The author is a former conservative strategist. He was a political adviser in the Harper government as well as in the opposition.
Hurricanes, those storms that devastate everything in their path, have names. In politics, there are also storms that can destroy years of effort.
During the 2019 federal election, the threat to the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) and its leader, Andrew Scheer, was named Maxime Bernier. It was not a hurricane, but the very presence of Mr. Bernier risked compromising the reputation of the party, by amalgamation or by association, in addition to dividing the votes.
Let’s get into context. Mr. Bernier had managed to get himself invited to the leaders’ debates, which gave him a forum to propose his simplistic and populist solutions, without rigor or financial framework. In the Conservative camp, it was established that any slippage by Mr. Bernier would be an opportunity for the Liberals to blame Andrew Scheer. Unsurprisingly, Justin Trudeau took advantage of a debate to assert that Maxime Bernier’s role was to say publicly what Mr. Scheer thought in private.
In the end, Mr. Bernier had very little impact on this election — much less than Chinese interference may have had, are we tempted to extrapolate from what we have learned in recent weeks.
And, in a way, the departure of Mr. Bernier from the CCP, in 2018, was also good. This prompted more radical members, who often made the party look bad, to leave with him. A small bleeding can sometimes be beneficial. It should also be remembered that Mr. Scheer had won the leadership race by a very small margin over Mr. Bernier. Cohabitation with a former adversary is sometimes difficult. We need only think of the rivalry between Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin.
Then comes Erin O’Toole. As head of the CCP, he also had to let go of less popular members. In January 2021, with a snap election on the horizon, he called for the expulsion from the Conservative caucus of MP Derek Sloan, who had accepted a donation from a well-known white supremacist. Mr. Sloan was not at his first escapades, he who had questioned the loyalty of the DD Theresa Tam towards Canada by insinuating that she was working for China. He was a nuisance to be eliminated to prevent the Liberals from making associations between him and Mr. O’Toole in the coming election.
We know the rest. MM. Bernier and Sloan failed to win a seat without the CCP banner, and Maxime Bernier is now non-existent on the political spectrum.
The new Conservative leader, Pierre Poilievre, is not out of danger. Like Andrew Scheer or Erin O’Toole, he faces risks. One of them is played by MP Leslyn Lewis.
Mme Lewis is a social conservative, who opposes abortion and physician-assisted dying. But it is not these positions, contrary to the mainstream in Canada, that represent a risk for Mr. Poilievre. He himself is for abortion and for gay marriage, and can therefore neutralize the attacks of the Liberals on these subjects.
Mme Lewis shares Mr. Bernier’s anti-sanitary measures beliefs and positions, with a marked penchant for conspiracy theories. She refused to disclose her vaccination status and during the leadership race she blamed Mr Poilievre for not doing enough to support the Freedom Convoy. She has more frequently attacked the World Health Organization (WHO), guilty according to her of being associated with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and of threatening the sovereignty of States with its international treaty plan for the future prevention of pandemics. .
As a bonus, M.me Lewis has more than dubious connections and remarks, which are reminiscent of those which led to the expulsion of Derek Sloan. It makes unacceptable and shameful amalgams, by associating, for example, the pandemic context with the medical experiments carried out by the Nazis on prisoners of concentration camps with the Nuremberg code of 1947.
Two weeks ago, M.me Lewis met the controversial far-right German MEP Christine Anderson, along with two other Tory MPs. It is this kind of activity and dating that the Liberals will certainly bring out in the next campaign to show that the Conservatives are not to be seen. In defense of the CCP, which claims the party was unaware of Ms.me Anderson, Mr. Trudeau replied that Canadians should not be taken for idiots.
On paper, M.me Lewis, who is of immigrant background and holds a doctorate in international law, has an exceptional profile. In fact, it is hurting the Conservative Party by dragging others down in its wake. It is not without reason that M.me Lewis had been kicked out of Erin O’Toole’s shadow cabinet, despite her status as a leadership candidate.
Pierre Poilievre did not sanction its members. But, sooner or later, Justin Trudeau will address the new Conservative leader the same sentence he had thrown at Andrew Scheer: “What your MP Leslyn Lewis says publicly, you mean it in private, don’t you, Rock ? And that’s how Hurricane Leslyn may destroy some of Pierre Poilievre’s work.