Inside the Conservative leadership race: who are the contenders?
Editor’s note: This article was updated to include Conservative MP and leadership candidate Marilyn Gladu.
A whole month has now passed since Andrew Scheer resigned as leader of the Conservative Party, and now, the race to replace him is well underway. Some candidates, like Peter MacKay, foresaw the untenability of Scheer’s position, and reportedly began to organize their bid long before the first vote of the 2019 election had been counted.
Other candidates, like Erin O’Toole and Pierre Poilievre, have been more cautious—discreetly organizing a team that can defeat both their blue-blooded colleagues in June, and then a wobbly Justin Trudeau in the next election.
As Peter MacKay said after the disappointment of the last election, the Tories’ failure to beat Trudeau was “like having a breakaway on an open net and missing.” This most Canadian of analogies should remain pungent during the leadership contest: the next election should beckon a blue-wave across the country. If the Conservative Party again fails to win the keys to the PMO then one is perfectly within their right to expand upon MacKay’s analogy: It would be like failing to invade Poland; or, more sportingly, like losing a boxing match with an amputee. To put it simply, it is more likely than not that the victor of this leadership election will become the next prime minister of Canada.
Due to the sheer significance of this leadership contest, The Post Millennial has composed a handy guide. Here’s who is likely to compete in the leadership election and how they plan to win it.
MacKay has not had the easiest start to the leadership contest. After tersely declaring his bid on Twitter, the long-standing Tory MP, Scott Reid, hit back, throwing the former Harper minister’s loyalty into question. Nevertheless, MacKay is a respected figure in Canada’s Conservative movement. Through his role as the leader of the Progressive Conservatives, MacKay was vital to the formation of the modern Conservative Party.
MacKay served in numerous cabinet positions throughout the Harper era and remains a favourite in the leadership contest. Despite the shaky start, polls have made it clear that the Nova Scotian is in a top position to win.
Like MacKay, O’Toole is another party grandee who commands a great deal of respect from within the caucus. O’Toole, rather exotically these days, served in the military. If he is elected, he would be the first Conservative leader in over 60 years with military experience.
Most recently, O’Toole has served as the Opposition Critic for Foreign Affairs. O’Toole is not new to leadership contests, finishing third in the 2017 leadership election behind Maxime Bernier and Andrew Scheer.
I had the opportunity to meet Poilievre at a fundraiser. Immediately, he stood out as an effective speaker and as someone who could pose a serious challenge to the other candidates.
Poilievre is a career politician who, through his role as Scheer’s attack dog, has managed to garner wide support amongst the Conservative base. Poilievre has recruited the admired John Baird and the formidable Jenni Byrne, who is an accomplished operative who ran Harper’s 2015 campaign.
Gladu is, so far, the only female to enter the competition. Despite being a social Conservative, Gladu quickly made it clear that she would not re-open the abortion debate, and that she would happily march in a gay pride parade.
Before entering politics, Gladu worked as an engineer for Dow Chemical for over two decades. She was first elected in 2015 and served as a chair of the Standing Committee on Status of Women.
There are, of course, other candidates who are spending their time plotting for the leadership. However, for the sake of longevity, and the fact that Guzzo hasn’t received much media coverage, it seems only fair to discuss the Dragon’s Den star.
When The Post Millennial spoke to Guzzo a few weeks ago, he seemed uncertain whether he would throw his hat in the ring—stating that if the Quebec-based Jean Charest didn’t run, then he would be 75 percent sure that he would indeed run. Now, with the recent reports that Charest isn’t likely going to run, Guzzo’s ambition has solidified, telling me,”Yes. If [Charest] doesn’t run, I’ll run.”
Despite attempts to shrug off the comparison, Guzzo’s strategy has similarities to that of Kevin O’Leary’s leadership attempt in 2017. The most overt difference, however, is that Guzzo is Quebec-oriented. With the right-wing CAQ romping to victory in the 2018 provincial election, perhaps Guzzo is on to something. La Belle province is rich with seats, and if the Conservatives can persuade the fickle Quebecois, then Trudeau’s future as PM is in grave danger.
Denis Tsarev and Sabrina Zuniga are co-founders of Truth and Consequences.
I have worked on several political campaigns in Toronto, always helping a Conservative candidate. Here, a Conservative candidate can rarely expect to win the majority of the votes in a riding. At most he/she can hope there will be a split between the NDP and the Liberal votes, helping him/her win with just a bit over one third of the vote. Part of the reason is the central campaign not explaining to the public the ethical values of conservatism.
In my lived experience, at school, university and work, I have been surrounded mainly by those who are not politically involved and do not follow current events closely. However, when a political issue comes up in a conservation, most of my acquaintances would eagerly exhibit their moral aversion to anything associated with conservatism. If I would say that I am a conservative or support some conservative policy, they would look at me as if I just told them I came from Mars.
So why am I a conservative after all? Because I firmly believe that the key conservative principles, such as government transparency and promotion of free market economy, have not only proven themselves to be effective at solving many of our societal and economic problems, but also have strong ethical foundations.
