumbers in the final ballot.”

Décarie had vowed to defund abortion and reserve the term “marriage” for church ceremonies. He also said he thought homosexual activity was a choice, denying that people are born that way. He also dismissed LGBTQ as an ideological term. He told The Interimhe opposed gestational limits on abortion and wanted legal protection for all human beings from the moment of conception to natural death.

Karahalios promised to end Justin Trudeau’s multibillion dollar overseas abortion commitment, to appoint only conservative judges to the Supreme Court, ensure free votes for MPs on matters of conscience, to defund the CBC, and stop shariah law and shariah financing.

Derek Sloan

Derek Sloan

Derek Sloan has come out against the government’s ban on conversion therapy which would ban psychological treatment for minors uncomfortable with same-sex attractions or who suffer gender confusion and restrict the treatment in a number of ways. Sloan said the bill caters to “gender ideologists” who believe gender is fluid and could criminalize parents who refuse to go along with hormones or surgery to “affirm” their children’s imagined gender.

In an interview with Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson, host of The 700 Club Canada, Sloan declared, “I’m pro-life and I’ve made no secret of that fact.” He said “it’s time to have a discussion about abortion and the laws surrounding it or the lack thereof.” He said, “As leader, I would encourage individual MPs to bring forward bills addressing this issue and we can let parliamentary democracy do its work and have a discussion.” On gay pride parades, Sloan said he would not participate: “I won’t be marching in a pride parade and I’ve said that. It’s funny that that has become the political litmus test of the year, and I won’t be jumping through any hoops that the media is imposing on the Conservative party.”

In an interview with the CBC, Leslyn Lewis said: “I didn’t march in the parade before I became a politician. And I would feel that it’s very disingenuous for me to use a particular vulnerable group to advance my political career.” She disagreed with Décarie that homosexuality was a choice, saying she could not imagine why people would choose it and the incumbent difficulties it presents, especially “coming out to parents.” Yet she also opposes the government’s conversion therapy ban.

Lewis declares herself pro-lifer and has said she would rescind overseas funding of abortion.

All four have condemned Peter MacKay’s comments last October describing pro-life and pro-family views as the “stinking albatross” around the neck of then leader Andrew Scheer. Scheer, however, promised not to reopen so-called divisive social issues. The four CLC-endorsed candidates said moral issues would be on the table if they were elected leader, and indeed their presence put those issues in the limelight of the leadership contest until the coronavirus disrupted the race. CLC’s Gunnarson said that he has no doubt that the reason two of the pro-life candidates were either barred or disqualified was to reduce the likelihood that life and family issues would come up during debates and show the strength of the social conservative movement within the party. “If there were four pro-life candidates in the debates up against two pro-abortion politicians, it would send a strong signal that life and family issues were important and had to be addressed,” said Gunnarson. “Many in the party want these issues to either go away or just acquiesce with the Liberals and NDP. Having four candidates speaking out against the elite consensus was too much of a threat to their unproven, in fact, tragically wrong ideas about how to win elections.”

Décarie endorsed Sloan shortly after exiting the race. Lewis told the CBC she had not talked to Décarie at all during the campaign.

Campaign Life Coalition is urging pro-life Canadians over 14 years of age to buy Conservative Party memberships before April 17 to be eligible to vote for the party’s next leader. Gunnarson said with a preferential ballot there is no worry about splitting votes, so supporters should vote for Sloan and Lewis either first or second, and mark the other one as their second preference. The preferential ballot means the bottom candidate in each round is dropped off subsequent ballots and those who voted for dropped candidates have their votes reapportioned according to preference.

Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu, former parliamentary staffer Rudy Husny, and businessman Rick Peterson – all pro-abortion and pro-LGBTQ rights – qualified as approved applicants in February but did not qualify as authorized candidates or verified candidates by the March deadlines. Gladu and Husny called upon LEOC to extend the March 25 deadline to become a verified candidate. Sloan and Erin O’Toole asked that all deadlines be extended including the membership sign-up and vote. Lewis said the deadlines should be maintained, but Peter MacKay said they should be moved up so that the party can choose a leader sooner rather than later at a time of national uncertainty due to the covid-19 pandemic.

On March 23, LEOC co-chair Lisa Raitt, a former MP and leadership candidate, told CTV there was no plan to change the timelines for membership or the vote. Raitt said she and LEOC co-chair Dan Nowlan are “monitoring developments around covid-19 continuously,” but indicated the only consideration for delaying the vote was whether or not it was possible for Canada Post to deliver mail-in ballots. The Conservative Party’s constitution allows for other voting options including online, but guarantees the right to the option of a postal ballot.

Campaign Life Coalition said that the membership deadline and vote should be extended. Gunnarson said people should be focused on keeping their families safe, not partisan politics. “The leadership race is important but can wait,” Gunnarson told The Interim. “Protecting our families and keeping society safe from the spread of a deadly virus cannot.”

CLC continues operations with employees working from home to help people stay informed about the leadership race, among other responsibilities.