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.
Conservative leadership candidate Erin O’Toole has pledged to eliminate 50 percent of the CBC’s English-langauge television, with a plan to privatize it over the course of a four-year government.
If elected prime minister, O’Toole will also cut the budget of the CBC’s digital programming, whilst preserving components of the public broadcaster, which continues to remain in the national interest.
Speaking to The Post Millennial, O’Toole said, “We’re announcing today a plan to radically reform and energize the CBC. That will mean cutting CBC digital. That will mean eliminating half the budget of CBC English television—with a view of privatizing it over the course of a four-year government.”
O’Toole went on to say that he would preserve the components of the CBC that still serve in the public interest.
“CBC Radio, which doesn’t compete with the private sector because there’s no commercials, will be preserved.
O’Toole would also preserve “CBC Radio-Canada in Quebec and other parts of the country that fulfills the duo-lingustic requirements. So, French-language services, minority language services in some parts of the country.”
“We’d like to see that increasingly on a non-commercial basis,” O’Toole added.
Over recent weeks, the CBC has faced increasing pressure after a report revealed that a meagre 329,000 viewers now watch the public broadcaster’s supper-hour broadcast. As a result of this declining viewership, the CBC recently asked the CRTC to let them broadcast less Canadian programs.
“The CBC has to get with the times,” said O’Toole. “The government shouldn’t be subsidizing things just because that was the way it was done 50, 60, 70 years ago.”
“Nothing shows the lunacy of Justin Trudeau’s policies more than $600 million in new money he gave to the CBC to enhance their digital program. A few years later, he needed to put a $600 million media bailout, because the Toronto Star and other companies were losing digital advertising—because of his own CBC increase!”
If elected prime minister, O’Toole would seek to reform what he described as “over a billion dollars of dumb, old public policy … We have to recognize the new realities, and the CBC has to realize it, too. An O’Toole government will reform and modernize the CBC.”
Conservatives are turning their backs on social conservatives and are instead setting their sights on more fiscal cons, according to a new poll by Nanos Research.
According to the poll, conducted for The Globe and Mail, 33 percent of Canadians said the “ideal” party leader would not be socially conservative, while 15 percent said they view the future party leader as being “very socially conservative.”
Over one third (33 percent) said that the next leader would ideally be neutral on social issues, with another 14 percent saying they are not sure.
The poll found that it was those who voted for the Conservatives regularly who were more likely to say they wanted the future leader to be “very socially conservative and very economically conservative” than others who have not voted for the party.
Regular party voters, though had a higher likelihood of being in favour of a Conservative Party leader that is more economically conservative, rather than socially conservative.
The poll was made up of 1,003 Canadians from January 27-29, with a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points 19 times out of 20.
Founder and chief data scientist Nik Nanos said that the Tories need to be mindful of the optics of electing a social conservative. With good reason, too. This past election saw old footage of Andrew Scheer discussing gay marriage. The footage went viral, as Scheer’s comments went against the grain of what would be considered “acceptable discourse” by voting blocks the Conservatives could have been attempting to win over.
Nanos went on to say that potential frontrunners such as Peter MacKay and Erin O’Toole are “more traditional Conservative candidates who are more likely to focus on fiscal issues.”
Conservative leadership candidate Erin O’Toole has pledged to preserve Canadian history from cancel culture, saying that the “left has become so loud that it’s almost like a cultural marxism.”
Speaking to The Post Millennial, O’Toole went on to add that “they try and impose a viewpoint and attack those who disagree with that viewpoint … they really try to change and erase history when we should be embrace history and learn from it.”
O’Toole has been vocal in his opposition to cancel culture. In January, O’Toole took Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to task over his decision to remove Hector Langevin’s name from the Prime Minister’s Office.
Speaking on this subject with The Post Millennial, O’Toole said, “I was the one who took on Justin Trudeau for taking Hector Langevin’s name off of the Prime Minister’s Office—one of only two Francophone Father’s of Confederation.”
“He was involved in all of the conferences that led to Canada. Trudeau stripped his name off, which was just symbolism as opposed to actually tackling challenges facing Indigenous Canadians today,” he added.
In 2017, O’Toole also condemned the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (EFTO) for pushing to remove Sir John A. MacDonald’s name from schools.”
“All politicians are flawed,” said O’Toole. “But Sir John A. MacDonald did incredible things to forge together a new country here on the North American continent that has turned into the best country in the world in my view. We should be proud about that, and we should learn from it.”
“Whether it was people changing the words in our national anthem, taking down statues, I’ve been a voice that for many years has been fighting this fight against what we now know as cancel culture and I’m proud as a Conservative to have done that.”
Leslyn Lewis has officially entered the race to become the next leader of the Conservative Party of Canada on Wednesday.
In a statement on her campaign website, Lewis said, “I am running to be the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada because Canadians can and should expect much more from their leaders.”
Lewis has not previously served as an elected office and works as a lawyer in Toronto.
Originally from Jamaica, Lewis moved with her parents to Toronto and has since had a successful career. Since rumours began that Lewis may consider entering the contest, the lawyer has been vocal on Twitter.
Lewis is a social conservative—being endorsed by a the Campaign Life Coalition, which is a pro-life pressure group who wields substantial power in previous Conservative leadership contests.
Up until now, only Erin O’Toole and Peter Mackay have officially entered the leadership contest, although MP Marilyn Gladu and several other candidates are actively campaigning for the role.