The News Rundown
- Patrick Brown needs no introduction, if you're from Ontario. The former leader of the Ontario PCs has rebuilt his image as a successful Mayor of Brampton since 2018, and has now decided to throw his hat into the ring as leadership contender for the Conservatives in 2022. Why would he do that, when he seemed content in municipal politics?
- Brown was a MP in Stephen Harper's government from 2006 until 2015, in which he chose not to run in the 2015 election. In 2014 he announced his intention to run for the leadership of the Ontario PC's, to replace Tim Hudak. He was the only contender who wasn't a member of the Ontario legislature, and positioned himself as an outsider with new ideas.
- Brown emerged as the front-runner in the leadership election, having sold over 40,000 of the 70,000 memberships in the party. During the campaign, Brown was successful in bringing many new members to the party, many of whom came from ethnic communities.
- It looks like he'll be using that same strategy federally, as Brian Lilley writes: "The Brown campaign, meanwhile, is looking to use a strategy that has worked for them in the past, targeting immigrant communities in suburbs across the country. He’s pushing a message of religious freedom but also pushing a message of COVID freedom. Brown is meeting with the leadership of municipal police and firefighters’ unions in cities across the country explaining that he refused to bring in vaccine mandates on municipal employees as mayor of Brampton."
- Brown's leadership of the Ontario PCs was tumultuous, however, as factions within the party sought to oust him, much like what happened to Erin O'Toole federally. He was expulsed from the party in 2018 after sexual misconduct allegations came to light, which we discussed on Western Context 53. A few weeks later, it was found that no charges were laid as a result of the alleged incidents, and that CTV was being sued by Brown for their incorrect reporting on the matter. In March 2022, Brown and CTV reached a settlement, where CTV expressed "regrets" over the incorrect reporting of certain details in the article; no money was paid out to Brown by CTV as part of the settlement.
- Since then, he ran as Mayor of Brampton, where he championed the "Fair Deal for Brampton" campaign, which pressured the Doug Ford led provincial government for more healthcare funding for the municipalities.
- Brown identifies himself as a "pragmatic conservative" and after becoming leader he tried to move the Ontario PC Party in a socially libertarian and fiscally conservative direction. At his first Ontario PC Convention as the new leader, Brown confirmed his belief in man-made climate change and announced his support for a revenue-neutral price on carbon. Brown was also the first Ontario PC leader to march in the Toronto Pride Parade. Among his political mentors, Brown lists former Ontario Premier Bill Davis, former Quebec Premier Jean Charest and former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.
- Brown is likely the most moderate candidate in the running, though he has taken positions in this leadership race that have been more conservative than in the past.
- Brown opposed the April 1 increase to the federal carbon tax. He has said conservatives need to be part of the climate change response, but said that the leader cannot impose a plan on the party without consultation. Brown has promised to hold party-wide consultations on the environment. Brown calls for the repeal of Quebec's Bill 21, which prohibits the wearing of religious symbols by certain public servants and contractors of the province. Brown says he will ensure Canada meets its NATO defence spending target of 2% of GDP.
- Brown stated that tax dollars are better spent on enforcing crime than prohibiting legally owned firearms. Brown stated that he will appoint individuals selected by the Alberta Senate nominee elections to Senate seats representing Alberta, build a national energy corridor and clarify free-trade provisions in Canada in the Constitution. Brown has said he will implement "tax credits and direct contribution" for extended family members who help raise children, but has not yet released details of his childcare policies.
- Brown will likely garner strong support in Ontario, especially among immigrant heavy communities, but his overlapping policies with Jean Charest will mean that his support will be cut across the broader spectrum of Canada, and he will likely finish 4th as a result. Nevertheless, his work to bring immigrants into the party could surprise some with his numbers. However, his past as Ontario PC leader may lead some to question if he holds the mainstream Conservative member's views, and if he will champion what ordinary Canadians want him to.
