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Vancouver convention: Tories attempt to forge path to victory in 2019

By Abbas Rana      

'We’ll need all the boots on the ground and all the wallets that we can in order to win the next election. A convention like this makes that possible,' says former Tory MP Joe Preston.

As the Tories hold a policy convention in Vancouver, efforts are being led by MP Scott Reid to change the rules so that interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose can run for the permanent leadership. The Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright
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The next election is three years away but the Conservative Party members, supporters, and delegates at the policy convention happening in Vancouver are saying they’re laying the groundwork now by electing the party’s national council and voting on policies, and say if they get this right, they will unseat the Liberals in 2019.

“This [convention] is one that’s of real critical importance right now,” said former four-term Conservative MP Joe Preston, who represented the riding of Elgin-Middlesex-London, Ont., from 2004 to 2015 and did not seek re-election in the last federal election.

He added that the party needs to  “show people what conservatism looks like” and offer “a great alternative.”

Mr. Preston, who is running for the national council of the Conservative Party, said the party is starting to lay the foundation for “winning” the next election in Vancouver by electing 20 new members, coming up with policies, and crafting plans to raise funds.

“We’ll need all the boots on the ground and all the wallets that we can in order to win the next election. A convention like this makes that possible,” said Mr. Preston, who described the Conservative Party’s mood as “determined” to win the next election.

About 3,000 Conservative party members, supporters, delegates, and volunteers from across the country are gathered in Vancouver this week from May 26-28 at the Vancouver Convention Centre for its biennial policy convention. Of these, about 2,200 are voting delegates, according to the Conservative Party. This is the party’s first convention after losing power in the October federal election.

Registration for the convention started Thursday afternoon. In addition to electing the national council, the party will vote on resolutions for party policies, and pay tribute to former prime minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Heritage, Alta.). The Conservative caucus also held a special meeting at the convention on Thursday afternoon.

In the Oct. 19 election that brought the Liberals to power from third-place party, the Conservatives were reduced to 99 seats from 166. Since then, Alberta Conservative MP Jim Hillyer passed away and a byelection has not been held yet to fill the seat for the Alberta riding of Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner.

The Liberals in the last election won 184 of 338 seats, the NDP 44, Bloc Quebecois 10, and the Green Party one seat.

Former two-term Conservative MP Lois Brown told The Hill Times that since this convention is the biggest gathering of the Conservatives before to next May’s leadership convention, it’s an opportunity for declared and potential leadership candidates to reach out to as many Conservatives as possible.

“It’s a great opportunity to see this new growth that’s going on,” said Ms. Brown, who represented the Ontario riding of Newmarket-Aurora from 2008 to 2015 but lost in the last federal election.

“There’s lots and lots of work that’s going to be done by individuals over the next year,” said Ms. Brown. “Lots of EDAs [electoral district associations] are going to see tremendous growth because they’ll have an enthusiasm for being involved and we’ve got a great message to take out there.”

Ms. Brown said that she’s not supporting any candidate in this leadership campaign, as she’s a member of the organizing committee that is overseeing the Conservative Party’s leadership campaign.

Under the current party rules, interim Conservative Party Leader Rona Ambrose (Sturgeon River-Parkland, Alta.) is not eligible to seek Conservative Party leadership, but some MPs have been lobbying Conservative delegates to change the rules. Led by Conservative MP Scott Reid Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston, Ont.), a number of Conservative MPs and volunteers are urging delegates to sign a petition and vote in favour of amending the party constitution to allow Ms. Ambrose to run. It remains to be seen if they’re successful in this effort.

As of Thursday, May 26, four candidates had announced their intention to run for the Conservative party leadership including sitting MPs Kellie Leitch (Simcoe-Grey, Ont.), Maxime Bernier (Beauce, Que.), and Michael Chong (Wellington-Halton Hills, Ont.). Manitoba physician Dan Lindsay is also running for the leadership. Other potential candidates who are said to be considering a run include incumbent MPs Lisa Raitt (Milton, Ont.), Jason Kenney (Calgary Midnapore, Alta.), Tony Clement (Perry Sound-Muskoka, Ont.), Michelle Rempel (Calgary-Nose Hill, Alta.), and Andrew Scheer (Regina-Qu’Appelle, Sask.). Former Conservative MP and justice minister Peter MacKay, as well as TV personality and chairman of the O’Leary Financial Group Kevin O’Leary are also believed to be considering runs.

arana@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times

 

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