My opponents, and many average people living in Toronto, firmly believe the opposite; namely that conservative principles are inherently unethical and selfish, are aimed at benefitting the rich at the expense of the poor, perpetuate inequality and poverty, or some other cliche phrase that the left often uses to define us.
Clearly, this popular perception does not result merely from how well each party campaigns during election periods, whose leader performs better on the national debate, or whose three policy points on a flyer sound most convincing. This perception is formed by the public beyond and outside of election periods. And this is why I argue that as conservatives, we need to work harder between elections on getting our message out, explaining and defending our values.
The left side of the political spectrum is much more than just the Liberal Party, the NDP and the Green Party. It’s an ideological movement that has permeated many spheres of our society, including education, academia, media and journalism, entertainment and much more. It seems to have also managed to convince the majority of people that its principles are the right principles.
The left leaning political parties simply claim to represent these principles and promise to implement them. Their focus is not to help the voters discover and accept these principles, but to solicit the votes of the people already inclined to share these views on the ethical level. The NDP, Liberals and Greens seem simply to compete at who represents these principles the best and who will have better capacity to implement these once in government (or who will be able best to prevent conservatives from coming to power and hindering their implementation).
Hence, it seems appropriate to denominate the left-leaning political parties not as movements of their own, but simply as political arms or the tip of the iceberg of a movement already existing, wide and populous, with its already formed and solidified ideological, theoretical and ethical frameworks.
Conservatism in Canada seems to operate very differently. It has the manifestation of registered political parties, often well-organized, well-funded, and capable of carrying out strong campaigns during election periods.
However, what it lacks is a strong movement, with its own ethical and theoretical frameworks anywhere closely comparable in magnitude to those of the left.
The Conservative Party is the tip of the iceberg without the iceberg itself.
Each election conservatives appeal and concentrate on practical political and economic issues, current events, the mistakes and scandals of the Liberals and/or NDP, and specific government policies. Outside of the rather small core base of committed conservatives, this approach might win the support of the people who both have no strong ideological preferences and are also tangibly experiencing the negative effects of Liberal or NDP policies, or benefitting from Conservative policies, if they happen to be in government.
Conservative strategists often emphasize the fact that most voters don’t pay attention to and don’t care about politics outside of election time, and therefore they don’t want to discuss ideas in depth.
While I agree that many people don’t pay attention to specific policy outside of election times, in the back of their minds, people all the time do care a lot about the more profound aspect of politics–the ethical and ideological frameworks.
The average voter may not know the platform of each party, their policies on taxation, budget or trade, but the average voter always wants to make the ethically “right” decision, “to be on the right side of history” and to feel like he or she is doing something good for society.
There is absolutely nothing wrong or misguided about this. Wanting to be ethical and helping society are really important human qualities.
During the federal 2019 election, the Conservative campaign focused the most on the issue of affordability, with the recurring line “putting more money in your pockets” featuring in many materials and statements. However, while canvassing door to door, I noticed that this did not resonate well with many, if not most voters here in Toronto.
What many people cared about was solving “big” problems like climate change, poverty, racism, and inequality and they were eagerly willing to contribute their tax dollars to help save the world.
I found many people at the door were indifferent to the policies aimed at “putting more money in their pockets”, and to some we came off as unethical and selfish, appearing to care more about tax credits than about helping the vulnerable and addressing the big problems and injustices. Many people admitted to highly disapproving of Trudeau over the scandals, but felt the Liberal party at least was tackling the right issues and was “on the right side of history”.
I know personally some people who are economically struggling, and admit that conservative policies will benefit them, but claim they will never vote conservative, because it’s unethical and “just wrong”.
The left is very good at exploiting the feelings of wanting to make the ethical choice even if the individual thinking this will be negatively affected. That’s why their message focuses so much on the big issues and appeals to people’s ethical and deep emotional, not immediate, considerations. They make people feel that by voting Liberal or NDP, they will feel morally good, be “progressive” and contribute to saving the world and that by voting Conservative, they will act selfishly and let the world down.
How can Conservatives counter this?
First we must note that the Liberals and the NDP are not trying to create new moral and ideological frameworks during election periods–they are simply appealing to and invoking the already formed popular perceptions about what’s right and what’s wrong that were instilled into the majority of people by education, media, entertainment, academia, etc.
The truth is Conservative policies and principles are not selfish and petty like our opponents try to portray them. The concepts of government transparency and accountability, strong work ethic, support of business completion, reduction of red tape, focus on reduced deficits and economic prosperity, strong foreign policy, freedom of speech and individual liberties, fair and effective justice and immigration systems, respect for the rule of law, and many more, are grounded on solid ethical values and are supported by strong fact- and logic-based intellectual frameworks.
I believe these are much more profound and have stronger ethical justifications than the principles the Liberal and the NDP parties focus on.