- Jean Charest is probably the candidate in this race that needs the least introduction but if you’re new to politics or relatively young, he was one of the youngest federal cabinet ministers and served in the Mulroney government.
- He also has the reputation of being one of the two surviving PC MPs of the 1993 election when the party was reduced to 2 seats.
- Being from Quebec he represented the riding of Sherbrooke and often won that seat garnering a majority of the vote.
- Later he went on to become the Liberal leader and eventually Premier of Quebec after campaigning for the ‘no’ side in the Quebec sovereignty referendums.
- It was thought that Jean Charest would get into the race last time but he did not because Peter MacKay did.
- Jean Charest very clearly represents the centrist side of the Conservative Party of Canada, or as members of the legacy parties would say, the Progressive Conservative side.
- For listeners from the west or those unaware of the history of the Federal Progressive Conservatives, the former PCs federally were a centrist and at times centre right party that outside of Trudeau Sr. often had the same goals as the Liberal Party but with different ways of getting there with more focus on the economy and issues like defence.
- There were a lot of questions about whether or not Jean Charest would fit into the modern Conservative Party of Canada but the party is a big-tent party, meaning no one is denied entry.
- Jean Charest has a campaign slogan of “built to win” and recently joined Twitter and seems to be angling his campaign on courting existing or disgruntled Liberal voters.
- On this, recently Charest has proposed a Conservative based child care plan that would give money to families not eligible for the current federal deal.
- He has also said that he will pause increases to the carbon tax, leaving the tax in place and focusing on an industry based approach like Alberta has done.
- Charest is for pipelines and increasing our energy exports while also still transitioning to a green economy.
- On the whole a lot of the Charest policy plans are similar to what Erin O’Toole ran on in the last election, except just a tad simpler to explain.
- In line with traditional Progressive Conservative policy, Charest has also announced that he’d build two new military bases in the arctic and expand defence spending to 2% of GDP.
- These policies that Charest have announced so far fit in the typical umbrella of what the legacy Progressive Conservative Party would have campaigned on.
- There are a good number of supporters who used to vote Progressive Conservative but stopped voting for the party when they merged to create the Conservative Party of Canada.
- One of the common requests in parts of the country among these constituents is to bring back that way of doing things and Jean Charest seems to be angling himself to do just that with his commitments on military spending and childcare so far.
- Jean Charest was also a consultant for Huawei, specifically on the Meng Wanzhou case and for Huawei bringing its 5G networks to Canada.
- This is a topic we have talked about countless times before on the podcast and the Government of Canada still hasn’t made a decision to ban Huawei when all of our security partners in the 5 Eyes alliance have (US, UK, Australia, and New Zealand.)
- In March as the campaign was getting underway, Huawei issued a statement saying, “Huawei is grateful to Jean Charest and the team at (law firm) McCarthy Tetrault for their loyal advice and support since mid-2019. The firm’s strategic support has mainly focused on 5G and the Canadian business-regulatory environment.”
- In a discrepancy from this, Charest said that he will uphold the position of the Conservative Party that pushes for a ban on Huawei technology if elected.
- Jean Charest’s campaign so far is light on policy but based on what we’ve seen, it’s likely that he will fully embrace the mantle of the old Progressive Conservative playbook with a 2020s era twist.
- As a result of this and lack of substantive policy announcements thus far, Jean Charest has not been a newsmaker and has held small events reminiscent of a book club meeting.
- Under Scheer and O’Toole the Conservatives have experienced what it’s like to have a media strategy that can’t control the news cycle and that importing policy from the centre and disgruntled Liberals won’t work as happened under both leaders respectively.
- Jean Charest has to change something through the summer or else past mistakes will be repeated.
- Finally, in terms of other imported policies and perhaps the most alarming, Jean Charest has imported the divisiveness of Justin Trudeau.
- This week Jean Charest called on Pierre Poilievre to be cancelled for supporting the truckers and accused Poilievre of not obeying laws and displaying a failure of leadership saying he should be disqualified from the race.
