Paul Tuns

Editor’s Note: When The Interim went to press, former MP Leona Alleslev, MP Marc Dalton (Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge), and former candidates Joel Etienne and Bobby Singh were not yet candidates. Campaign Life Coalition gave Alleslev a red light in the previous two Parliaments, meaning she was pro-abortion and anti-family. CLC has yet to rate Dalton, Etienne, and Singh.

Seven candidates have announced that they are seeking the Conservative Party leadership, including MP Leslyn Lewis.

Lewis finished third in the 2020 leadership race and was catapulted to the most votes on the second ballot after winning a significant portion of Derek Sloan’s support once he dropped off the ballot. Lewis won all four western provinces on the second ballot, including the majority of votes in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Despite finishing ahead of Erin O’Toole and Peter MacKay on the second ballot, because of the distribution of the points – she did poorly in Quebec and urban Ontario — Lewis finished third and was dropped off the ballot for the third round which was won by O’Toole.

Lewis is rated as pro-life by Campaign Life Coalition. CLC’s director of political operations Jack Fonseca said upon Lewis announcing she was running for leadership again, “Since becoming a Member of Parliament, she’s been a vocal advocate for life, promoting the life-saving work of pregnancy care centres, and defending free speech.” Lewis spoke at the Save our Charities rally in November to defend pregnancy homes and other pro-life organizations against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s proposal to strip them of their charitable tax status. Fonseca said considering the strength of socially conservative voters in the party, Leslyn is automatically a strong contender with a very good shot at winning.”

Lewis, then a practicing lawyer, was the only candidate in 2020 who was not a sitting MP. She was elected to represent the southwestern Ontario riding of Haldimand-Norfolk in 2021.

Joining Lewis is former Liberal Quebec premier Jean Charest, a former leader of the federal Progressive Conservative Party; Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, a former leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party; independent Ontario MPP Roman Baber (York Centre); MP Pierre Poilievre (Carleton); MP Scott Aitchison (Parry Sound-Muskoka); and, businessman Joseph Bourgault, CEO of Bourgault Tillage Tools and founder of Canadians for Truth.

CLC has given a red light to Aitchison, Brown, Charest, and Poilievre, indicating they are pro-abortion and anti-traditional family. 

Both Charest and Brown are said to move the party to the left on social issues. The Toronto Star reported that the two campaigns might work together to ensure a Red Tory victory in the leadership.

Brown had a pro-life and pro-family voting record as an MP and reached out to social conservatives to win the Ontario PC leadership, but soon double-crossed pro-life and pro-family Tories by marching in gay pride parades, supporting Kathleen Wynne’s radical sex-ed program, and disqualifying socially conservative candidates. He resigned the leadership of the party in 2018 after allegations of sexual impropriety were reported by CTV News. CTV reported that two women allege Brown forced himself upon them in separate incidents after plying them with alcohol; one of the women claimed she was 18 at the time, when in fact she was 19. The allegations were for incidents that occurred when Brown was a federal MP for the riding of Barrie. Both said they felt coerced and taken advantage of by Brown, who remained sober during the alleged incidents.
   Brown sued CTV, seeking $8 million in damages. Last month, days before Brown entered the Conservative Party leadership, the two sides came to a settlement in which the news agency said it had “regrets” over unspecified “errors” in reporting. No cash was exchanged, CTV continues to host the stories on its website, and the specific errors are not identified. CTV did not say that the substance of the allegations was false. In an op-ed for the Canadian Press, John Miller said the out-of-court settlement “leaves many questions unanswered” as the stories are still available online, “The main allegations of the two women still remain in every detail for anyone to read.” Miller said, “Most likely, Brown felt he got enough to claim that the settlement exonerates him, even though we’re not clear about which facts are right and which are wrong.”

In 2018, Brown won election as mayor of Brampton, which the disgraced former provincial leader considered a step on his road to redemption. Brown probably considers the settlement an exoneration. But Brown is ignoring a 2018 Globe and Mail report after the first allegations were made public that senior staffers to the former PC leader were strategizing how to deal with potential allegations of sexual impropriety, suggesting it was a widely known problem.

