Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MLA Cathy McLeod was waiting for former Alberta Conservative MP Rona Ambrose to enter the party’s leadership race.
Had Ambrose declared, she would have secured McLeod’s endorsement.
Now that Ambrose has decided against running to succeed Andrew Scheer, McLeod has a tough choice to make.
In the 2017 Conservative leadership race, McLeod backed Ontario MP Erin O’Toole, who collected the most MP endorsements (31) before finishing third in the crowded field. While O’Toole is again seeking the leadership, McLeod said she has not yet decided which candidate she will back.
“There were some dramatic changes and there may still be some dramatic changes,” McLeod told KTW.
Those dramatic changes have included former Progressive Conservative leader Peter MacKay picking up support from a number of MPs (including some, like Abbotsford’s Ed Fast, who in 2017 backed O’Toole), Ambrose, Pierre Poilievre and Jean Charest declining to run and Richard Decarie, once deputy chief of staff to Stephen Harper, stirring up controversy with controversial comments on abortion and same-sex marriage as he announced he will seek the leadership.
“Certainly, my intention is to see where the field ends up and to really understand their thinking around some really important issues,” McLeod said, citing the environment and Canada’s role on the world stage.
The four-term MP also noted her decision will also include her assessment of which candidate has the best chance to defeat Justin Trudeau and the Liberals in the next election.
As for Decarie and his comments that he ascribed to him being a social conservative, McLeod was quick on social media to condemn those words and said candidates with such views should be excluded from a leadership bid.
Saying he has “SoCon” (social conservative) values, Decarie told the CBC in an interview last month that he would defund abortions, arguing the procedures should not be part of health care coverage. Decarie also said marriage should be exclusive to a man and woman, adding his belief that “LGBTQ is a Liberal term” and that sexual preference is a choice.
“If a candidate had said that kind of thing to the press or put it out on social media, a candidate would be excluded,” McLeod said when asked her view. “There is no question in my mind that if he was trying to run for a nomination, that would be a disqualifying statement. I mean, it really was very concerning to hear someone say that.”
Leadership candidates, McLeod said, need to be held to higher standards.
While Andrew Scheer has been described as a social conservative and MacKay as a Red Tory centrist (socially liberal and fiscally conservative), McLeod said she eschews such labels.
“We have always had a big tent that respects beliefs, respects different values,” McLeod said, citing fiscal responsibility, limited government interference, less red tape and presence on the world stage as values with which she aligns.
To date, there are 10 candidates declared in the Conservative leadership race, with Mackay and O’Toole considered the frontrunners.
For their candidacies to be official, aspirants must pay an initial $25,000 fee and collect 1,000 endorsements from party members by the end of February. Candidates then must pay another $275,000 fee and deliver another 2,000 party member signatures by March 25.
Every riding in Canada, of which there are 338, is worth 100 points, with candidates receiving points equal to their share of the vote in each riding.
The party will elect a new leader on June 27 in Toronto.