- Now as we covered in the Poilievre segment, Pierre has been frequently quoting the Brown/Charest/Trudeau carbon tax and this could just be retaliation in kind but someone needs to ask Jean Charest if he would do similar in government as this is exactly what Justin Trudeau has done that has driven apart so many people and regions of this country.
- Even though Leslyn Lewis is the only candidate running in 2022 that also ran in 2020, she is likely the candidate of the top 4 polled that is still the most unknown among Canadians. Despite a surprisingly strong showing in 2020, where she faced off against weaker candidates in Erin O'Toole, Peter MacKay and Derek Sloan, it's hard to see how much she will move the needle against the candidates of the 2022 race that have much more name recognition.
- Lewis, a lawyer by trade, who worked in commercial litigation and international trade before her by-election win in 2021 in the Ontario riding of Haldimand-Norfolk, is one of only two women running for leader of the Conservatives (the other being Leona Alleslev). Lewis is also the only visible minority running in the race, being a Black-Canadian who immigrated to Canada from Jamaica with her parents when she was 5.
- Her campaign messaging says that Canada needs hope, unity and compassion. A soft spoken, but articulate MP, Lewis represents the social conservative wing of the Conservative Party, and her results in the 2020 leadership race speak as such, where she did well in the rural West (from BC to Manitoba), and picked up most of Derek Sloan's votes when he was eliminated in 4th. However, she did not have broad appeal across the country, and despite having the most votes in the 2nd round, garnered the least amount of points, and was eliminated in 3rd, behind MacKay and the eventual winner in O'Toole.
- Lewis considers conversion therapy "an atrocious thing", she raised concerns about the Canadian government's proposed ban, citing an unclear definition that risks penalizing conversations with parents or religious leaders. She stated that while she personally defines marriage as between a man and a woman, she would not roll back existing legislation redefining marriage in Canada. She has stated that she would like to make marijuana access more restrictive and that she thinks reactions to climate change are overblown "in some respects".
- She has publicly described herself as "pro-life, no hidden agenda" and as leader would have the Conservative Party move to ban sex-selective abortion and coerced abortion, increase government funding for crisis pregnancy centres (which provide aid to pregnant women), and she would end foreign aid funding for abortion. Her candidacy has been endorsed by pro-life advocacy groups including the Campaign Life Coalition.
- Lewis also opposes carbon taxes and supports promoting green technology as an alternative policy. She has called carbon pricing "fake" saying it is a "wealth tax" that is meant to make people feel like something is being done about climate change, while not actually changing public behaviour.
- Following her by-election win, Lewis stated her opposition to COVID-19 vaccine mandates for MPs and questioned COVID-19 vaccines for children. Her position may have caused her to be omitted from the Conservative shadow cabinet. Notably absent from the critics' list are MPs who have voiced opposition to COVID-19 vaccine policies.
- Brian Lilley writes: "Leslyn Lewis, meanwhile, is targeting specific voting blocks within the Conservative movement, including pro-life voters and parental rights advocates. She has the backing of people like Charles McVety, president of the Canada Christian College, and activist group Right Now, which focuses on abortion. While her appeal goes well beyond social conservatives, she used this base to finish higher than expected in the last leadership race."
- Like in 2020, Lewis will likely finish with numbers that will be surprisingly stronger than the majority of Canadians will assume, due to the continued underestimation of social conservative numbers and voting patterns within the Conservative Party. However, it remains to be seen how well her increased name recognition will do against the juggernaut that is Poilievre's campaign that will cut away from her support like no one did in the 2020 election.
- Lewis will likely place 3rd in this race once more, but her social conservative supporters will remain a huge part of the Conservative Party, and will still influence policies going forward.
- Pierre Poilievre is by far the candidate drawing the biggest crowds in the race.
- Pierre is relatively young and would be around the same age Justin Trudeau became Prime Minister if he becomes Prime Minister.
- Pierre started his political career young, working as a teenager for Alberta Premier Jason Kenney when both were building the Reform Party in the 1990s.
