The Conservative Party of Canada’s Leadership Election Organizing Committee (LEOC) has informed pro-life and pro-family candidate Richard Décarie he is not allowed to contest the party’s leadership. In February, Décarie told CTV’s Evan Solomon that he did not refer to people as LGBQT, which he labeled a liberal term, saying he looks at every person as an individual, not as a member of an invented term. He was criticized by several other leadership candidates and others in the Conservative Party for his position. Pundits predicted he would be disqualified over his remarks.
Décarie was running as a self-styled True Blue Conservative, endorsed by Brad Trost and supported by campaign strategists from the Trost and Tanya Granic Allen leadership campaigns. He said he would defund abortion and redefine marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The French media ignored Décarie’s campaign after he announced he wanted to defund abortion, and after the Solomon interview his campaign appeared to disappear from the national media. But successful tours of Quebec and southwestern Ontario ensured that Décarie raised the requisite amount of money (at least $25,000) and gathered the necessary minimum of 1000 signatures by the Feb. 27 deadline to become a candidate.
Eight candidates were approved by LEOC, but Décarie was not one of them. LEOC did not provide a reason and the decision cannot be appealed.
Décarie told The Interim, LEOC made a mistake disqualifying him because “the CPC rejected the base of the party.” He explained that if there was little interest in these supposedly controversial issues, the “problem would go away on its own” because he would not garner the support necessary to make it through the next hoop (more money and signatures for nomination) or do well in the leadership race. He also expressed surprise with the decision considering he thought the LEOC interview went well.
He said the decision was certainly made because many in the party do not want to address issues such as abortion and same-sex “marriage.” He said if he was running, the party would be forced to deal with these issues.
Following the general election last October, Peter MacKay, another leadership contender, blamed Andrew Scheer’s personal pro-life and pro-traditional marriage beliefs for the Tories losing the election and called social conservatism the “stinking albatross around the neck of the party.” Prominent party strategists like Kory Teneycke declared that the party would have to shuck any hint of social conservatism if it were to be electorally relevant. Such declarations reflected personal opinions but were not supported by any data. The media has dutifully reiterated the anti-social conservative narrative.
Décarie told LEOC that he would work to undo the 2016 policy change that made the Conservatives officially neutral but was effectively supportive of same-sex “marriage,” when it rescinded the party policy book to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. (That change convinced Brad Trost to run for leader in 2017.) Décarie said if he won the leadership he would advocate changing back to the former policy of defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman at this November’s policy convention and, if passed, would run on it in the next election. “It is ultimately up to the party members and members should be respected,” he said. He said that his proposal — winning the leadership, changing the policy, and running in a general election — would be a three-pronged democratic test of the change in policy. “What are they afraid of,” he asked of the party.
Still, Décarie did not think that it was an easy decision for LEOC to disqualify him. “The impact is important,” and he predicted they deliberated over it at some length. Sources within the party told the campaign and The Interim that he had been approved to run following his Feb. 27 interview. But two days later, he received official notice of LEOC’s final decision. The decision risks alienating the sizable pro-life and pro-family base of the Conservatives. Asked why LEOC disqualified him and not the other three pro-life leadership contenders endorsed by Campaign Life Coalition, he said they were not as vocal about it as he was.
Décarie said that the response he has received since the news he was being barred from running has been supportive, and “even people who do not share my views” said the incident shows “the CPC is not respecting freedom of expression and freedom of conscience.”
He encouraged supporters to stay involved with the Conservatives, saying he would likely endorse a candidate soon. He said he wants a “genuine conservative” and that must include a declaration that the candidate “recognizes that life begins at conception and ends at natural death.” He would also like to see the candidate be bilingual in order to “take the fight to Trudeau in both debates.”
The campaign will morph into a “genuine conservative movement” Décarie said. He hopes to attract party members, supporters in other parties, and those who are not traditionally involved in partisan politics, who are committed to pro-life, pro-family, limited government, and fiscally responsible policies. He said he is not sure what that looks like quite yet, but his website and social media accounts will provide more information shortly about how to support the new endeavour.
He said there is no chance he will back “Red Tory Peter MacKay or Red Tory Erin O’Toole.” Décarie said the “Conservatives cannot beat Justin Trudeau if they are Liberal-lite.” Asked about O’Toole’s outreach to social conservatives with the idea that all stripes of Conservatives are welcome in his party, Décarie called it “a marketing strategy,” not a core belief for that candidate.
Décarie said to win the next election, the CPC must offer “full spectrum conservatism” and that must include social conservatives. “It is very clear that social conservatism is conservatism,” he explained.
He also that MacKay has shown his true colours by criticizing social conservatives last October and “he wants to kick them out of the party” if he wins. He accused MacKay of hiding his progressive tendencies when Stephen Harper was prime minister, but they would quickly return if he became leader.
Décarie said he thought he was done with high-level politics after leaving Stephen Harper’s Office of the Leader of the Opposition more than a decade ago and returning to the private sector. But the timing of the leadership race and the threats that MacKay, Jean Charest and others presented to the conservatism of the Tory party, dragged him into the race. Saying there was a “craving in the population for this type of leadership,” and the “momentum is humongous” he is remaining involved. What that looks like is not clear yet. But it is obvious we have not heard the last from Richard Décarie.