Derek Sloan

Derek Sloan

The Conservative Party of Canada’s Leadership Election Organizing Committee (LEOC) met April 29 to discuss how to resume the campaign that was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

LEOC was also reportedly considering whether or not to disqualify the pro-life leadership candidate MP Derek Sloan. The Hastings-Lennox and Addington MP had criticized federal chief health officer Dr. Theresa Tam, questioning her competence in dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak and her loyalty to Canada. Liberals, their allies in the media, and even some Conservatives attacked Sloan for what they claimed were “racist” comments about Tam. The Ontario caucus within the Conservatives voted overwhelming to ask Sloan to apologize, but he has refused.

LEOC did not disqualify Sloan before The Interim went to press. It is unclear whether a motion to disqualify him was presented at an April 29 conference call meeting, but one source told The Interimthat members of LEOC hoped that his fellow MPs would expel him from caucus, a vote that could have taken place as early as May 1. Sloan could still run even if he was not a sitting MP but LEOC would probably use the caucus decision to justify disqualification at a later date.

LEOC, or one of its subcommittees, has already nixed the candidacies of two pro-life leadership contenders supported by Campaign Life Coalition. In February, they did not allow Richard Decarie to become a candidate, saying there were problems with his application form. In March, LEOC’s Dispute Resolution Appeals Committee (DRAC) disqualified Jim Karahalios after the party received a complaint about allegedly racist social media postings. Both were outspokenly pro-life and pro-family during their brief leadership campaigns, as was Sloan.

Karahalios filed suit in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice fighting the disqualification. His claim will be heard on May 15.

Another pro-life candidate is Leslyn Lewis. Assuming Sloan remains on the ballot, the race is among Sloan, Lewis, Peter MacKay, and Erin O’Toole. O’Toole and MacKay are both pro-abortion and pro-LGBQT. The ballot is preferential, meaning that party members can vote for more than one candidate. O’Toole has reached out to pro-life and pro-family Conservatives saying the Tories have to be a big tent that includes social conservatives, in hopes of attracting down-ballot support from pro-life members. Last fall, MacKay called social conservatism the “stinking albatross” that sinks Conservative chances of electoral victories, after the Liberals and media attacked Tory leader Andrew Scheer for his personal views on life and family despite his insistence he would not reopen these issues.

Campaign Life Coalition is scheduled to release its Voter’s Guide before ballots are mailed to members in late June or early July.

In March, LEOC suspended the race, postponed some deadlines, and hinted that the June vote and new leader announcement might be delayed. On April 30, the party announced that May 15 will still be the deadline to become a member eligible to vote for the new leader.

The vote and announcement have been pushed back. The party announced that the mail-in ballot must be received by August 21. An individual with knowledge of the LEOC discussion told The Interim that the count will occur shortly afterward and it is expected to take one to three days. The count will take place in accordance with physical distancing rules as they may apply in late August wherever the vote is counted. There will be no convention to announce the leader.

Sources also told The Interim that the tentative date for the party to have ballots sent out to members is July 2, although that is subject to change by a week or so either way. No other details are available at this time. In 2017, members had to provide a copy of identification to prove who they were when they mailed in their ballots. Many supporters who do not have copying technology at home will have to venture to a location with photocopiers to comply with this requirement if LEOC adopts similar rules to ensure all members are Canadian residents.

Another source familiar with LEOC’s discussion told The Interim that online voting was dismissed at the April 29 meeting, describing the possibility as “not on the table but not off the table,” but said the general sentiment on the committee was against it.

LEOC informed campaigns on April 30 that they could immediately resume fundraising and that memberships would be processed in a timely manner through both the candidates’ and the party’s websites.

CLC is encouraging its supporters who are not members to sign up immediately to provide support for the remaining pro-life candidates on the ballot.

There is no word on whether there will be any organized debates or if touring can resume any time soon. Throughout April, candidates conducted virtual townhalls and meetups, but some are hoping to start meeting voters across the country.