Is the Conservative Party of Canada leadership election still a “race”?

And who is running anyway


The problem

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Although the current Conservative Party of Canada leadership race does not appear to be going anywhere, it is in fact still on. The leadership race was suspended on March 26, however, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic crisis. Party officials said that the schedule for the debates and leadership convention will be revisited on 1 May 2020.

This decision by the Leadership Election Organizing Committee (LEOC) was the culmination of a month of discussion and controversy that swirled around the Party’s attempts to bring some clarity to the process of running a leadership election during a time of national turmoil.

The final deadline for candidate selection passed on March 25. This deadline will stand, meaning that only the four candidates that are currently on the ballot will be there when the leadership election eventually takes place. The previous deadline, to sign up as a member for purposes of voting in the leadership race, was April 17. That deadline has been extended to May 15.

 “Until May 1, 2020, there will be a suspension of leadership fundraising,” the party said. It also encouraged candidates “to refrain from contacting party members until after a decision is taken on May 1, 2020.”

LEOC finally made the difficult decision to suspend the race on March 24 when a mandatory order came into effect for all non-essential workplaces in Ontario to close. With no personnel available to do basic tasks like opening and answering mail the election process could not continue.

The process

The first deadline for qualifying to be a candidate to replace Andrew Scheer as Conservative leader passed on  February 27. To be eligible, prospective candidates needed to submit the signatures of 1,000 party members distributed across at least 30 ridings in seven different provinces or territories, along with the first $25,000 instalment of the $200,000 entry fee. The party’s vetting committee then had to approve them.

In addition to the initial $25,000 entry fee and 1,000 signatures, candidates next raised another 1,000 signatures, another $25,000 entry fee instalment and a $100,000 refundable compliance deposit. This classified the candidate as an "authorized contestant," which gave them access to the current and historical database of Conservative Party members. This database of party members makes it much easier to raise money and solicit support from within the party. The initial $25,000 entry fee came from a candidate's personal resources. To get to the second tier, candidates needed to demonstrate their ability to raise campaign funds without the aid of a list of party members.

The third and final step required another 1,000 signatures and the final entry fee instalment of $150,000, all to be submitted by Mar. 25. In total, those candidates have obtained the signatures of 3,000 members and submitted $300,000 to the party.

The candidates

Peter MacKay, 54, was the MP for Central Nova (2004–2015), and for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough (1997–2004). He was Minister of Justice and Attorney General (2013–2015), Minister of National Defense (2007–2013), Minister of Foreign Affairs (2006–2007), Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada (2004–2015). He was the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada (2003) at the time of the merger. Prior to entering politics, MacKay worked as a lawyer.

Erin O'Toole, 47, is the MP for Durham (2012–present), the Shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs (2017–present), and the former Shadow Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness (2015–2016) and Minister of Veterans Affairs (2015). He placed third in the 2017 Conservative leadership election. Prior to entering politics, O'Toole served as a captain in the Royal Canadian Air Force and was a lawyer after completing military service.

Leslyn Lewis is a Toronto lawyer and the former CPC candidate for Scarborough—Rouge Park, Ontario in the 2015 election. She holds a bachelor's degree from University of Toronto, two master's degrees, a law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School and a PhD in International Law. She is also a Vice Chair of the Ontario Trillium Foundation and Chair of the Partnership Committee.

Derek Sloan, 35, is the MP for Hastings—Lennox and Addington (2019–present). Prior to entering politics, he worked as a lawyer in private practice.

(biographical details from candidates website)

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