After Andrew Scheer announced he was resigning as Conservative Party of Canada leader, the party scrambled to set up a leadership race, cancelling the leadership review and postponing the policy convention scheduled for May in Toronto. The leadership convention will be held June 27 in Toronto – the same day as the local gay pride parade – and the policy convention has been rescheduled for November and moved to Quebec City.
The party put new, more onerous rules for leadership candidates than they have in the past. Candidates must have the support of 3,000 people who have been party members for 21 days before they sign the candidate’s nomination papers, with 1,000 signatures due by February 27, and the rest by March 25. Candidates must also pay a $200,000 entry fee and a $100,000 compliance deposit. They must also pass an interview with the party’s Leadership Election Organizing Committee (LEOC). In 2017, leadership contenders had to pay a total of $100,000 (half of which was a compliance deposit) and gather 300 signatures; they did not have to pass an interview with the party.
Social issues predominated the early days of the campaign – as expected after former Progressive Conservative leader and federal defense, foreign affairs, and justice minister Peter MacKay said Andrew Scheer’s social conservatism was the “stinking albatross” around the neck of the party, leading to Justin Trudeau’s re-election last October.
Quebec political operative Richard Décarie got into hot water with journalists and other leadership contenders when he called homosexual behaviour a choice in an interview on CTV’s Power Play. MacKay and MP Erin O’Toole were quick to tweet criticism of Decarie’s remarks, saying such views had no place in the party.
Alberta MPs Michelle Rempel Garner and Mike Lake both said Decarie should not be allowed to run, with Rempel Garner saying she will ask LEOC to disqualify him. John Williamson (New Brunswick Southwest) said “we’re going to have a robust debate,” in the leadership, “on all the issues across the conservative spectrum.” Arnold Viersen (New Brunswick Southwest), chair of the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus, told reporters, “It comes off as elitest if we say, well, ‘You’re a correct kind of conservative, and you’re not a correct conservative’.”
When The Interim went to press, ten people officially launched campaigns or signaled their intention to run: MPs Marilyn Gladu, Erin O’Toole, and Derek Sloan, MacKay, Décarie, and an assortment of former candidates, political operatives, and businessmen, including Clayton Knutzon, lawyer Leslyn Lewis, Rick Peterson, Aron Seal, Derek Sloan, and Bobby Singh.
CLC is encouraging supporters interested in the Conservative Party to take a membership and sign the forms for three leadership contenders: Decarie, Sloan, and Lewis. CLC has talked to all three and determined they are supportable for leader.
Gladu, who was green-lit by Campaign Life Coalition due to her pro-life voting record, said she would march in a gay pride parade and that she considered the abortion and marriage issues closed. CLC promptly changed
her rating to a red light, indicating she is not pro-life. She has also recently said she has changed her mind about euthansia and now supports it. She later said in an interview with Global’s West Block, that she would allow free votes and permit backbenchers to bring forward legislation on moral issues, but added that there would be limited support within the party for such measures and probably would not pass in Parliament.
MP Pierre Poilievere was running and said he, too, thought abortion and marriage were settled issues, that he would not allow MPs to bring forward legislation on life and family issues or guarantee its defeat if they were introduced, and said he would march in a gay pride parade. CLC also changed his green light to a read light. Poilievere was considered one of the frontrunners until he alienated social conservatives.
Former Quebec premier Jean Charest and former interim leader Rona Ambrose announced they were not running and major names such as Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall were eschewing bids. MPs Michelle Rempel Garner and Michael Chong have indicated they were considering running, as is entrepreneur and Dragon’s Denpersonality Vincenzo Guzzo. Rempel Garner is one of the most vocal advocates of gay rights within the party and Chong, who finished fifth in the 2019 leadership race, is vocal on climate and democratic reform. Not much is known about Guzzo, although the Quebec-based theatre chain he owned did show the film Unplannedlast summer.
CLC national president Jeff Gunnarson told The Interim that with the other major parties prohibiting pro-lifers from running, it is imperative that pro-life Canadians rally behind the three pro-life candidates running for the CPC leadership. “If pro-life and pro-family Canadians do not back these courageous candidates, it could lead to further persecution of social conservatives within the party and it will be more difficult to get the pro-life message out in the political arena in the future.”
He said that the $20 membership and few minutes it will take to vote in a mail-in or online ballot later this spring is a “small price to pay to give the unborn a voice in our political system.” He noted that with a preferential ballot, pro-life and pro-family members of the party will be able to clearly show their support for all three pro-life candidates and send a strong signal to the party and the media that the abortion issue is far from settled.