Where the six Conservative leadership candidates stand on key policy issues

Six candidates are officially on the ballot to become the Conservative Party's next leader. In holding rallies, appearing in media interviews, and preparing for the soon-approaching party debates, each contender has started to trickle out details of their platforms. Here's a snapshot of where the candidates stand on the economy, housing, climate, defence and social issues.

Want to know more about the Conservative candidates and their political pasts? Read our bios.

Economy and Inflation

Scott Aitchison: In calling inflation a real problem and campaigning on the stance that “the last thing Canadians need are higher taxes,” Aitchison has pledged to end supply management to help lower grocery bills for families. He has also said Canada needs a federal government that “lowers taxes, unleashes the full economic power of Canada, and gets our budget back on the path to balance.”

Roman Baber: While Baber hasn’t put forward concrete commitments related to the economy, he has spoken at length about the negative economic impacts of pandemic-related lockdowns on small businesses and workers.

Patrick Brown: Brown dubs himself a “strong” fiscal conservative, touting his experience as a big-city mayor lowering taxes and delivering balanced budgets. He says “reckless” federal spending needs to end but doesn’t provide detail on what programs he would cut. Brown has also touted the steps he’s taken through the pandemic to ensure an end to public health restrictions impacting small businesses.

Jean Charest: Charest is running on a commitment to balance the budget, rein in federal spending, and bring tax relief to Canadians so wage growth is more closely aligned to rising inflation. He hasn’t provided detail on what programs he’d slash to reach those objectives. Charest says tax policy should be more flexible to respond to unforeseen circumstances, such as the war in Ukraine.

Leslyn Lewis: Promising to “phase out” the deficit and balance the budget, Lewis is campaigning on supporting small and medium-sized businesses as a main employer of Canadians. She’s accused the government of selfishly “bankrupting” future generations and says as leader she’d cut red tape, and would uphold supply management to protect Canadian producers.

Pierre Poilievre: Poilievre has made tackling inflation one of the focuses of his campaign. Through voicing concern over the rising cost of living, what he views as government overspending, and calling out the Bank of Canada for its monetary policy, Poilievre has pledged to phase out “inflationary deficits” by culling spending and reversing Liberal policies and programs. He’s also championed cryptocurrency, vowing to make Canada the “Blockchain Capital of the World.”

Housing

Scott Aitchison: Aitchison’s housing platform was one of the first policy planks he unveiled in the leadership race. Taking a “yes in my backyard” approach, Aitchison says he’d end exclusionary zoning in big cities, tying federal funding to building new houses. Pledging to get shovels in the ground faster, and recruiting more immigrants in skilled trades, his approach focuses on building more homes. Aitchison wants to crack down on money laundering as it connects to the housing market as well.

Roman Baber: Baber has committed to presenting a robust housing plan, but has not provided any detail yet about what that looks like.

Patrick Brown: As the former leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party and subsequently Brampton’s mayor, Brown has long called for a slashing of red tape hindering municipal building projects in order to boost supply. During the last federal election, he and seventeen other mayors penned a letter to candidates demanding a more robust plan on housing and homelessness. Their proposal called for a tightening of the rental housing market, an Indigenous housing strategy, and the construction of affordable, co-op, and non-profit housing.

Jean Charest: Charest’s housing plan, dubbed “Building the Canadian Dream Plan,” includes a pitch to immediately call a National Housing Summit with premiers, rural and urban municipal leaders, and Indigenous leaders to address the housing crisis. He says existing policies unfairly block families from home ownership, and to tackle this a Charest government would tie infrastructure funding to densification near new transit; match federal affordable housing grants to municipalities; allow investors to defer capital gains if profits from rental housing are invested in further rental housing; revive the multi-unit rental building tax incentive program; and make available surplus government land to home builders.

Leslyn Lewis: Lewis has had less to say about housing at this point in the race. Like some of her competitors, Lewis is pledging to make housing affordable for all Canadians. Her position is that rather than spending billions on federal programs to tackle the issue, the crisis can be addressed best “by removing the red tape that slows down development and drives up prices.” She’s also suggested building more homes would help tamp down skyrocketing housing process.