The allegations of sexual assault were not the only controversy to embroil Brown’s leadership. The provincial Integrity Commissioner issued a report on April 26, 2018, about allegations of failing to disclose gifts of travel, reporting sources of income in his financial disclosure to commissioner, and whether he properly disclosed receiving money from Jass Johal, who was seeking a PC nomination. While Commissioner David Wake said there was insufficient evidence to rule whether there was a breach in properly disclosing gifts of travel, he did find that Brown twice failed to report rental income from his personal property and twice failed to disclose a loan from Johal. Wake wrote, “When the leader of a political party is substantially indebted to a candidate for election as an MPP for that party, the interests of transparency require that the indebtedness be made known so that people have an appropriate context to assess the relationship between the leader and the candidate. Simply put, the public has a right to know.” He reprimanded Brown for the four breaches.

Brown’s PC Party was also embroiled in a number of disputed nominations, with numerous allegations of irregularities. One riding contest was investigated for fraud by the Hamilton police. 

Jean Charest is not without controversy, either. The Canadian Press reported March 11, “Charest’s time as premier was marred by scandals and investigations which, although they did not find fault, left “big, dark clouds” on his legacy.” There were three separate investigations that dogged Charest: Quebec’s anti-corruption squad led an investigation into allegations of illegal party financing during Charest’s time as the Quebec Liberal leader; the Bastarache Commission looked into allegations of partisan judicial appointments; and, the Charbonneau Commission investigated corruption in the province’s construction industry. None of the investigations found Charest was directly involved in any wrong-doing, although the anti-corruption investigation wrapped up its eight-year inquiry last month at the same time Charest announced he was running for leader.

Charest and Brown both want to move the party leftward on social issues, to “modernize” the Conservative Party,  a tactic they say is necessary to win suburban and urban ridings. CLC national president Jeff Gunnarson said that ousted leader Erin O’Toole tried that and lost votes and seats in the September 2021 election. “The party should try to win back ethnic and other voters who are more socially conservative that stayed home or voted for other parties in 2021,” Gunnarson told The Interim. “Imitating the Liberals on life and family issues has proven to be a losing strategy,” he explained.

Poilievre, like Brown, had a solid pro-life and pro-family voting record, but when he flirted with the idea of running for leader of the Conservatives in 2020, he told La Presse no pro-life legislation would be introduced by his government and that he would not allow Conservative MPs to bring up the issue of abortion. Since those comments, he has supported the Trudeau’s government’s so-called conversion therapy ban and voted against his colleague Cathy Wagantall’s private member’s bill outlawing sex-selective abortion. 

Fonseca explained in an e-blast to CLC supporters that a politician “like Poilievre offers meaningful policy commitments to social conservatives, we’ll give them due credit,” but “we won’t be able to green light them” as he urged pro-life Conservatives to not vote for such candidates, saying that they do not deserve the backing of pro-lifers. 

CLC’s MP ratings page has also given Aitchison a red light based on his record and comments. He has yet to say anything about moral issues in his leadership campaign.

CLC has yet to rate Baber and Bourgault.

Baber was kicked out of the Ontario PC caucus by Premier Doug Ford for criticizing the government’s handling of the pandemic, notably vaccine mandates and vaccine passport.

Bourgault states on his website under a section titled “Creating a Pro Life and Family Culture,” that “Canada is a great place to our country by empowering our citizens to create families in our communities” and “We also aim to create support structures to help families experiencing unplanned pregnancy to ensure that they have the financial, spiritual and social support to be confident in raising a healthy and happy family.” It is not clear what policies he is proposing to create a pro-life culture. He also proposes a ban on enforcement of vaccine passports and is critical of the World Economic Forum and its leader’s “Great Reset” agenda.

The deadline for candidates to submit enough endorsement signatures and the full registration fee ($200,000) and compliance deposit ($100,000) to become a verified candidate is April 29. 

Canadian residents must be members of the party by June 3 in order to be eligible to vote. Ballots will be sent by post in late July or early August, and the new Conservative leader will be announced on Sept. 10.

Gunnarson said that pro-lifers inclined to support the Conservative Party, or anyone who would like to see one of the parties in Parliament led by a pro-life leader, should ensure their memberships are up-to-date in the next month to ensure they can support pro-life candidates.