Inside the Conservative leadership race: who are the contenders?

A whole month has now passed since Andrew Scheer resigned as leader of the Conservative Party, and now, the race to replace him is well and truly underway

Nico Johnson Montreal QC

Editor’s note: This article was updated to include Conservative MP and leadership candidate Marilyn Gladu.

A whole month has now passed since Andrew Scheer resigned as leader of the Conservative Party, and now, the race to replace him is well underway. Some candidates, like Peter MacKay, foresaw the untenability of Scheer’s position, and reportedly began to organize their bid long before the first vote of the 2019 election had been counted.

Other candidates, like Erin O’Toole and Pierre Poilievre, have been more cautious—discreetly organizing a team that can defeat both their blue-blooded colleagues in June, and then a wobbly Justin Trudeau in the next election.

As Peter MacKay said after the disappointment of the last election, the Tories’ failure to beat Trudeau was “like having a breakaway on an open net and missing.” This most Canadian of analogies should remain pungent during the leadership contest: the next election should beckon a blue-wave across the country. If the Conservative Party again fails to win the keys to the PMO then one is perfectly within their right to expand upon MacKay’s analogy: It would be like failing to invade Poland; or, more sportingly, like losing a boxing match with an amputee. To put it simply, it is more likely than not that the victor of this leadership election will become the next prime minister of Canada.

Due to the sheer significance of this leadership contest, The Post Millennial has composed a handy guide. Here’s who is likely to compete in the leadership election and how they plan to win it.

Peter MacKay

MacKay has not had the easiest start to the leadership contest. After tersely declaring his bid on Twitter, the long-standing Tory MP, Scott Reid, hit back, throwing the former Harper minister’s loyalty into question. Nevertheless, MacKay is a respected figure in Canada’s Conservative movement. Through his role as the leader of the Progressive Conservatives, MacKay was vital to the formation of the modern Conservative Party.

MacKay served in numerous cabinet positions throughout the Harper era and remains a favourite in the leadership contest. Despite the shaky start, polls have made it clear that the Nova Scotian is in a top position to win.

Erin O’Toole

Like MacKay, O’Toole is another party grandee who commands a great deal of respect from within the caucus. O’Toole, rather exotically these days, served in the military. If he is elected, he would be the first Conservative leader in over 60 years with military experience.

Most recently, O’Toole has served as the Opposition Critic for Foreign Affairs. O’Toole is not new to leadership contests, finishing third in the 2017 leadership election behind Maxime Bernier and Andrew Scheer.

Pierre Poilievre

Poilievre distances himself from social conservatism, will launch leadership soon

I had the opportunity to meet Poilievre at a fundraiser. Immediately, he stood out as an effective speaker and as someone who could pose a serious challenge to the other candidates.

Poilievre is a career politician who, through his role as Scheer’s attack dog, has managed to garner wide support amongst the Conservative base. Poilievre has recruited the admired John Baird and the formidable Jenni Byrne, who is an accomplished operative who ran Harper’s 2015 campaign.

Marilyn Gladu

Gladu is, so far, the only female to enter the competition. Despite being a social Conservative, Gladu quickly made it clear that she would not re-open the abortion debate, and that she would happily march in a gay pride parade.

Before entering politics, Gladu worked as an engineer for Dow Chemical for over two decades. She was first elected in 2015 and served as a chair of the Standing Committee on Status of Women.

Vincenzo Guzzo

EXCLUSIVE: Dragons' Den star Vincenzo Guzzo is running for CPC leadership

There are, of course, other candidates who are spending their time plotting for the leadership. However, for the sake of longevity, and the fact that Guzzo hasn’t received much media coverage, it seems only fair to discuss the Dragon’s Den star.

When The Post Millennial spoke to Guzzo a few weeks ago, he seemed uncertain whether he would throw his hat in the ring—stating that if the Quebec-based Jean Charest didn’t run, then he would be 75 percent sure that he would indeed run. Now, with the recent reports that Charest isn’t likely going to run, Guzzo’s ambition has solidified, telling me,”Yes. If [Charest] doesn’t run, I’ll run.”

Despite attempts to shrug off the comparison, Guzzo’s strategy has similarities to that of Kevin O’Leary’s leadership attempt in 2017. The most overt difference, however, is that Guzzo is Quebec-oriented. With the right-wing CAQ romping to victory in the 2018 provincial election, perhaps Guzzo is on to something. La Belle province is rich with seats, and if the Conservatives can persuade the fickle Quebecois, then Trudeau’s future as PM is in grave danger.


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