As you may have heard, the race for the Conservative party leadership position is on. Who will be Stephen Harper’s replacement? Here’s a brief overview of the candidates.
Alexander is a former diplomat, who was Ambassador to Afghanistan in 2003. In 2011, he was elected as MP for Ajax-Pickering, and was Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence Peter Mackay. From 2013 to 2015, he was Canada’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. During this time, he sponsored Bill C-24, the controversial bill which would have made it possible to strip Canadian citizenship from dual citizens convicted of treason, espionage, or terrorism.
Bernier is a four-time Member of Parliament for Beauce, Quebec. He has held several Cabinet positions, including Minister of Industry, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism, as well as Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism, and Agriculture. Currently, he is the Official Opposition Critic of the Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development. You may remember him from a few years ago, when he accidentally left some government documents at his girlfriend’s house (we’ve all been there). This was the incident that led to his resignation as Minister of Foreign Affairs. Aside from that little incident, he is generally considered to be a respected figure in the Conservative party, and describes himself as a moderate libertarian.
Stephen Blaney is the MP for Lévi-Bellechasse, Quebec. He has served as Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Minister of Veterans Affairs, and Minister responsible for La Francophonie. Before entering politics, Blaney was an engineer and a businessman. Blaney was also very much involved with Bill C-51, the controversial anti-terrorism act in 2015 that allowed information to be shared more easily between government agencies.
Michael Chong is MP for Wellington-Halton Hills, Ontario. Under Stephen Harper, he served as Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada, and Minister of Sport. He resigned from Harper’s Cabinet in order to protest a resolution recognizing Quebec as a “nation within Canada”, which he opposed, stating that he believed that it promoted ethnic nationalism. Chong stands out among Conservatives due to his focusing on climate change as his signature issue. He was also one of few Conservatives and the only leadership candidate to vote in favour of the recent Motion 103, condemning Islamophobia.
Kellie Leitch is MP for She previously served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, Minister of Labour, and Minister for the Status of Women. Prior to politics, she was a professor and assistant dean of the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Western Ontario, and was a pediatric surgeon. She is still an associate professor at the University of Toronto.
Leitch is a conservative hardliner who supports controversial ideas such as screening immigrants for “Canadian values”. She has also expressed admiration for US President Donald Trump.
In February, her campaign manager Nick Kouvalis resigned after falsely claiming that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was funding Hamas. He later stated that he did this to “make the left go nuts.”
Pierre Lemieux is the MP for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell in Ontario. In Parliament, he served as deputy party whip, as well as parliamentary secretary to the Ministers of Official Languages, Agriculture, and Veterans Affairs. Prior to politics, he spent 20 years in the Canadian Armed Forces, retiring as a Lieutenant-Colonel. He is also a mechanical engineer.
Lemieux is a strong social conservative, and is vocally against abortion, same-sex marriage, and transgender rights.
Deepak Obhrai is MP for Calgary Forest Lawn in Alberta, as well as former Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation. In the current Conservative minority, he serves as International Development Critic. Unlike Leitch, his particular focus is on immigrant outreach.
Kevin O’Leary is a businessman and television personality, probably best known for his appearances in reality shows Dragon’s Den and Shark Tank. Due to his background, many have compared O’Leary to President Trump; and like Trump, he has also made vote-rigging allegations (After these allegations, 1,351 party memberships were indeed found to be fraudulent and removed). However, although he agrees with Conservative economic policies, he does not express Trump’s over-the-top xenophobic sentiments and describes his social policies as liberal. In fact, he supports gay and transgender rights, and even – oddly for a Conservative politician – the legalization of marijuana.
Eron O’Toole is MP for Durham, Ontario and former Minister of Veterans Affairs. Prior to Politics, he was an officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force, and a lawyer after his retirement from the armed forces. Until his leadership bid, he was Official Opposition Critic for Public Safety. He is a moderate with regards to the environment.
Rick Peterson is a businessman and fundraiser for the Conservative Party, as well as a former candidate for the British Columbia Conservative Party.
Peterson advocates standard Conservative fare, such as eliminating corporate taxes, raising the GST, and enhanced security and immigrant screening.
Lisa Raitt is MP for Milton, Ontario, previously for Halton, Ontario; prior to politics, she was a federal employee. Under Stephen Harper, Raitt served as Minister of Natural Resources. During this time, there were some issues with leaked documents and a released audiotape containing awkward comments about other MPs. Raitt later moved to the Ministry of Labour, and then became Minister of Transportation. Before her leadership bid, Raitt was Official Opposition Critic for Finance.
Andrew Saxton is the MP for North Vancouver, who served as parliamentary secretary to: the President of the Treasury Board, the Minister for Western Economic Diversification, and the Minister of Finance. Before politics, he was a businessman and financier; as such, he is running largely on economic issues.
Andrew Scheer was MP for Regina-Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan, and was the youngest-ever Speaker of the House of Commons. Until his bid for the Conservative Party leadership, he was Opposition House Leader.
In 2014, Scheer was one of 13 Canadian officials banned from entering Russia as part of retaliatory sanctions, after Canada placed sanctions on Russia over the Crimea.
Brad Trost is MP for Saskatoon-University, previously for Saskatoon-Humboldt, Saskatchewan; before that, he was an exploration geophysicist and farmer.
Trost is a social conservative, who is outspoken against assisted suicide and abortion, same-sex marriage, and transgender rights.
So, who is in the lead right now? O’Toole and Scheer are ahead in endorsements, but not with polling. The index used to gauge leadership standings is based on endorsements, contributors, fundraising and polls. At the time of writing, Bernier is in the lead with 20.1 points, followed by O’Leary with 18.5 points and Scheer with 13.3. O’Toole is in fourth place with 9.9 points, with Leitch in fifth with 9.5. Raitt has 6.5 points, and Chong has 5.6.
However, because all ridings are weighted equally and the leadership election uses a ranked-ballot system, it is difficult to predict the election with any certainty.
March the 28th was the last day to register for Conservative Party membership. The election day will be May 27th, and registered Conservatives are eligible to vote.