PARLIAMENT HILL—Conservative MP and leadership candidate Andrew Scheer may have the most endorsements from his caucus colleagues on the Hill, but that doesn’t mean he’s got the leadership in the bag.
The member for Regina-Qu’Appelle, Sask. has 19 endorsements, according to his website, followed by MP Erin O’Toole (Durham, Ont.) with the backing of 14 MPs.
Both of the candidates have sent out emails to Conservative members flouting their lengthy endorsement lists, and feature an “endorsements” tab on their websites. Others with less endorsements aren’t so vocal about it.
Despite their support from those they work with, former Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day told The Hill Times that “anybody would like to say I have ‘x’ number of MPs on my team,” adding that “any support you can publicize is positive.” But, “tradition” shows caucus endorsements are not always reliable measures of success.
During his own successful run for the leadership in 2000, Mr. Day did not have the most endorsements in the race. Two of his opponents who dropped out in the third round of ballots even endorsed his rival at the last minute. But, he still won handily with 63 per cent of the vote.
“Any group can become insulated,” he said, clarifying that wasn’t necessarily the case with the current Conservative caucus. “If an internal group is going for one candidate, you should also assess how acutely they have the pulse of the larger voting group.”
He said gaining a lot of support from caucus colleagues comes with a certain risk. “Sometimes if you’ve got a lot of caucus support, you may automatically assume that means you’ve got the support of the broader membership, and that may not be the case. A candidate can be lulled into thinking, ‘I’m doing well here,’” Mr. Day said.
Mr. Scheer, who leads the race in endorsements, said he continues to keep his attention on the grassroots. He told The Hill Times that he has so much support from caucus because, “those that know me the most support me the most.” But, he acknowledged that only 99 of 338 ridings were won by Conservatives in the last election.
“Obviously I can’t just look at a third of the ridings who will be voting,” he said.
Conservative MP Tony Clement (Parry Sound-Muskoka, Ont.), who was the first to drop out of the running for the leadership and has since endorsed Conservative MP Maxime Bernier (Beauce, Que.), said it’s important for candidates to have a few endorsements for the purpose of credibility, but that past a certain threshold, it would matter less and less. Mr. Bernier currently holds endorsements from five sitting Conservative MPs.
Mr. Clement, too, pointed to precedent, citing Patrick Brown’s win of the leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives against Christine Elliott, who at the time held the majority of endorsements and caucus support.
“After the leadership, all of those people who either endorsed Christine or somebody else are now part of his caucus and they’re all rolling in the same direction. That’s what you’ve got to do if you’re going to be a winning team,” he said.
So far in the race, Mr. Clement said he didn’t see any division “that isn’t healable once the leadership campaign is over.”
Having endorsements has its practical advantages as well, said Mr. Day.
“One of the advantages of having caucus support is you can use other members as surrogates to pound on your opponents. That’s what happens in every race, in every party, so you may see some of that regarding [Kellie] Leitch,” he said.
MP Kellie Leitch (Simcoe-Grey, Ont.) has been criticized by many of her colleagues for her policy proposal to screen all immigrants for “Canadian values.” Ms. Leitch herself has compared herself to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, and her colleagues and fellow candidates are condemning her for it.
Conservatives get gritty
Just more than a week into 2017, the 13 remaining candidates in the Conservative leadership race are starting to get their elbows up.
Last Wednesday, Conservative MP Lisa Raitt (Milton, Ont.) and leadership candidate, was on the offence as she launched her website, stopkevinoleary.com. In the press conference she held on Wednesday morning to unveil the new site, she spoke out against the “divisive populism” of Canadian businessman and TV personality Kevin O’Leary and Ms. Leitch.
Mr. O’Leary has not yet officially jumped into the crowded race, though he has a “Draft Kevin O’Leary” website, and has long said he is exploring the idea.
Asked if the name-calling might cause tension in caucus, Mr. Clement said, “We’re getting into a new phase in the race, and people are going to be making distinctions,” Mr. Clement said. “As long as they’re making distinctions over policy. I don’t think it has a lasting impact. I don’t think it would be wise for any candidate to engage in an overtly personal attack that isn’t based on a policy difference.”
Other candidates in the race had their own reaction to the mudslinging, including Mr. Bernier, who released an email the following day, saying he “would welcome Kevin O’Leary to the race,” but if he “wants to have the slightest chance at beating me, he needs to get in now.”
What drives an endorsement
Conservative MP Karen Vecchio (Elgin-Middlesex-London, Ont.), who endorsed Mr. O’Toole for leader, said the main factor for her was the values they shared.
“I look at him, I look at his family, I look at my family, we have a lot of things in common,” she said. “Teamwork is non-negotiable. One of the first things he did was sit down with every single new MP. If there’s a concern, he’s listening.”
