Sask. Conservative leadership hopeful says he was disqualified despite meeting requirements

A Saskatchewan business owner says while he met the requirements to officially join the federal Conservative leadership race, a clerical issue ended his hopes of leading the party.

While Joseph Bourgault said he takes the Conservative Party of Canada's (CPC) explanation at "face value" he questions whether that was all there was to it.

"Is there some kind of consciousness — that they want to keep you out of the race," he told CTV News during an interview by Zoom.

Bourgault is the co-founder of Canadians for Truth, a group largely born out of opposition to pandemic health measures, which promotes a medically disproven treatment for COVID-19 on its website.

The website also references the "great reset," a phrase used by adherents of a conspiracy theory that frames the COVID-19 pandemic as an attempt by "global elites" to reshape society.

He was also a high-profile supporter of the Ottawa convoy protest earlier in his year.

Bourgault made the trip to the nation's capital during the protest and describes it as a "spiritual experience."

"It was just the most moving experience I've ever had in my life, many of us were shedding tears often over there," Bourgault said in a Zoom interview with CTV News.

"You know, just being in the presence of all the great people, all the great Canadians that were there."

His name was not included among the six candidates who will appear on the ballot when the party picks its leader later this year and won't be included in any debates.

According to Bourgault, that's despite the fact that he was able to raise the total of $300,000 required to enter the race and exceeded the number of required CPC-member signatures before the April 29 deadline.

"It took them a number of days, we couldn't figure out why it was taking so long for them to verify," Bourgault said.

"Then on Sunday night, we received the call."

Bourgault said the party told him the decision came down to a single "inadequacy" in a loan document that was submitted as part of his financing package.

"That doesn't make a lot of sense to us, for the amount of time and energy and effort that goes into something like this If you haven't dotted an 'i' or crossed a 't.'"

Bourgault said there was no specific guidance on how to craft the document.

"Let me be clear here — the error that they're claiming is an error. We didn't see it that way," Bourgault said.

"Based on what was given to us, there's a lot of ambiguity in it … it was so easy for something like that to happen."

CPC has not responded to a request for comment.

Bourgault said that CPC staff spoke "very highly" of him and his campaign team, but the feeling may not be universal.

"We've heard from fairly reliable sources that there were some people (who) don't like people who speak the truth and I'm a truth seeker and a truth speaker," Bourgault said.

"I don't have factual documentation that I can show you. But if there were candidates that operated in the background in any way to get us off the out of the debates, they're really not a legitimate candidate and they're going to struggle."