Here is to hoping that the third time is the charm
By Matthew Fraser, Editor in Chief
A Poilievre led party would likely appeal to the conservative base while a Charest-led party would have a better chance at expanding the party’s voting demographic.
Following the February 2 resignation of Erin O’Toole, the Conservative Party of Canada has been gearing up for a new party leadership race. However, the candidates thus far have already begun to experience difficulties and spats between them.
On March 31, CTV News reported that Conservative party affiliates and staffers had been targeted by fake campaign donation emails. Jean Charest, a current front running in the race, described the predicament as “an obvious attempt to create chaos.” Though the Conservative party (CPC) alleges that membership data was not leaked, former Erin O’Toole senior staffer Melanie Paradis publicly announced that she had received a fraudulent email thanking her for a $120 donation to a candidate she declined to name. As reported, hundreds of other individuals had had their information used by an IP address in Ukraine to send these fake emails.
Preceding the potential leak, interim leader Candice Bergen warned contenders to avoid smearing each other as “not conservative.” In an interview with The Canadian Press (quoted on March 24 by CTV News), Bergen encouraged candidates not to “wedge, divide and polarize” because the CPC “should not be doing the same thing we’re criticizing the Liberals for doing.” This followed notable attacks by Pierre Poilievre against other candidates including calling Jean Charest a Liberal due to his past with the Liberal party. However, this Liberal past seems to be a boon for Charest in surveys.
A survey conducted by the Angus Reid Institute found that 37 percent of Liberals, 34 percent of Green party voters and 25 percent of NDP voters would consider voting for Charest. In contrast, 89 percent of Peoples Party voters and 80 percent of Conservative voters favoured Poilievre over Charest. Interestingly, a poll conducted by Nanos Survey found that of the 1,000 Canadians surveyed, 29 percent wished to see a more “socially progressive and more centrist on economic issues” Conservative party. This was near perfectly counteracted by 30 percent of respondents who vowed to never vote conservative.
In an interview with CBC News, president of the Angus Reid Institute Shachi Kurl explained that: “Poilievre is really the spirit guide of right-leaning and hard right-leaning voters in this country,” as seen by his appeal to PPC and CPC voters. In contrast, Kurl said Charest is getting “side-eye and a second look not only from a majority of past Conservative voters but we also see that two-fifths of past Liberal voters are saying, ‘Yeah that guy appeals to me.’” In turn, this was interpreted to mean that a Poilievre led party would likely appeal to the base while a Charest-led party would have a better chance at expanding the party’s voting demographic.
However, this is not a two-man race. Leslyn Lewis who came third in the last conservative election is making another leadership bid this year. In a CBC News article from March 8, Lewis may be best known for her social Conservative bonafide including her attacks on Justin Trudeau and her impassioned story about choosing not to have an abortion while in law school. Additionally, she raised opposition to vaccinating children, alleged that the media wanted her to “sit in the back of the bus” and used an OP-ED in the National Post to say Canadian taxpayers were being called on to quietly fund a “socialist coup.”
Taking a comparatively softer stance is Patrick Brown who spoke against candidates dividing the party during the leadership race. Global News quotes him as saying: “Conservatives deserve more than a leader who is an attack dog in opposition, but will never be prime minister because they’ve already turned off many Canadians.” In addition to his comments, Global News makes note of a recently-settled lawsuit Brown filed against CTV News following a sexual misconduct report.
Finally, The National Post listed several “dark horse” contenders also making a bid for CPC leadership; the list includes Scott Aitchison, Roman Baber, Joseph Bourgault, and Marc Dalton among others.