Conservative Leadership candidates so far

The race for next leader of Conservative party is beginning to heat up so below are my thoughts on the declared or planning to declare so far. I haven’t yet made an endorsement as want to see full line up first, but heavily leaning towards Charest. For each one I will give what their chances of winning leadership are, general election, and then my thoughts on them.

Roman Baber

Leadership chances: This is one of those no name candidates who just wants to get more publicity. Outside of political junkies, who has heard of him and as a backbencher kicked out of Ford’s caucus over lockdowns may appeal to some but doesn’t have near profile to win.

General Election: Since other than opposing lockdowns, I know little about him so hard to say for sure but from what little I’ve seen, I suspect he would do poorly. No doubt many are tired of public health restrictions but I don’t see an appetite for an ideologue here.

My thoughts: Besides disagreeing with him, I have yet to see anything to suggest he is leadership material.

Patrick Brown

Leadership chances: A real long shot but could play kingmaker and if Charest is to have any chance, he will need to be successful. On one hand is very good at organizing and signing up new members, particularly in heavily ethnic communities. However his stance on the carbon tax is a non-starter with much of the base and despite being right direction party should go, I feel too many are dug on on opposition to any form of carbon pricing.

General Election: If he were to win, I think he could do well in federal election as while may increase PPC vote slightly, he is a moderate who won’t scare away swing voters. And with his strong ethnic ties, I feel he is someone who could breakthrough in heavily ethnic ridings in GTA and Lower Mainland, which party did horrible in last election but needs to do better if it wants a chance to win. His big liabilities is while there be another sex scandal as while cleared his name, I’ve heard rumours elsewhere there are lots more, but could very well be just rumours and mean nothing. Other liability is his strong opposition to Bill 21 which likely hurts any chance of big gains in Quebec despite being fluently bilingual. It is a principled and correct policy, but sadly not winning there.

My thoughts: If current line up is all there is, he will be my second choice after Charest. My reasons are I believe we need to moderate and have pragmatic solutions to deal with big issues of the day and Brown has shown is a pragmatist. But with his opposition to Bill 21 also principled too. My only real concern with him is what if the rumours are true. With the state of our country, we cannot afford to take risks thus why will be second choice not first.

Jean Charest

Leadership chances: As much as I would like to think he has a chance, I don’t think it will be close. Unfortunately I’ve become used to pragmatic moderate candidates always underperforming and more right wing ones overperforming. Sadly base seems to care more about ideological purity than electability and its deluded enough to believe country is as right wing as they think. So I don’t hold much hope he will win. Still leadership elections are always unpredictable so never say never and if Brown can sign up enough new ones, maybe he will surprise us. More importantly if Liberals become super unpopular but yet beat Poilievre and Kenney loses to Notley next year, maybe just maybe party will smarten up and choose him in subsequent election or another moderate.

General Election: Often truth lies in between what partisans say so those saying being a moderate automatically means he will win just as those on right saying he will anger base and ensure many stay home or vote PPC. Reality is politics is complex and people vote certain ways for different reasons. Like any politician he has some baggage and it is possible being in politics too long he may misread public. So its no guarantee he will win general election. At same time I believe his chances are much better than Poilievre. While undoubtedly it will help PPC slightly, I doubt the impact will be near as large as much of the rabid base thinks. Despite being loud on social media, hard right are still very much a small minority in Canada. More importantly areas where PPC is likely to be strongest are areas Tories are winning big margins anyways so can risk split.