Pierre Poilievre: Housing affordability is an issue Poilievre has prioritized in his campaign. He’s taken the position that Canadians should be able to afford a place to live, decrying that there are “too many 30-year-olds… living in mom and dad’s basement.” He’s calling for housing “gatekeepers” such as municipal governments to speed up the building permit processes and reduce the administrative costs related to building or renovating homes, with the view of building more houses as a way out of the housing crisis.

Climate

Scott Aitchison: Aitchison has taken the position that while a price on carbon might be the “most effective” policy to curb emissions, he’d scrap the carbon tax. Pledging to have a “a real plan to fight climate change,” he believes Canada’s emissions need to be lowered. Aitchison has spoken about finding ways for the government to help Canadians reduce their own carbon footprints rather than “punish them.”

Roman Baber: Baber said he believes climate change is real and that “man contributes to climate change.” However, he disagrees with a price on carbon as a means to reduce emissions. Baber has pitched that Canada must continue with clean energy development.

Patrick Brown: Brown says he cares about protecting the environment and lowering greenhouse gas emissions and will orchestrate a membership-wide consultation on climate policy if elected leader. Brown noted this has to be balanced with policy that makes life more affordable for Canadians. He was one of many candidates who called on the Liberals to scrap the automatic rise of the carbon tax on April 1. He has also promised to propose legislation to clarify that setting caps on greenhouse gas emissions of specific industries is within the sole jurisdiction of provincial governments.

Jean Charest: Charest’s “Environment and Clean Growth” plan pledges to balance the interests of Canada’s energy sector, resource-producing provinces, and the economy with those of the environment. It promises to drive investment in areas such as carbon dioxide removal and carbon capture; eliminate the HST on products that reduce carbon usage; boost pathways for clean energy solutions, and introduce "Right to Repair" legislation on appliances such as farm equipment, electronic devices, and vehicles. Notably, he would repeal the Liberal’s carbon tax, replacing it with an industrial carbon price. He believes the Conservative Party will be “dead in the water” if they approach the next federal election with only a climate slogan and no policy to back it up.

Leslyn Lewis: On climate change, Lewis said she is among the Conservatives who support getting rid of the carbon tax, and in its place, Lewis has suggested she’d implement policies that reduce emissions, incentivize businesses, and “encourage people to recycle.” She wants to make Canada an independent energy “superpower” by getting Canadian oil to tidewater and energy to foreign markets. She has taken the position that climate solutions like electric cars is impractical and not affordable, suggesting that “waiting for an electric revolution” is the wrong approach.

Pierre Poilievre: Poilievre is pledging to get rid of the carbon tax, the Liberal policy that puts a price on emissions. While he hasn’t spoken about committing to or keeping any climate change targets, Poilievre says his environmental plan would be about “results, not revenue; technology and not taxes.” He’s also vowed to end imports of overseas oil to Canada within five years of taking office, and repeal Liberal energy regulation and environmental assessment bills, C-69 and C-48.

Defence and Foreign Policy

Scott Aitchison: The Canadian Armed Forces have been inadequately equipped for too long, is Aitchison’s position. He wants to see Canada meet the NATO commitment of spending two per cent of GDP on defence. He’s promising to fix military procurement processes and to overall build back Canada’s reliability at home and on the world stage.

Roman Baber: Baber hasn’t addressed defence spending so far in the race.

Patrick Brown: Brown has committed to boost defence spending to meet NATO’s recommended target of two per cent or more of gross domestic product.

Jean Charest: Charest has committed to boost defence spending to meet NATO’s recommended target of two per cent or more of gross domestic product, and increase force numbers to 100,000 personnel. In that vein, he would expand the Canadian Armed Forces training system to reach that target. Charest has pledged to open military bases in northern Canada, to enhance Arctic security amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He calls the objective “urgent” in the new world order. He says a government under his leadership would introduce a Canadian Armed Forces Services Benefits Act and restore the pre-2006 Pension Act Benefits System. He’s also promising to make “significant” investments in cyber security and will undertake a foreign policy and defence review.