She also said that for her, endorsing a candidate who she felt would best represent the views of her own constituents in the long run was an important factor.
Mr. Day said there are a number of factors contributing to Mr. Scheer being the frontrunner in terms of endorsements.
“A lot of caucus members know him, they’ve seen him. In their mind, there’s not a question about what type of individual he is. There’s a sense of confidence because…they’ve seen him work, [and] a lot of them would have shared values. So it’s that sense of closeness that gives them confidence that they know the guy,” he said.
Mr. Clement said everyone in caucus is making their own “individual assessments.” He said he’s had frank conversations with colleagues who are interested in his own decision making process, particularly given Mr. Clement is a long-time MP, and the Conservative caucus has several rookies.
The meaning behind a given MPs endorsement might vary, as well, depending on their own level of influence.
Mr. Clement, a former Harper-era cabinet minister who has been involved with the party since 1998, said when he endorses someone, “it matters not only just to my constituency, but I have a whole breadth of supporters and people who have been interested in my political path for a number of years.”
“It means different things based on your level of intensity in politics, your experiences in politics, and so on. After a certain point however, people are going to make up with own minds.”
The election of the next Conservative leader will take place on May 27 of this year, by way of a ranked ballot voting system.
Conservative Leadership Race: Who’s Supporting Who
Alexandra Day former Conservative staffer
Paul Egli former Conservative nomination candidate
Dan Albas Conservative MP
Tony Clement Conservative MP
Jacques Gourde Conservative MP
Tom Kmiec Conservative MP
Alex Nuttall Conservative MP
Lynn Beyak Conservative Senator
Nicole Eaton Conservative Senator
Stephen Greene Conservative Senator
Laura Ross Saskatchewan Party MLA
Ryan Leef former Conservative MP
Gary Lunn former Conservative minister
Pat Perkins former Conservative MP
John Reynolds former Conservative MP and B.C. MLA
Brian Storseth former Conservative MP
Lawrence Toet former Conservative MP
George Richardson former Canadian Alliance party president
Matt Whitman deputy mayor of Halifax
Phil Green former Conservative candidate
Adam Richardson former Canadian Alliance candidate and staffer
Robert Strickland former Conservative candidate
Steven Barrett former Conservative staffer
Aaron Gairdner former Conservative staffer
Emrys Graefe deputy director for the Conservative Party’s 2015 campaign
Maxime Hupé former Hill staffer
Mark Johnson former Conservative staffer
Tony Oliver former vice president of the Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland
Mark Whiffen past president of the Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador
Jean-Guy Dagenais Conservative Senator
Pierre-Luc Jean former Conservative staffer
Christophe Lavoie Hill staffer
Peter Kent Conservative MP
David Tilson Conservative MP
Mike Wallace former Conservative MP
Terence Young former Conservative MP
Erminie Cohen former Progressive Conservative Senator
Ted Arnott Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP
Nathan Caranci Conservative staffer
Catherine Keill former staffer to then-Alberta Progressive Conservative premier Jim Prentice and former Progressive Conservative MPs
Chisholm Pothier former Conservative staffer
Bram Sepers former Conservative staffer
Adam Taylor former Conservative staffer
Peter White former principal secretary to Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney
Ben Lobb Conservative MP
Peter Van Loan Conservative MP
David Yurdiga Conservative MP
Consiglio Di Nino former Conservative Senator
Ronald Atkey former Progressive Conservative minister
David Artemiw former Progressive Conservative Queen’s Park staffer
Richard Ciano principal at Campaign Research, former Ontario Progressive Conservative party president
Michael Diamond director of operations for ex-Toronto mayor Rob Ford, Manitoba Progressive Conservative caucus staffer
Tannis Drysdale former northern VP for the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party
Jan Dymond former political staffer
Stephanie Gawur constituency assistant
Sander Grieve former Progressive Conservative Hill staffer
Stanley Hartt former chief of staff to prime minister Brian Mulroney
Nick Kouvalis former chief of staff to Toronto mayor Rob Ford, principal at Campaign Research
Dany Renauld former federal Progressive Conservative Party organizer in Quebec
John Simcoe chief financial officer, Ontario PC Fund
Mitch Wexler voter-data expert and a principal at Politrain Consulting
Corneliu Chisu former Conservative MP
Joe Daniel former Conservative MP