Going by region, he got 13 seats in 1997 for PCs in Atlantic Canada so I see absolutely no reason he cannot built on progress O’Toole made there. Quebec is a wildcard as he was a controversial premier so no guarantee he will breakthrough. But he also understands and knows province better than most so if all declared candidates, if a Quebec breakthrough is made and its a big if, he is the one to do it. In Ontario, being a moderate doesn’t guarantee a win nor does right winger a loss, but I feel his odds are much better than Poilievre. If people in Ontario are happy with Liberals, no Tory leader can beat them. If super mad and have rock bottom poll numbers, any Tory leader can win. Where Charest can win and Poilievre cannot is if approval rating of Liberal leader is in 30s so unhappy but not so mad will throw bums out at all cost. Many opposed to him argue he will anger Western base, but that shows a strong misunderstanding of West. What they mean is Rural Prairies where left is so weak that no risk of coming up the middle he will. Winning those by smaller margins is still a win and likewise if PPC did win some seats and a minority government, no way they would prop up Liberals. Likewise Liberals not wanting Tories to work with PPC might agree to prop up Tories putting country interest first as PPC terrifies Liberals far more than a moderate Conservative. However in Prairies, the five main cities; Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon, and Winnipeg make up over half the population and none of those three are particularly right wing so if anything someone like Charest is probably closer to median voter in those cities than Poilievre. Fact Notley is polling around 45% in Alberta should be a strong wake up call Alberta is not as right wing as stereotype. Even if UCP does somehow manage to recover and win next year (I don’t think they will); the fact 45% willing to vote NDP should pour cold water on idea you have to be unabashedly right wing to win in Alberta. Finally the largest province in West is BC and as a province where BC Liberals are conservative and first to have a carbon tax, I believe Charest is likely to help not hinder here on West Coast. BC is a very different province from 90s when Reform dominated it.

My Thoughts: While I have some reservations that he is too much yesterday’s politician like I did with Kevin Falcon here in BC, I can say if he somehow manages to become leader, I will vote for him in general election and he will have my full support. He has shown himself to be fiscally conservative and willing to take on the tough fights like he did during Quebec referendum and that is the type of leadership we need. Right now we need pragmatic leadership. Not left wing virtue signaling we see of Trudeau, but not a right wing anger machine that whips anger but provides no solutions as we see with Poilievre. Charest offers this. I also am sick and tired of this black and white absolutist mentality that either you are a left wing progressive liberal like Trudeau or a hardcore right winger and nothing in between. As a kid my mother always told me world is not black and white, its shades of gray. Yet too many today in politics see world in black and white and I know from life experience the world is anything but. Our country is divided and we need someone who respects people of different viewpoint even though not everyone will agree. I see those further right is just nasty anger machines that have no clue how to deal with problems and come across just as plain nasty people I don’t wish to associate with. By contrast Charest has a forward positive looking principled but pragmatic conservative message. Some may say times have changed, but that doesn’t mean that just because right wing populism is rising embracing it is right thing. Even if right wing populism was ticket to victory, I could not support it. Otherwise I am not just putting Charest as current first choice (If someone else like Chong or MacKay enters I may put them higher) because I think he has best chance to win, I also am because I care about our country and I don’t believe a future of a choice between a left wing tax and spend Liberal Party vs. a ideological right wing Conservative party is type of country I want to live in.

Leslyn Lewis

Leadership chances: While a long shot, I suspect as social conservatives have in previous reasons, she will do surprisingly well and would not be surprised if she comes in second. A combination of strong rural support and sign ups in more socially conservative ethnic communities has allowed various weak socially conservative candidates be it Tanya Allen Granic in Ontario, Brad Trost and Pierre Lemieux in 2017 to do way better than predictions. But winning outright may be a stretch but not impossible if Poilievre does something really stupid or forced to withdraw. More importantly she is likely to play kingmaker.

General Election: She would be a disaster. Abortion and other socially conservative issues are settled in eyes of most Canadians and would just be a wet dream for Liberals in terms of attack ads. It would make election about those instead of serious issues we have to deal with. Also she doesn’t speak French and that is a must for anyone who wishes to be leader. Conservatives may have not done well in Quebec since 1988 but with exception of 2004, they’ve always won at least some seats. Any of the others (except maybe Baber who I know too little about) will at least win some seats in Quebec. If Lewis is leader, good chance party gets shut out of Quebec completely and with 23% of population, that makes making up for that elsewhere very difficult.

My Thoughts: As someone who is not a social conservative and feels these issues are settled, I will not be supporting a party led by Leslyn Lewis. If she is leader I probably vote for an independent, spoil my ballot or maybe even vote Liberal if they have a different leader who is more centrist than Trudeau.

Pierre Poilievre

Leadership chances: With how popular he is amongst base, I think barring some major surprise he wins this easily. Real question is will it be on first ballot or subsequent. Its not over until it is, but odds of someone other than Poilievre being leader are fairly low.