- He was elected at the age of 25 in the 2004 election becoming one of the youngest MPs.
- He held many positions in the Harper government including the roles of Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board and Minister of State for Democratic Reform and Minister of Employment and Social Development.
- While originally from Calgary, he represents the Ottawa area riding of Carleton.
- Shortly after Erin O’Toole was removed from his position as leader, he announced that he was running for Prime Minister.
- Pierre Poilievre has not shied away from addressing issues that other politicians would not touch. When the media asked a question to a gaggle of Conservative MPs regarding the convoy that took over Ottawa, he was the only MP to respond to the question and he also avoided falling into the media’s trap.
- The media tried to pin it down as a “far right” movement but he asked if the interviewers had actually talked to the people in Ottawa and that while one or two bad people might be there, it shouldn’t take away from the fact that a lot of people were fed up and wanted their freedoms back.
- This lead to his campaign’s central platform of “making Canada the freest country in the world” and giving Canadians back control of our lives.
- He has also been pushing cost of living and other inflation based issues around pricing since Justin Trudeau took office and the federal government’s spending programs began.
- On this he wants to stop the Bank of Canada from printing new money to pay for spending (they announced they will do this soon), cancel in his own words, the Brown/Charest/Trudeau Carbon tax, and instead of creating cash, produce more energy, food, and houses.
- He is known for generating buzz worthy videos that explain the simple concept of an overheated housing market making houses too expensive for most people in our cities.
- The media have been quick to point out and he’s pointed this out as well in his videos that there’s not a simple solution to fix housing in Canada.
- The media and opposition parties do not like his methods because they generate buzz. They say it’s over-simplifying as a way of belittling the video but one of the most important factors in communication is brevity.
- This week he announced a plan to lower housing costs by cutting red tape at the municipal level - in particular, in Vancouver, an extra $644,000 in extra costs for a new house ahead of other major cities due to taxes and regulatory charges.
- Pierre’s videos have drawn many millions of views across social media platforms.
- His video announcing the leadership run was published late on a Saturday night and drew in thousands of views before the night was up.
- The Conservative Party of Canada has not had a leader that was able to use social media effectively.
- Social media today is essential for driving news cycles. If you aren’t making the news cycle you’re on defence and losing.
- This has led to a massive following online and it’s been mirrored in rallies across the country with recent events in Edmonton and Calgary backing traffic up onto the neighbouring highways.
- These rallies are packed events and feature long lines to have a selfie with Pierre and are generating the member contacts either in new signups at the event (via mobile) or contacts to call people back later to have them sign up.
- The key to win is media control of the narrative, generating new members, and then eventually getting these people out to vote.
- It would appear that the first two are happening already and this terrifies the media, they now need to turn out to vote.
- Pierre Poilievre has also pledged to scrap the carbon tax and end Bills C-48 and C-69 which ban tankers off the coast of BC and make the environmental assessment process hostile to resource development.
- He has also been unequivocal in support for our energy industry in supporting new pipelines and exporting oil through the Port of Churchill in Manitoba to end the import of overseas oil.
- He started this campaign by promising to end the mandates, all of them, which was the central issue when the campaign began.
- That then morphed into the wider freedom message and has been used and tailored for each audience, including in Alberta, to “Give Albertans fairness.”
- Pierre Poilievre is seen as the front runner and while an election is a while away, we don’t delve into voter intention polls here at Western Context.
- What we do know is that in general people approve of his message and the Conservatives would have access to a wider voter pool than they have before with him at the helm.
- Pierre’s campaign clearly has momentum now and it will need to be watched through the summer to see if it can be maintained until the vote in September.
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Episode Title: The Conservative Party Leadership Showcase
Teaser: We profile the top four candidates likely to become the next leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, as we delve into the history, policies, and appeal of Patrick Brown, Jean Charest, Leslyn Lewis and Pierre Poilievre.
Recorded Date: April 15, 2022
Release Date: April 17, 2022
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes