With all the attention that’s rightfully been elsewhere in Canadian politics, less attention has been getting paid to the Conservative Leadership Race, beyond the random words of Peter MacKay and Erin O’Toole that come out on Twitter every now and again. But this week there was an important milestone in this race of note; the first deadline to meet to be a candidate. Thursday was the deadline to meet the first hurdles in this race; to get your application in and vetted, to have 1,000 signatures in and approved and to pay the first instalment of the funds needed by the party, $25,000. This was the first barrier to clear and officially starts the process of sorting the pretenders from the rest. And how many made this cut?

Say hello to the Final Eight of the race to replace Andrew Scheer, the people who made it past this first test in the race. Going forward, for the next little while anyway, are:

  • Peter MacKay (verified candidate)
  • Erin O’Toole (authorized contestant)
  • Marilyn Gladu
  • Derek Sloan
  • Rudy Husny
  • Jim Karahalios
  • Leslyn Lewis
  • Rick Peterson

In that it should be noted that only Peter MacKay as cleared every barrier before the end, so as of right now, he’s the only candidate who is guaranteed to be on the ballot. Also, it’s worth noting that despite meeting this first challenge, there really isn’t a lot of pay-off for it because there aren’t any debates until after the final bars are cleared. Point being, there won’t be any debates or events for this race until after the field is finalized, not before. So while there are eight people on this list today, it feels very safe to say that there won’t be eight people on stage at their first debate.

For a party that was hoping to attract a strong field of candidates to eventually take on Justin Trudeau, this field is quite underwhelming for sure. Only three MPs are in this race, compared to 10 MPs that got into the last one. And not only were there more MPs in the last race, you could argue they were more substantive and of more heft than this field. In 2017, we saw Scheer, Maxime Bernier, O’Toole, Michael Chong, Lisa Raitt, Chris Alexander, Deepak Obhrai and Kellie Leitch. All of those were either past cabinet ministers or very well-regarded MPs at some point in their pasts. This time though? O’Toole is the only current MP with cabinet experience and then there’s MacKay. Gladu has no such profile at all and Sloan just got elected for the first time in October. That’s pretty weak tea if you ask me.

But while most were looking at the names that ended up on that list, many were also looking to see what names didn’t appear. There were many names floating around about running, some with organization and profile that they’ve been building over the past two months. It was with that in mind that one name in particular that was absent jumped out and surprised some:

I’ve seen some people comment online about the Conservatives referring to these candidates as “applicants” on their tweet announcing who was in, which was a very odd use of words. But maybe this development explains that. You see, a candidate can only be voted in or defeated, but an applicant can be outright rejected by the party. And folks, Mr. Decarie got rejected, and not without reason for sure. While the Conservative Party won’t go into the reasons why they rejected Decarie’s application to run for their leadership, Decarie himself told the Canadian Press that “no reasons were provided to me by the committee.” I have a hard time believing that, but at the same time it’s happened and not without reason. Brad Trost, who was the kingmaker in the Scheer win in 2017, had been helping Decarie’s campaign and publicly so. He said that they were “blindsided by the news”, which is both laughable and completely believable. It’s laughable in that so much of what Decarie was running on was so offensive to most Canadians that it’s easy to see why they would disqualify him. But it’s also believable because Trost himself ran on a lot of the exact same things barely three years ago and they didn’t just let him run, he came 4th place.

Given the Conservatives track records on things like these, it would have been reasonable to assume that they wouldn’t deny him the chance to run if he met the other requirements. Also, it would have been reasonable when you look at the other candidates who were approved. Take Derek Sloan for example. Here is what the National Post reported was on his candidate biography, posted on the Conservative Party’s own website:

“Without a definite turn, our country is heading on a dangerous path that will involve the elimination of charitable status to churches that don’t have politically correct teachings on sexuality, marriage and gender, and will also likely make preaching certain things illegalNo areas are off limits, as Leader Derek will encourage MPs to vigorously discuss and debate any issue, including the long overdue discussion on abortion in Canada…Derek is standing for the leadership because he believes this country is under siege by a tide of political progressivism that seeks to destroy Canada, and he knows that the quickest way to lose such a war is to pretend you’re not in one.”

https://nationalpost.com/news/politics/conservative-leadership-field-grows-to-six-as-derek-sloan-jim-karahalios-become-official-candidates

Okay everyone, how is that insanity not on the same level as Decarie’s crap? Add to that Sloan’s disastrous interview with CTV’s Evan Solomon in January where he showed his true colours you can easily argue that Sloan and Decarie are one in the same. But Sloan gets approved and Decarie doesn’t? Yeah that looks odd. You’ll let someone with those kinds of views be in your caucus and run for leadership, but won’t let someone from the outside with similar views run for leader? That doesn’t add up in my estimation. The only difference I see here is that Sloan is already in their caucus (which makes it hard to disqualify someone who you just signed off on less than a year ago) and that Decarie is well funded and organized.

Regardless of that, this race continues to be the clown car of Canadian leadership campaigns. Next to no one of heft and experience wants the jobs, they disqualify one funded and organized candidate for good reasons, but they let another candidate who should be disqualified because he’s already elected. Yep, this is embarrassing stuff for the Blue Team and a group that were hoping to have an invigorating campaign that would renew their party are seeing the polar opposite. This is turning into the Peter MacKay coronation, with no real challenges, no real debate and no real tests (except for the ones he manages to create for himself). So as of today we are at the Final Eight in this race but that will surely whittle its way lower before the first debate comes in April. Not exactly what they thought they were getting when they kicked this whole thing off back in December.

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