Race for Conservative leadership tightens as two more names added to ballot
April 22, 2022
Two more names have been added to the ballot for the Conservative leadership race: Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, and Roman Baber, the Ontario MPP kicked out of Doug Ford’s caucus over his opposition to COVID-19 lockdowns.
The party announced Tuesday that both men had met the threshold of paying the full $300,000 entry fee and submitted signatures from 500 party members from across the country in support of their bids.
They’re the fourth and fifth candidates to hit that mark with the final deadline fast approaching -- to get their name on the ballot, candidates must pay the fee and meet the other qualifications by this Friday, April 29.
Pierre Poilievre, Jean Charest and Leslyn Lewis have already reached that milestone.
Three of the four began their leadership bids with some degree of national profile; Charest is a former federal cabinet minister and provincial premier, Poilievre a popular seven-term MP who has long worked the party circuit nationally and Lewis ran for leadership in 2020. She was the first this time to meet all the requirements to run.
For Brown and Baber, it’s been a different kind of slog.
Brown has spent weeks leveraging his vast community connections in Brampton to help reach communities in other parts of the country in order to get the national support required for his bid, work he has also said will serve the party well in the next general election.
“I’m running to lead the Conservative party because I know how to build the broad, multifaith, multicultural coalition that we need to form to defeat the Justin-Jagmeet deal and form government,” he wrote in an email to supporters on Monday, referencing the Liberal-NDP agreement to prop up the minority Liberals until at least 2025.
“I know how to win -- and I will fight day and night to deliver victory for you.”
To build his network, Baber has leveraged the reputation he’s built as a maverick MPP for the riding of York Centre, which he won in 2018.
His name first began to surface when he wrote an internal report taking the Ford government to task for changes to its autism support policy, a move that had spurred weeks of protests and emotionally charged debate that eventually saw Ford back away from some of the proposed changed and demote a cabinet minister.
Then, in January 2021, Baber penned a two-page open letter that argued lockdowns, despite evidence of their public health benefits and widespread public support at the time, were ineffective and caused more mental-health harm than public-health good.
“The medicine is killing the patient,” the lawyer wrote at the time, noting the rise in suicides and opioid overdoses, among other apparent lockdown side effects.
Ford insisted that was an “irresponsible” stance, undermining the government’s pandemic plan, and kicked him out of caucus, turning him into a champion for those opposing COVID-19 restrictions.
Baber -- who describes himself as socially progressive but fiscally conservative -- is framing his campaign around a desire to restore democracy to Canada, and in a statement thanked his backers for supporting him.
“Canadians reject the division created by Justin Trudeau and count on us to stand up for them, even when it’s unpopular. I look forward to continuing my cross-country tour and raising issues that are important to all Canadians,” he said.
Besides the five people now on the ballot, at least four others had qualified as of last week to run but must still meet Friday’s deadline: former Toronto-area MP Leona Alleslev, Muskoka-area MP Scott Aitchison, B.C. MP Marc Dalton and Saskatchewan businessman Joseph Bourgault.