Who are they? What do they want to do? A primer on the Conservative contenders - InfoNews

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Who are they? What do they want to do? A primer on the Conservative contenders

Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate Peter MacKay speaks during the English debate in Toronto on Thursday, June 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin
August 22, 2020 - 3:00 AM

OTTAWA - On Sunday, the federal Conservative party will elect a new leader.

There are four candidates vying to lead the party, which currently holds 121 seats in the House of Commons and serves as the Official Opposition.

There are some similarities between them.

All have promised to repeal the carbon tax and two pieces of federal legislation regarding natural resources — one on environmental reviews and the other banning oil tanker traffic along the northern coast of British Columbia. They also want to lift firearms restrictions recently brought in by the Liberals and further limit Chinese investment and involvement in Canada.

Here is a closer look at what sets them apart from each other.

Leslyn Lewis

The Toronto lawyer is running using the slogan of "Courage. Compassion. Common Sense."

She was largely a political unknown when she entered the race, but raised the required $300,000 entry fee and garnered the necessary signatures thanks to well-organized social conservative groups.

Though many have pointed to the historic nature of her campaign — Lewis emigrated from Jamaica as a child and is the first Black woman to run for leadership of the party — it is not a talking point Lewis herself has focused on.

Instead, she emphasizes her professional and educational background, pointing to her master's degree in environmental studies, among other things, as evidence she has the chops to lead the party, and the country.

Her promises include four measures to restrict access to abortion, among them banning the termination of a pregnancy due to the sex of the fetus. She wants to establish a strategic oil reserve. She's also promised a five-point plan to address human trafficking, and to stop the expansion of categories for people eligible for medical assistance in dying.

Over the course of the campaign, she has seen her support increase markedly. In the first quarter of 2020, she raised $448,000. In the second, she pulled in $996,000.

She does not have a seat in the House of Commons, so would need to appoint a deputy in Parliament until she can win in a byelection, or a general election.

Peter MacKay

To some, MacKay needed no introduction when he chose to enter the race. He was the leader of the Progressive Conservatives when it merged with the Canadian Alliance to form the modern Conservative party in 2003. He played a senior role in the Harper cabinet, including minister of foreign affairs, defence and justice, before stepping back from politics in 2015.

His leadership slogan is "Unite. Build. Lead." His campaign has been marked with some communication missteps and uncertainty around his policy positions on free votes by caucus and whether he'd move the Canadian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

There are concerns among social conservatives that he'll seek to marginalize their voices within the movement, a fear he himself inflamed when prior to the campaign he inferred their issues were an "albatross" hanging around the party's neck.

His centrepiece promise is a "jobs plan for Canada" to rebuild after the COVID-19 pandemic. It includes a commitment to cutting the GST for some sectors in the economy, a full review of the tax system and an increase in military spending to 2 per cent of GDP with some allocated to technology development with broader application.

He's been a fundraising leader throughout, raising just over $3 million. MacKay was the lone candidate who didn't want the race delayed due to COVID-19, and jumped back on the road quickly once restrictions began to loosen earlier in the summer.

MacKay is not currently an MP, so would need to name someone to serve as his deputy in the House of Commons until he could win a seat.

Erin O'Toole

O'Toole was born in Montreal but grew up in Ontario, and he's represented the Greater Toronto Area riding of Durham since winning a byelection in 2012. He became a member of the Conservative cabinet, taking over the veterans affairs portfolio in 2015. O'Toole served in the Royal Canadian Air Force before leaving the military for law school and a Bay Street career. He ran for leadership in 2017 and finished third. His slogan this time around is "True Blue Conservative Leadership," and he's courted both moderate and centre-right supporters.

The aggressive tone of his campaign has drawn attention, as he had previously had a reputation for being more even-keeled. He has said it's because he is angry at the way the Liberals are running the country.

His 50-page platform contains pledges in nearly 20 different areas, including a promise to create a royal commission on the pandemic, criminalizing the act of blockading railways or ports, increasing the autonomy of Quebec over certain files and a free-trade deal with other Commonwealth countries.

He's raised at least $2.48 million.

Derek Sloan

Sloan is a lawyer who entered elected politics last October, winning the eastern Ontario riding of Hastings-Lennox and Addington in the federal election.

He also had the backing of social conservative groups when he joined the leadership race, and counts among his policies a "12-point pro-life plan."

He's running under the slogan of "Conservative without Apology."

His pledges include raising the minimum age for marijuana consumption to 25, cutting the annual number of immigrants Canada takes in by half, withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement and several UN-backed treaties, and withdrawing Canada's contributions to the World Health Organization.

Sloan was heavily criticized by even his own party when he appeared to question the loyalty of Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, who was born in Hong Kong. The issue was Tam's reliance on advice from the WHO that was itself based on suspect information out of China. To question someone's loyalty is a racist trope. Some Conservative MPs were prepared to try to oust him from caucus but Sloan survived. He said he never mentioned her gender or ethnicity.

He has raised at least $852,000.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 22, 2020.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2020
The Canadian Press

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