General Election: I think him as leader would be a massive gamble. Yes if people are mad enough it is possible he could win, but I feel he is too ideological and nasty and just is a turn off to far too many people. Parties win by attracting people to movement, not repelling them and I feel Poilievre is more a repellent. I know many in base are convinced people will be so mad at Liberals they will win no matter what or Poilievre’s straight talk is what people want, but I am extremely skeptical. I think many are letting their own bias get in way. People today are so cynical of politics that often people vote for least bad option not one they like. And that is why attack ads are so effective. And if you want to make attack ads against Poilievre, there is loads of material. So much you can run a 24 hour infomercial of attack ads. And those suggesting he will stand up to them fail to realize that one or two, a good leader can push back against but if so many, it will create image that person is too risky and not qualified and no leader no matter how good a debater can push back against such a strong barrage.

My Thoughts: Ignoring electability which I’ve already said enough on, I cannot in good conscience support a Poilievre led party. If options are really awful, there is a chance I may hold my nose and vote for a party lead by him if he tones things down and alternatives bad enough, but that is probably the best he will get from me and even that will be a stretch and will require a very strong pivot. I generally don’t like nasty bully types which I see Poilievre as. I like leaders with some outside experience not career politicians. I also don’t like his whole freedom and libertarian like talk. Yes I believe in smaller government, but not minimalist. I believe government has grown too big under Trudeau, but I do not support a radical reduction in size. Rather I support reducing it back to levels it was under Mulroney, Chretien, Martin, and Harper. I also think when cutting size of government it needs to be done strategically and smart which Charest would do, not dogmatically we want more freedom and government bad. Dogmatism and blind ideology no matter which side is never a good thing and we need to move away that. With country badly divided, I fear Poilievre will just pour more gasoline on it. Charest even if base doesn’t like him is taking high road and trying to unite people. Poilievre trying to tell people who don’t pass a conservative litmus test aren’t welcome. Finally I remember when he brought in so called Fair Elections Act under Harper government and only had to water it down due to backlash and ultimately was repealed by Trudeau. Despite its misnomer, it was really a bill to try and suppress voter turnout and is someone who believes strongly in democracy, this is a red line for me. Parties need to try and broaden appeal, not find ways to keep those that don’t like away from the polls which is what he tried to do. And with all the suppression bills in US, you can bet Liberals will remind Canadians of this come next election.

2 thoughts on “Conservative Leadership candidates so far

  1. If I were to make an assessment on potential, overall I agree, but there are some thoughts:

    Roman Baber
    PROS: If the pandemic is going on still, he might win over some of the hardcore anti-lockdown types who think even Poilievre was too soft. He does represent a Toronto riding, but one he would likely have lost even if still in the PC caucus this spring.
    CONS: No name recognition. Nothing else really sticks out for him.
    THOUGHTS: I think he could be a bit of a boost for Poilievre in a later ballot since they are largely in the same pool of voters. Neither are socially conservative, but they are taking strong populist stances. If no one else runs, he likely finishes last and gives Poilievre a boost on the 2nd ballot.
    REGIONAL STRENGTH: None really. Unlikely to win any ridings.

    Patrick Brown
    PROS: Knows how to sign up members and could be a force in the GTA (but can he win seats there?). Rehabilitated himself well.
    CONS: Not popular with the base after previous flip-flops. No name recognition outside Ontario. He has to compete with Charest for the same pool of voters.
    THOUGHTS: I think he’ll do better than many give him credit for. He doesn’t have as much of a liberal record as Charest, and if he outlasts him he will likely be the second choice of Red Tories (perhaps on the 3rd ballot). I can’t see him winning though. If no one else joins, I think he finishes second with a lot of the Charest support.
    REGIONAL STRENGTH: The GTA, especially the 905 area. May also find support in Greater Vancouver.

