Canadian Politics (Federal), Published Articles

Everything you need to know about the federal Conservative leadership frontrunners

Jeremy Appel
Originally published at This

The Conservative Party of Canada’s leadership race, scheduled to conclude in May 2017, is off to an inauspicious start. Between fights in the name of “Canadian values” and hot takes on same-sex marriage, the candidates appear to be competing to see who can advocate the most regressive policies, with a few notable exceptions.

This takes a look at the five frontrunners—Kellie Leatch, Brad Trost, Maxime Bernier, Michael Chong and Lisa Raitt—and their respective proposals for immigration, social issues, the environment and the economy.

Kellie Leitch

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Leitch’s signature proposal is “screening immigrants, refugees, and visitors for anti-Canadian values.” Her website boasts, “Kellie is the only candidate who will ensure that those coming to Canada believe in the equality of women, freedom of religion, and equality under law,” but is short on details on how she plans to achieve this.

According to a recent interview with Toronto Life, the Simcoe Grey MP opposes the legalization of recreational marijuana, supports gay marriage, and identifies as anti-abortion.

She vows to repeal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s national carbon tax if elected, insisting that carbon pricing should be left to the provinces.

Leitch vows to balance the budget by instituting a cap on government spending. Her website hints at mass privatization when it says that the government must “find new ways to get things done—new ways that don’t involve increasing taxes or borrowing money.”

Brad Trost

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Though critical of Leitch’s vague “Canadian values” test, Trost (Saskatoon-University) said in an emailed statement that he wants to distinguish between immigrants who “Choose Canada” for its values and those who “Use Canada” for its public services.

Trost is staunchly opposed to gay marriage, wants “legislation to protect pre-born victims of crime,” and supports tough on crime legislation. “Catch and release is great for fishing, but not so great for criminals,” he said.

“I don’t think the uncertain science around climate change should be leveraged to force producers to leave oil and gas and coal in the ground,” he wrote, contending that the negative of job losses from reducing fossil fuel dependence outweigh the positives.

Trost aims “to keep corporate and income taxes LOW (sic),” which he said would be his main priority as prime minister.

Maxime Bernier

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Bernier “plans to make an announcement on immigration later in the campaign,” says spokesman Maxime Hupe.

The Beauce, Que. MP supported the removal of the party’s “definition of marriage as being the union between a man and a woman” at its May 2016 policy convention in Vancouver, according to his website.

However, he vowed to reopen the abortion debate if party members request it, allowing a free vote. This is despite the vehemently anti-abortion Campaign Life Coalition rating him as consistently pro-abortion and therefore “not supportable.”

“Our prosperity is, and will remain for decades to come, dependent on fossil fuels to a large extent,” his website reads. He calls advocates of national carbon taxation “extremist green activists” who “want to see their standard of living significantly reduced to contribute in a negligible way to the global fight against climate change.”

Bernier advocates leaving the issue of carbon taxation up to the provinces and allowing the private sector to develop green energy of its own accord.

In a speech to the Canadian Club in Toronto, Bernier called for a reduction in the corporate tax rate to 10 per cent from 15 percent and the outright abolition of capital gains taxes.

Michael Chong

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Chong (Wellington-Halton Hills) seeks to maintain the status quo on immigration, noting in a statement that immigrants and refugees are already “screened for criminality, war crimes, terrorism, health, and economic reasons.” Leitch’s proposal to vet newcomers for “Canadian values” is thus “not workable.”

He also vows not to “reopen divisive social issues,” namely those that have already been decided by Parliament, like abortion, same-sex marriage, and assisted suicide.

An outlier amongst the leadership candidates, Chong advocates a carbon tax, albeit one that is revenue neutral, to discourage fossil fuel consumption and reach the international target for emission reductions by 2030. 

To make up for the carbon tax, Chong vows to slash personal income taxes by 10 percent and corporate taxes by 5 percent.

Lisa Raitt

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The Campaign Life Coalition rates Raitt as “unsupportable” due to her participation in the 2016 Toronto Pride parade and pro-abortion voting record. However, the group notes her opposition to assisted suicide, which she attributes to her Catholic faith.

In parliament, she vocally opposed the federal Liberals’ carbon taxation plan, advocating corporate solutions to what she acknowledges as the reality of man-made climate change.

During the party’s November leadership debate in Saskatoon, Raitt hinted at a reduction of inter-provincial trade barriers as a central tenet of her fiscal policies.

As the most recent addition to the leadership race, the Milton MP has yet to outline specific proposals on most issues, nor did her office respond to requests for comment. 

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