Conservative leadership race to hold 2 debates with virtual audiences
The restarted federal Conservative leadership race will now include debates, the latest aspect of political campaigning to be modified by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The four verified candidates are continuing to campaign and build their base of supporters before ballots are cast, and will now have to begin debate preparations as they are scheduled to face off in a few weeks.
On June 1 the party announced that it will hold two debates in Toronto. On June 17 the candidates will debate each other in French and the next night on June 18 will do it all over again in English.
Under the original leadership race timeline, the party was set to hold its debates in April, but those were cancelled when the entire race was put on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The party has announced that both debates will be streamed on their website, and interested Canadians can submit video questions that will be put to the candidates by the co-chairs of the Leadership Election Organizing Committee (LEOC) that will be moderating the debates.
The debates will also include a head-to-head portion where candidates can take on an opponent one-on-one.
Given the ongoing outbreak there will be no live audience, and physical distancing measures will be in place to ensure all participants and organizers stay safe, the party says.
“While traditionally we’d like to have these debates in different parts of the country, the ongoing uncertainty around COVID-19 makes this the most sensible way to hold these debates,” said LEOC co-chair Lisa Raitt in a statement.
The voting process will be conducted through mail-in ballots, which party members need to send back to the party by August 21.
Interested voters had until May 15 to register for a Conservative Party membership in order to be deemed eligible to cast a ballot.
The race resumed on April 29 “with adjustments to accommodate current circumstances,” a month after it was initially suspended, with LEOC saying at the time that it wouldn’t be possible to meet all deadlines necessary in time for the originally-planned June 27 announcement of a winner.
Over the last several weeks, the four verified candidates, Erin O’Toole, Peter MacKay, Leslyn Lewis and Derek Sloan, have been campaigning to build a broad enough base of supporters by gaining the backing of existing members and attracting new ones.
As of May 15 the Conservative Party said it didn’t know how many total members will be eligible to vote, saying it could take up to a month before it’s made public how large the voting pool will be this summer.
While all ballots need to be in by August 21 it’s yet to be determined how quickly they will be scrutinized and a winner declared.
The date and format of how the party will announce its new leader once the results are tallied will also depend on the health guidelines and government orders in place at the time.
To reach this phase, each contender had to raise $200,000, put forward an additional $100,000 as a compliance fee, and gather 3,000 signatures from members. This secures their name on the ballot.
A three-time Conservative MP from Ontario and former cabinet minister. Prior to entering politics O'Toole was in the Royal Canadian Air Force for a decade and later worked as a lawyer. O'Toole placed third in the 2017 leadership race, and since re-entering has taken policy positions that appear to be appealing to the base of the party. He's described himself as the "true blue" candidate.
O'Toole says he's running because "the country needs a strong Conservative party." He's taking the position of uniting Conservatives.
A former federal cabinet minister from Nova Scotia and the last leader of the Progressive Conservatives pre-merger with Stephen Harper’s Canadian Alliance in 2003. After deciding not to run in 2015, MacKay was working at a Toronto law firm and was a frequent political commentator. Since throwing his hat in the ring he's faced questions over some conflicting positions.
MacKay says he is running "to keep the Conservative movement united and to defeat Justin Trudeau in the next general election."
An Ontario lawyer who was an unsuccessful 2015 federal election candidate. Lewis lost after being put into a race at the last moment when the previous candidate quit once a video of him urinating in a cup while working in someone's home surfaced. She came to Canada as a child from Jamaica and has received the backing of Campaign Life Coalition, as well as the support of a prominent Christian activist, who called her a "breath of fresh air" as a woman who is against same-sex marriage and abortion.
Lewis says she is running because "Canadians can and should expect much more from their leaders," and because she is seeing "opportunities for future generations falling away."
A rookie Ontario Conservative MP elected for the first time in 2019. Prior to entering politics he worked as a lawyer and small business owner. Since entering the House of Commons he's stated that he believes the "cause of sexual orientation" is "scientifically unclear," and has also received the backing of social conservative organization Campaign Life Coalition.
Sloan says he believes the country is "under siege by a tide of political correctness that seeks to destroy Canada," and vows to "take a stand for Canada against radical progressivism."
NO LONGER IN THE RUNNING
A two-time Conservative MP from Ontario, who was first elected in 2015. Prior to entering politics she worked as a chemical engineer. As a parliamentarian she's advocated for palliative care and, during her time as the health critic, she voiced concerns about the Liberals’ rollout of marijuana legalization.
Gladu said her vision included: "Canadian policy rooted in a better balance of fiscal common sense and social compassion."
A longtime Conservative party member and former staffer. Husny worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers in Montreal before trying his luck twice at running as the Conservative candidate in the riding of Outremont in 2011 and 2015. Husny worked as a senior adviser to the Minister of International Trade in between his two unsuccessful bids. After 2015, he spent time both in the private sector in the Gulf region and in outgoing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer's office. Husny was the only Quebec candidate, and he had already established that he would tell MPs looking to bring forward anti-abortion bills that it's "not the priority."
Husny said he was running "to bring generational change to our party, to our politics, and to our country."
A businessman from Alberta and past leadership candidate. He came 12th in the 2017 leadership race and touted his bilingualism and openness to diversity as assets. He proposed a 15 per cent flat personal income tax and a roll back of Liberal gun laws.
Peterson said he was running to "help restore and reinvigorate the investment climate and job creation." He billed himself as the candidate with a "bold vision" that included tax reform and a climate plan.
An Ontario lawyer who has advocated for the elimination of carbon taxes. He's also married to Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP Belinda Karahalios and is suing the provincial PC party over allegations that the 2018 race for party president was “rigged” to keep him out. He received the backing of social conservative group Campaign Life Coalition.
Karahalios said he was running to fight against what he called a "top-down coronation" for "the well-connected establishment candidates."
PROMPTED BY SCHEER RESIGNATION
The leadership race got underway on January 13, giving hopefuls 45 days to declare. The hunt for a new head of the party was prompted by Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer announcing on Dec. 12 that he was stepping down as leader but would be staying on until a replacement is named.
Under Scheer, the Conservatives increased their seat count to 121 seats in the 2019 federal election, but in the weeks following the election, Scheer faced a steady stream of criticism for his performance and personal stance on same-sex marriage and other social issues. He was also questioned about his expenses and use of party funds in the lead-up to the federal campaign.