    Jean Charest
    PROS: Very establishment friendly. Could make inroads in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, although a lot of those ridings he won in 1997 have drifted very far into the Liberal camp that it may be difficult and rural ridings are becoming less Red Tory.
    CONS: Likely to do extremely poorly in most of the Prairies, rural Ontario and the BC Interior. He’ll get destroyed in the rural Prairies, and even in centre-right areas he will do very poorly. He’s to the left of 95% of the party membership and would have to sign up so many. It would likely be a big boon for the PPC.
    THOUGHTS: I think his potential is seriously overrated. He is the reddest Tory to run for the position and a lot of his policies are already being attacked. I don’t think he’d be a boost in the polls either as so many of those who say they “support” him may still vote for Liberals. I know he is fighting with Patrick Brown for the Red Tory vote, but I still think they combined won’t get close to 50%. With so much baggage, I think if no one else joins he is second off the ballot – mostly to Brown.
    REGIONAL STRENGTH: Quebec and possibly parts of Atlantic Canada, but it is a different map than it was a generation ago.

    Leslyn Lewis
    PROS: Has the social conservative wing to herself, and should do extremely well in rural areas. Might be able to make inroads among new Canadians.
    CONS: Will be a disaster in Quebec and in upscale urban areas. Unlikely to get establishment support.
    THOUGHTS: I agree she should be kingmaker. She will likely force others to take somewhat more conservative positions, like defunding overseas abortions, to get her support on later ballots. In addition, having a wing to herself should at least get her to a solid second or third place. However, she has almost no room for growth unless another social conservative joins the field.
    REGIONAL STRENGTH: Rural Southwestern Ontario and much of the Prairies.

    Pierre Poilievre
    PROS: Strong name recognition and profile. Should be able to get a broad range of voters, although not a social conservative or Red Tory, and also a broad regional range.
    CONS: Too much of a loose cannon and attack ad fodder. Could be difficult to get over the top without compromises – she will likely need either Lewis, Charest or Brown as Baber won’t be enough.
    THOUGHTS: Clearly the frontrunner, but that is no guarantee. It’s unlikely he will get to 50% on the first ballot and even with Baber not likely enough. That said, he probably has to fear most someone a bit more moderate but not as much as Charest or Brown entering the field. Having another social conservative in the race might be beneficial so that he doesn’t have to woo them.
    REGIONAL STRENGTH: Areas surrounding Ottawa, the suburban Prairies and maybe the BC Interior.

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    1. Largely agree but would add these:

      Roman Baber: While off topic, I think PCs have decent chance at holding York Centre if current poll numbers hold up. Its probably the lowest hanging fruit in 416 although fact is Tories usually get shut out of 416. But yeah is like Deepak Obhrai in 2017 in terms of levels of support.

      Patrick Brown: Fully agree as he is a great organizer and can sign up lots. But outside Ontario probably too limited name recognition to win outright. But definitely getting his second choices could make a difference but not sure Poilievre would get many but Charest if outlasts him would. Lewis though may gain some as many in ethnic communities quite socially conservative so I could see her picking up some of those.

      Jean Charest: Of the ridings he won in 1997, only two St. John’s and Sherbrooke have drifted solidly to left. 2 of 5 went Tory in Quebec and 6 of 13 in Atlantic Canada while 11 excluding St. John’s were more due to boundary changes (Random-Burin-St. George’s very different boundaries so hard to know if O’Toole would have won it or fallen short), Central Nova (local candidate big factor as in rural NS many still vote based on candidate and Sean Fraser very popular), Kings-Hants (popular retirement of ex city liberal boomers so probably gone), Saint John-Rothesay (Scheer almost won it, but O’Toole flopped so could be local candidate factor. Went massively PC provincially), Madawaska-Restigouche (heavily Francophone so might win that back). The other two in Quebec (Shefford and Compton-Stanstead) went BQ and CAQ provincially so if he can tap into either could win those.

      I do think amongst base, yeah has limited support, but disagree those who like him will vote Liberal anyways. Liberals under Trudeau have swung left enough that despite what some say, I think there is a lot of space in middle open for picking up. We aren’t nearly as polarized as US is. Yes would help PPC for sure, but I don’t see another Reform party emerging. I think 10% is PPC ceiling and yes quite damaging but also depends where that is too.

      Leslyn Lewis: Fully agree here.

      Poilievre: Largely agree but yes his being a loose cannon huge problem but probably more in next general election than leadership. A lot of base I don’t think sees danger in this like general public does.

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