Julian Fantino former Conservative MP
James Bezan Conservative MP
John Brassard Conservative MP
Colin Carrie Conservative MP
Michael Cooper Conservative MP
Todd Doherty Conservative MP
Randy Hoback Conservative MP
Ron Liepert Conservative MP
Larry Maguire Conservative MP
Cathy McLeod Conservative MP
Blake Richards Conservative MP
Jamie Schmale Conservative MP
Robert Sopuck Conservative MP
Karen Vecchio Conservative MP
Kevin Waugh Conservative MP
Laurie Hawn former Conservative MP
Ed Holder former Conservative MP
Gerald Keddy former Conservative MP
Wladyslaw Lizon former Conservative MP
Ted Opitz former Conservative MP
Bernard Trottier former Conservative MP
David Wilks former Conservative MP
Michael Harris Ontario MPP
Brian Macdonald New Brunswick Progressive Conservative MLA
Jody Mitic Ottawa city councillor
Fred DeLorey former Conservative candidate and staffer
James Dodds former chief financial officer for the federal Progressive Conservative Party
John MacDonell former Conservative chief of staff
Dan Mader former Conservative chief of staff
Tausha Michaud Hill staffer
Dave Pierce former Conservative staffer
Jeff Bridge 2013 campaign manager for the B.C. Conservatives
Mark Mullins former adviser to federal and Ontario PCs, former Fraser Institute director
Dean Allison Conservative MP
Phil McColeman Conservative MP
Bruce Stanton Conservative MP
Judith Seidman Conservative Senator
Keith Ashfield former Conservative minister
John Carmichael former Conservative MP
Rob Clarke former Conservative MP
Kerry-Lynne Findlay former Conservative minister
Robert Goguen former Conservative MP
Gary Goodyear former Conservative minister of state
Alfie MacLeod Nova Scotia PC MLA
Lisa MacLeod Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP
Cecil Clarke mayor of Cape Breton Regional Municipality, former Conservative candidate
Gordon Krantz mayor of Milton, Ont.
Michel A. Plourde mayor of Danville, Que.
Case Ootes former deputy mayor of Toronto
Adam Rodgers former Conservative Party candidate
Jana Regimbal former Conservative staffer
Brooke Timpson former Conservative staffer
John Duncan former Conservative MP
Noël Kinsella former Senate speaker and Conservative Senator
Brock Stephenson former Conservative staffer
Ziad Aboultaif Conservative MP
John Barlow Conservative MP
Kelly Block Conservative MP
Jim Eglinski Conservative MP
Ted Falk Conservative MP
Garnett Genuis Conservative MP
Marilyn Gladu Conservative MP
Matt Jeneroux Conservative MP
Tom Lukiwski Conservative MP
Kelly McCauley Conservative MP
Scott Reid Conservative MP
Gerry Ritz Conservative MP
Kevin Sorenson Conservative MP
Mark Strahl Conservative MP
Shannon Stubbs Conservative MP
Arnold Viersen Conservative MP
Cathay Wagantall Conservative MP
Mark Warawa Conservative MP
Chris Warkentin Conservative MP
Bob Zimmer Conservative MP
Denise Batters Conservative Senator
Norman Doyle Conservative Senator
Dennis Patterson Conservative Senator
Don Plett Conservative Senator
David Tkachuk Conservative Senator
David Wells Conservative Senator
Paul Calandra former Conservative MP
LaVar Payne former Conservative MP
Peter Penashue former Conservative minister
Kyle Seeback former Conservative MP
Devinder Shory former Conservative MP
Jeff Watson former Conservative MP
Steven Bonk Saskatchewan MLA
Bill Boyd Saskatchewan MLA
Fred Bradshaw Saskatchewan MLA
Greg Brkich Saskatchewan MLA
Jennifer Campeau Saskatchewan MLA
Lori Carr Saskatchewan MLA
Herb Cox Saskatchewan MLA
Dan D’Autremont Saskatchewan MLA
Terry Dennis Saskatchewan MLA
Larry Doke Saskatchewan MLA
Jeremy Harrison Saskatchewan MLA
Warren Kaeding Saskatchewan MLA
Greg Lawrence Saskatchewan MLA
Hugh Nerlien Saskatchewan MLA
Greg Ottenbreit Saskatchewan MLA
Kevin Phillips Saskatchewan MLA
Doug Steele Saskatchewan MLA
Warren Steinley Saskatchewan MLA
Lyle Stewart Saskatchewan MLA
Christine Tell Saskatchewan MLA
Jeff Carr New Brunswick Progressive Conservative MLA
Carl Urquhart New Brunswick Progressive Conservative MLA
Georganne Burke former Conservative Party outreach manager and organizer
Marc-André Leclerc former Conservative Party staffer
Hamish Marshall former Conservative PMO and party staffer
Joseph Ben-Ami former operations director to Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day
Mike Patton former Conservative staffer
Sources: Media reports, The Hill Times archives, candidate/supporter communications
Note: This list is limited to former and current political staffers, elected politicians, and candidates
Compiled by Kristen Shane and Abbas Rana
The Hill Times
This story has been updated to reflect the fact that MP Erin O’Toole has endorsements from 14 current MPs, not 13, as previously reported.
*Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly listed Guy Giorno, a former PMO chief of staff, as an endorser of Andrew Scheer.