These principles have also proven effective at helping improve our society, promoting fairness and opportunities for all, helping those who are vulnerable and struggling, taking care of the environment and increasing the world’s prosperity. These are much more potent than the left’s common approach of throwing money at problems and setting up bloated non-transparent committees and programs to control people’s lives and speech.
Moreover, the conservative principles have a very long and profound intellectual history. Whether in economics, political science, philosophy, or another discipline, we have a broad foundation of writings by thinkers such as John Locke, Adam Smith, Roger Scruton or Jeane Kirkpatrick, dating as far back as the 17th century.
What needs to be done, therefore, is to make these basic conservative principles known, understood, and popular. We need to help people understand conservative values, both ethical and practical. We are a movement that promotes a set of values and aims at implementing effective solutions to help our society prosper. We are much more than just a registered political entity with leader X or Y that mails flyers to people when it’s election time.
To promote these ideals, individuals operating outside of the party framework, need to step up and be heard. Conservative think tanks and conservative-led educational projects are the step we need to invest in further.
Grassroots movements of smart conservatives do exist and we need to support them further here in Canada. I am proud to be a conservative and I want people to know why, so I am stepping up and speaking out. It’s not just about election hot topics, tax credits and Liberal scandals–it’s also about important and solid ethical principles.
I am not the only one. Wherever you are as you read this, find the organizations and individuals you want to support and help as much as you can. Share and spread the messages, talk with your neighbours, and don’t stop.
By working together and not seceding the political discussion, Conservatives can build a solid iceberg underneath its tip.
Conservative leadership candidate Peter MacKay is facing some online backlash and general confusion after deleting a tweet supporting fed-up Albertans who tore down a blockade set up by anti-pipeline protestors on an Edmonton railway.
“Glad to see a couple Albertans with a pickup truck can do more for our economy in an afternoon than Justin Trudeau could do in four years,” the tweet read.
The now-deleted tweet referenced a viral confrontation between protestors and counter-protestors which stopped a train in its tracks earlier that day.
Global TV’s Nicole Stillger tweeted “Counter-protestors hauling away the blockade and loading it into this truck.”
There are more and more instances of everyday Canadians confronting blockades throughout Canada.
Earlier today, a Quebec man confronted a group of protestors at a scene which was described as “carnival-like.”
“You are blocking billions of dollars from our economy. A thousand people have just lost their jobs. I don’t care about Legault and Trudeau, what I want is that you leave here safely, that’s all,” said David Skitt to protestors, translated from French.
CN confirmed that it has obtained an injunction to clear blockades on their Saint-Lambert railways.
The Conservative Shadow Minister for Agriculture John Barlow has launched a private member’s bill, intending to protect farmers from animal activists who have plagued Canada’s agricultural industry.
Over recent years, farmers have often complained of animal rights groups trespassing on their private property—leading to their equipment and livestock being harmed.
Animal activists also pose a dramatic risk to biosecurity of Canadian food. Speaking to The Post Millennial, Barlow said that the “biosecurity of our food supply is integral. I don’t believe that the protestors understand the potential consequences of what could happen if they walk onto these properties.”
In the last decade, there have been multiple instances of animal rights activists skirmishing onto the land of farmers, leading to deep anxiety amongst those in the agricultural industry.
“The first focus is to address the mental health and anxiety around agriculture right now—it’s at a crisis point,” said Barlow.
“When you have these protestors or animal activists, it’s one thing for them to protest out on the highway, but when they break onto you property and break into your barns, it’s really stressful.”
Despite this, Barlow was quick to assert that the bill would not “muzzle protests.”
“We are not trying to stop these animal activists from having their say. What we are saying is that there is a very serious biosecurity risk. I believe that this bill will get cross-party support as we are protecting the integrity of our supply chain,” he added.
If Barlow’s bill does receive the necessary support for it to become legislation, protestors would now be risking heavy fines if they were to harm the farmer’s animals or spread disease.
As well as this, if these protestors were organized by an animal rights pressure group, they could be held financially liable with fines of up to $500,000.
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture has applauded Barlow’s bill, saying that they “believe that the introduction of this bill is an important and necessary step in the right direction.”
Conservative Member of Parliament for Sarnia-Lambton Marilyn Gladu has been officially approved to run for the Conservative Party leadership race.
Gladu has been open about her bid, having announced her bid to become the leader of the Conservative Party on Jan. 9. She was at the time the only female candidate in the leadership contest, though she will be joined by Leslyn Lewis.
“In order to win, we need to be able to expand the base,” Gladu told National Post on Thursday. “When I looked at it, I said to myself, this is something I can do. I am a strong, dynamic leader. I’ve got 32 years of global business experience, and I’ve been successful here in Parliament. I think I can bring the right balance of fiscal responsibility and social compassion.”
Gladu was first elected to the House of Commons in 2015, and serves as the Conservative’s health critic. Gladu has a background as a chemical engineer.
Gladu also says she is bilingual, having done business in Quebec.
This is a breaking news article and will be updated.