Leslyn Lewis: Similar to some of her competitors, Lewis is taking the position that the war in Ukraine has shown how Canada has lost ground internationally when it comes to energy security and that Canada should be able to offer oil and gas to the world, rather than having them support regimes like Russian President Vladimir Putin’s. She has not said much else publicly, or in the House of Commons about the situation in Ukraine or Canada’s defence spending.

Pierre Poilievre: Poilievre has accused the federal government of moving too slowly in helping Ukraine. He wants to see more lethal aid and other military equipment sent, Russian diplomats expelled from Canada, as well as further humanitarian assistance offered. He’s suggested that with more natural resource development, Canada could become an alternative for Europe to buy oil and gas, diverting support away from the Russian industry that’s helping to fund their attacks.

Social Issues and Child Care

Scott Aitchison: At this point in the race, Aitchison has not come out with specific policies on social issues such as health, or child care. He has taken the position that matters of conscience such as abortion should be free votes for MPs, but personally would defend a woman’s right to choose. Aitchison supported passing the conversion therapy ban and publicly supported the most recent Transgender Day of Visibility. He’s against the federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates, calling them divisive.

Roman Baber: While Baber hasn’t come out with a specific child-care or health policy, he has been vocal about the negative mental health impacts of pandemic lockdowns. He was removed from the Ontario Progressive Conservative caucus in January 2021 after penning a letter to Premier Doug Ford deeming lockdown measures “deadlier than COVID.” He has pitched a national autism plan for children, which would establish bi-lateral agreements with the provinces and territories to match $500 million in funding of autism treatments per year. On social issues like abortion, he says he doesn’t believe the government has a role in how people “start or grow” their families but would respect the right of MPs to “seek nomination, introduce legislation & vote freely” on matters of conscience.

Patrick Brown: Brown says he would keep the child-care deals signed with the provinces in place, while ensuring that child-care spots are actually built. He says he would recognize different types of child care provided by family members through a system of tax credits and make it easier for extended family living abroad to come to Canada to provide child care. Brown also pledged to ensure parents working in the gig economy or who own small businesses have access to the same parental leave benefits as others. Brown has expressed varying views on social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. He recently stated that abortion in Canada should be “safe, legal, and… rare” and that he would not change Canada’s abortion laws.

Jean Charest: Charest says he would keep the child-care deals signed with the provinces in place and introduce a “Choice in Childcare Tax Credit” to replace the Child Care Expense Deduction with a more “generous, fully refundable, and progressive” tax credit. Charest has also pledged to expand the eligibility for the Canada Child Benefit to the beginning of the second trimester of pregnancy, eliminate federal income tax on the federal portion of Employment Insurance (EI) benefits during parental leave, eliminate the EI claw-back on up to $20,000 of income made on parental leave, and extend the eligibility period for parental leave benefits to up to two years. On social issues like abortion, Charest has been vocally in favour of a woman’s right to choose, noting that a government under his leadership would not support legislation restricting reproductive rights.

Leslyn Lewis: Social policy is a main focus of Lewis’ campaign. As a strong social conservative, she has pledged to protect “parental rights” and their ability to raise their families with their own values, suggesting that currently parents are afraid of having conversations with their children about certain topics. She doesn’t specify, but this has been an argument made by those opposed to banning conversion therapy. Lewis is also strongly opposed to COVID-19 vaccine mandates. She has also suggested rather than scrapping them, she’d look to improve the provincial child-care deals and is promising to increase child benefits.

Pierre Poilievre: Poilievre has been campaigning on a mantra of “freedom.” Spawned out of the trucker convoy protests, he’s taken the broad position that Canadians should take back control of their lives. He wants vaccine mandates lifted, but so far in the race has said little else about health, child care, or other social policies. While he previously voted against same sex marriage, he supported passing the conversion therapy ban, and anti-abortion group Campaign Life Coalition said they cannot endorse him as he is pro-choice in their view.