A photo of the CPC leadership candidates
Top left to right: Roman Baber, Scott Aitchison, Jean Charest. Bottom left to right: Leslyn Lewis and Pierre Poilievre.

After months of campaigning, in-fighting and controversy, the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) will hold their leadership convention to crown a new leader on Saturday, September 10. 

Five candidates remain in the race to become the next leader of the CPC; Pierre Poilievre, Jean Charest, Leslyn Lewis, Roman Barber, and Scott Aitchison.

Ian Brodie, CPC Leadership Election Organizing Committee (LEOC) chair has announced that the results of the election will be announced sometime after 6 p.m. (ET) at the convention which is taking place at the Shaw Centre in Ottawa. The event will be a more sombre occasion than originally planned due to the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, with the CBC reporting that the party has decided against using things like big confetti guns to celebrate the crowning of their new leader.

How did we get here?

Former CPC leader Erin O’Toole announced his resignation in early February of this year after his party had a mediocre showing in the 2021 federal election.

O’Toole spent only around 18 months as CPC leader and leader of the Opposition before being pressured to resign by his party.

O’Toole was the third CPC leader to resign in just seven years following former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who was defeated by Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in the 2015 federal election, and Andrew Scheer, who was unable to defeat Trudeau in the 2019 federal election.

After O’Toole’s resignation, Portage-Lisgar MP Candice Bergen was appointed Interim Leader. On Tuesday, September 6, 2022 Bergen announced that she would not be seeking running in the next federal election.

A campaign courting extremism

A recent Ipsos poll conducted by Global News suggests that Pierre Poilievre has a comfortable lead over his leadership rivals. According to the poll, 57 per cent of CPC members have a favourable view of Poilievre.

That same poll however indicates that Poilievre is far less popular with the general Canadian public, with less than one-in-four Canadians viewing Poilievre in a positive light.

Poilievre has not shied away from courting controversy and the extremes of the conservative movement.

The day before Canada Day this year, Poilievre chose to join James Topp on his march to Ottawa to protest COVID-19 pandemic mandates.

One of the groups that supported Topp’s protest is Veterans for Freedom, a group that brought far-right activist and Holocaust denier Chris Sky to speak at an event in Ottawa this past spring. Veterans for Freedom also organized the welcome party for Topp when he arrived in Ottawa.

Topp had also previously appeared on the podcast of Jeremy MacKenzie, the unofficial leader of the accelerationist Diagolon movement. MacKenzie has gone on social media calling for the execution of Canadian Armed Forces personnel. He has encouraged his followers to harass health care professionals, and is facing assault and weapons charges in Sask., and weapons charges in N.S. in an unrelated case as well.

Poilievre was photographed with MacKenzie at a campaign event earlier this summer.

“Is this somebody that a future leader of the opposition and a potential prime minister wants to be seen having common cause with? I ask the question rhetorically, obviously he does,” said Bernie Farber, chair of the Canadian AntiHate Network, in an interview with rabble.ca in August. “I mean, he’s not chosen at this point to in any way discredit him or say ‘I will have nothing to do with him’ and you’re left to make your own conclusions. You have no choice because this is important.”

An assault on the free press

In addition to courting militant far-right extremists, Poilievre has also taken another page out of the strategy book of disgraced former U.S. President Donald Trump by attacking the media.

Poilievre was asked about his association with extremism by Global News journalist Rachel Gilmore, and instead of replying to her question, he publicly attacked her on social media.

This led to Poilievre’s army of social media trolls turning on and attacking Gilmore and other journalists, mostly women.

Gilmore shared some of the violent threats that she and other journalists received following Poilievre’s targeting of the media.

A race with controversy

Aside from Poilievre’s many problematic politics in this race, this election followed suit of previous CPC elections by being marred by controversy.

Brampton Mayor and former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown was disqualified from the race earlier this summer for alleged campaign finance violations.

The allegation, which the Brown campaign denied at the time, involved the expenses of a campaign volunteer being paid for by a third party corporation.

This is the third consecutive CPC leadership campaign to be marred by controversy. The race which saw Scheer win bitterly divided the party. After 12 rounds of voting Scheer narrowly edged out rival Maxime Bernier to win with 51 per cent of the vote. Bernier and some of his supporters wound up leaving the party all together to form the People’s Party of Canada (PPC).

O’Toole managed to win his leadership race after three rounds of voting, but that campaign did see O’Toole level accusations against his main rival, Peter MacKay, of campaign spying and stealing confidential strategy information.

What to expect at the convention

The CPC conducted mail-in voting for this leadership race, with all ballots needing to be received by the LEOC by 5 p.m. ET on September 6 in order to be valid.

The CPC uses a ranked ballot voting system, where party members rank the candidates from most to least preferred.

If no candidate is able to receive more than 50 per cent of the vote after all the ballots have been counted, then the candidate who received the least amount of votes is eliminated. A voter who’s most preferred candidate is eliminated will then have their vote counted for their second most preferred candidate. This process continues until one candidate is able to achieve more than 50 per cent of the vote.

The results are expected to be announced early Saturday night.

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Nick Seebruch

Nick Seebruch has been the editor of rabble.ca since April 2022. He believes that fearless independent journalism is key for the survival of a healthy democracy. An OCNA award-winning journalist, for...