The race to lead the Conservative Party, Canada’s Official Opposition, continues to unfold with what appears–so far–to be a minimum of malice, not especially surprising given the announcement of who will succeed Andrew Scheer won’t be made until a leadership convention in Toronto at the end of June.
Where the party is headed and how far to the right it will list remains a matter of conjecture.
But we might have a better handle on that now that the Tory heirarchy has barred Richard Décarie from running.
On Saturday the Tories named eight candidates who had cleared the first hurdle in the leadership race by raising the $25,000 entry fee and signing up 1,000 party members.
Décarie’s name was not among them, even though he had the money and the signatures.
The party told a man who wanted to lead by appealing to the right wing of an already right-of-centre party to look elsewhere for work.
“There was no reason given…and they said there’s no recourse,” Décarie, a one-time adviser to former prime minister Stephen Harper, told CBC News.
“So I am very surprised. My campaign is very surprised.”
Décarie caused a stir–some said an uproar–earlier this year as he declared his interest in the leadership.
Appearing on national television, he called being LGBTQ a “choice,” promised to de-fund abortion services and said the word “marriage” should apply only to heterosexual relationships.
Were they sending a signal to voters looking for a firebrand populist leader?
That remains to be seen.
But there were more than a few Tories, including current leadership front runner Peter MacKay, who said the party had drifted far too far to the right, causing them to finish second in last fall’s general election.
The party has declined to say why Décarie was rejected, but he knows where he stands, telling CBC News that the Tories are making a “major mistake” by rejecting him.
“On social networks, I have received a lot of support,” he said.
“Maybe ten times more than during my campaign. So I think they are making a mistake as a party.”
Last week, the party approved Derek Sloan, a rookie member of parliament from rural Ontario and Jim Karahalios, an Ontario political activist, as candidates.
They joined former cabinet ministers Erin O’Toole and MacKay as well as Ontario MP Marilyn Gladu, Toronto lawyer Leslyn Lewis, Alberta businessman Rick Peterson, and long-time Tory staffer Rudy Husny, in the race.
Lewis, Sloan and Karahalios have the backing of the Campaign Life Coalition and other social-conservative organizations.
MacKay and O’Toole are considered the current front runners.
With files from CBC (Hannah Thibedeau, Catherine Cullen), Postmedia (Brian Platt)