The Conservatives cleared six candidates to run in the party’s leadership race but disqualified three others, who all said they had met the fundraising and nomination requirements to make it to the final ballot.
On Monday, the party released its final list of verified candidates: Ontario MPs Scott Aitchison, Leslyn Lewis and Pierre Poilievre; former Quebec premier Jean Charest; Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown; and Roman Baber, an independent member of the Ontario legislature.
Left off the ballot were Joel Etienne, Joseph Bourgault and Grant Abraham. All three are seeking clarification from the party to explain why they were disqualified or are appealing the decision.
The disqualifications of Mr. Bourgault of Saskatchewan and Mr. Abraham of British Columbia, in particular, leave the Prairie-based party with no Western representative in the race. The decisions also stymie efforts from anti-abortion group Campaign Life Coalition to get more social-conservative candidates to the ballot.
The party’s leadership election organizing committee was responsible for verifying whether candidates had met the requirements to raise $300,000 and collect 500 nomination signatures by April 29 in order to stay in the race. But committee chair Ian Brodie declined to explain why Mr. Etienne, Mr. Bourgault and Mr. Abraham did not make the cut.
In a brief statement on Monday, Conservative Party executive director Wayne Benson also did not explain the decision but he said the party did disclose the reasons to the prospective candidates.
“Final verification was based on the requirements set out under the rules, not any prospective candidate’s political beliefs,” Mr. Benson said.
However, the explanations lacked any detail, Mr. Etienne told the Globe on Monday. The Toronto-based lawyer said he will appeal the decision.
“The Party has so far refused to provide any accounting, or data to the Etienne campaign to justify their position, a position which appears to be outrageous,” he said in a statement.
In a series of updates posted to his Facebook page, Mr. Abraham said over the weekend that he had also met the requirements to stay in the race. But he was later told he had been disqualified.
Mr. Abraham and Mr. Bourgault both said on social media that they have asked the party for more details to justify their disqualification. Mr. Bourgault said the party told him he “did not meet the registration fees and compliance deposit” which together amounted to $300,000. But he said his team submitted well above that: $367,453 before the deadline.
“We are seeking clarification … because we have met all the financial and signature requirements,” he said.
The campaigns for Ms. Lewis and Mr. Brown came to the defence of the three candidates who were removed from the race. The party should not “be cancelling legitimate contestants” and “should let them run,” Ms. Lewis said on Twitter.
“Let’s have less cancel culture, and more debate,” Mr. Brown said.
Campaign Life Coalition, which had been pushing for Mr. Abraham and Mr. Bourgault to get on the ballot, also criticized the disqualifications.
“This stinks of skullduggery by the red Tory, Liberal-lite party establishment which hates social conservatives,” said Jack Fonseca, the director of political operations at Campaign Life Coalition. The anti-abortion group also supports Ms. Lewis.
The Conservatives are in the midst of their third leadership campaign since 2015. Like the last one in 2020, in which Erin O’Toole was elected, Ontario is heavily represented among the slate of candidates and has no one from the West. The repeat of that dynamic this year is surprising given that the party’s base is in the Prairies, said Hamish Telford, a political scientist in British Columbia.
“The modern Conservative Party is Stephen Harper’s party, and, of course, he’s an Albertan,” Mr. Telford said.
Mr. Telford noted that Mr. Poilievre stands out with his Western credentials. While Mr. Poilievre has represented an Ottawa-area riding since 2004, he was born and raised in Alberta and understands Western populism, Mr. Telford said.
That means Mr. Poilievre would likely be accepted by the Conservative base out West if he wins the leadership, but Mr. Telford said the same can’t be said for other candidates such as Mr. Charest or Mr. Brown, who are connected to the progressive-conservative faction of the party.
If either of them win, Mr. Telford said he thinks “Westerners might pause for a minute to reconsider their relationship to the party.”
On Friday, B.C. Conservative MP Marc Dalton and former Conservative MP Leona Alleslev dropped out of the leadership race after they failed to meet the fundraising deadline.
The verified candidates will be able to take party in three leadership debates this month. The next key deadline in the leadership race is June 3 – the deadline to sign up new members who can still vote in the Sept. 10 race.
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