Conservative leadership race continues – MacKay still in the driver’s seat

Conservative leadership race continues - MacKay still in the driver's seat

Although two candidates have called for a halt to the campaign due to the COVID-19 epidemic, the list of those vying for leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada has been reduced to four as the deadline for qualifying arrives. Wednesday.

Peter MacKay, Erin O’Toole, Leslyn Lewis and Derek Sloan will be on the ballot for the party’s best position, assuming the race ends on time on June 27.

Whether or not remains a significant point of contention between competitors. O’Toole and Sloan, who both represent Ontario ridings in the House of Commons, have urged party to delay leadership vote so that all efforts can be directed towards the fight against the pandemic.

Lewis, a lawyer who ran for the party in a Toronto area riding in 2015, does not support a change in the calendar. MacKay, a former cabinet minister and the last leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, suggested instead that the date be brought forward.

No matter when the vote takes place – and the party appears determined not to change the date – MacKay is still widely regarded as the favorite. He was the first to meet the eligibility requirements by raising $ 300,000 and collecting signatures from 3,000 members across the country. He was then followed by O’Toole, Lewis and Sloan.

Four other candidates failed to qualify after meeting the initial entry fees and signing requirements. Rick Peterson, Rudy Husny and Marilyn Gladu did not reach the final eligibility thresholds (Peterson and Husny interrupted their campaigns on the decision not to delay the vote) while Jim Karahalios was disqualified. (The party has not said publicly why he removed Karahalios from the race, but has been the subject of complaints – many of them about his claim that the campaign president of O’Toole wanted to bring Sharia law in Canada. He takes the party to court.)

MacKay continues to lead caucus recommendations

Judging by his support in the Conservative caucus, the race seems to be MacKay’s race to lose. A CBC News count gives it a head start with 33 approvals from Conservative MPs, compared to just 11 for O’Toole.

Sloan and Lewis have not yet received public approval from a sitting member.

MacKay’s endorsement in endorsements is spread across the country, with four MPs from British Columbia, nine from Alberta, three from Saskatchewan and Manitoba, 12 from Ontario, four from Quebec and one from Atlantic Canada.

O’Toole has only two contributors from British Columbia, four from Alberta, two from the Prairies and three from Ontario. So far, no member from Quebec or Atlantic Canada has approved O’Toole.

Ontario MP Erin O’Toole is running for the second time in leadership of the Conservative Party after finishing third in the party leadership race in 2017. (Andrew Vaughan / Canadian Press)

Outside of caucus, however, O’Toole got the most prominent endorsement of the race – Premier of Alberta Jason Kenney.

MacKay has prominent figures supporting him from outside the Conservative federal caucus, including Ontario Cabinet Minister Caroline Mulroney and Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston – but no one with long experience of Kenney within the party.

However, eight of MacKay’s supporters supported O’Toole in the 2017 Conservative leadership race. Only two of the eleven O’Toole caucus supporters support him a second time.

MacKay also has more supporters than O’Toole of MPs who supported Andrew Scheer, Lisa Raitt, Maxime Bernier and Kellie Leitch in 2017 – an indication that MacKay is drawing support from across the party’s ideological spectrum.

MacKay has already raised over a million dollars

We will not get a detailed overview of each candidate’s fundraising until April 30, when Elections Canada is expected to release financial reports for the first quarter. But MacKay announced in early March that it had raised $ 1 million – a colossal amount in just five weeks.

This early fundraising blitz is likely to be of great benefit to MacKay, as it provided him with a full war chest before fundraising activity slowed down with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The advertising spend disclosed by Facebook gives us an idea of ​​how this advantage is used. Figures show that MacKay spent more O’Toole on Facebook advertising by a margin of more than two to one, from $ 116,000 to $ 46,000.

Facebook doesn’t show money spent on Sloan or Lewis ads. According to Lewis’ campaign, however, she has so far received more than 2,100 individual donations and has raised her $ 300,000 in entrance fees in just a few weeks.

Social-conservative vote could be decisive

An important factor in this contest is the social-conservative vote. It is an electorate that O’Toole courted, especially after MacKay was criticized for his post-election commentary Scheer’s socially conservative views were a “stinking albatross” which damaged the party’s chances in the last election.

The social-conservative vote will likely be split between Sloan and Lewis, both of whom have received approval from the Campaign Life Coalition, an anti-abortion group. Brad Trost, who finished fourth in the 2017 leadership race on an explicitly conservative social platform, also supported them.

Leslyn Lewis is running for the Conservative leadership. She ran as a party candidate in a Toronto region riding in the 2015 federal election. (Greg Bruce / CBC News)

Trost and Pierre Lemieux, another social-conservative candidate, won just under 16% of the vote in the 2017 race. It turned out to be a decisive part of joining a classified vote. Scheer received the lion’s share of this support when Trost was eliminated in the 11th round. Without this support, Bernier would have defeated him.

But if the social-conservative vote is around 16%, it may not be enough to block MacKay. With only four candidates on the ballot, and if Sloan and Lewis combine for that number of votes, O’Toole should win more than 34% to prevent a first round victory by MacKay.

First-time Ontario MP, Derek Sloan qualified for the leadership race for the Conservative Party and is one of two socially conservative candidates running. (Justin Tang / Canadian Press)

This is a big number for a candidate who finished with only 21% of the vote on the penultimate ballot in 2017. And if the social-conservative vote is more important than it was the last time , O’Toole runs the risk of being overwhelmed like this. coalesce vote behind one of the two socially conservative candidates.

This race is not like 2017 – and not only because of COVID-19

But this race is not like the last. The ideological divisions are not the same. Bernier ran on a libertarian platform while Scheer posed as the status quo candidate. Neither MacKay nor O’Toole proposed as radical a change in conservative politics as Bernier.

Regional divisions are also different. There are no candidates from Western Canada or Quebec – O’Toole, Sloan and Lewis are from Ontario, MacKay is a Nova Scotian – and there are no candidates who speak French with perfect mastery.

And then there is the shadow cast by the new coronavirus. This greatly limits each candidate’s ability to raise funds, recruit new members and campaign. This could favor a leading leader like MacKay.

It is also difficult to predict how the positions taken by each candidate on the pandemic – and when the leadership vote should take place – will resonate among existing members.

Three months is a long time in politics. This is an even longer period in the event of a pandemic. The dynamics of this race could change dramatically by June – if it takes place. But MacKay has been the leader since he threw his hat in the ring. There is no reason to believe that he is about to lose this title.

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