The perceived front-runner for the Conservative leadership is making a list and checking it twice.
Quebec MP Maxime Bernier sent a fundraising email Saturday — hours before the results of the contest will be revealed in Toronto — giving supporters one last chance to get their name on his radar by chipping in some money.
“When the dust settles, my team is going to give me a list of everyone who was with me from day one — the people who supported and donated to my campaign,” the email reads.
“As Conservative Party leader, I’m going to keep that list with me. I want to remember each and every person who stood by me in this leadership race. Today is your last chance to get your name on that list.”
Bernier and 12 other contenders delivered their last pitch to Tory delegates Friday night at the Toronto Congress Centre, even though most of the votes have been cast.
While the excitement in the room grew as a splashy, five-minute Bernier campaign video played ahead of his speech, the veteran MP’s remarks were noticeably shorter than the others, clocking in at around two minutes.
Bernier's communications director Maxime Hupé later told HuffPost Canada that his candidate did not have a written speech and instead spoke to delegates off the cuff.
Maxime Bernier arrives at the Tory leadership convention in Toronto with his girlfriend Catherine LeTarte on May 26, 2017. (Photo: Fred Thornhill/The Canadian Press)
On stage, Bernier thanked his campaign team and said he’d be ready to “debate Conservative ideas in Parliament and all across the country.” He said the Tories will be ready to beat Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2019.
“All together we will build a stronger country,” he said.
The dapper libertarian has pledged a big break from the Tory party orthodoxy by promising to dismantle Canada’s system of supply management for dairy, eggs, and poultry. His proposal to end the federal government’s role in delivering health care by transferring tax points to the provinces has also set off alarm bells among some Tories.
Listen to Bernier’s interview with HuffPost Canada’s “Follow-Up” podcast
Saskatchewan MP Andrew Scheer, seen as perhaps the top contender to surprise Bernier Saturday after several rounds, scored big applause throughout his speech Friday. His proposal to restrict federal funds from universities that “stifle free speech” proved to be particularly popular among delegates.
While many used the opportunity to call for unity in the Conservative party, Bernier’s pitch is perhaps the latest signal that there could be work to do on the front.
Bernier’s deputy campaign manager, Emrys Graefe, suggested to iPolitics that the team may not look to staffers in Scheer’s campaign to help fill roles in the Opposition Leader’s Office or Conservative party, should the Quebec MP win.
The Bernier camp ended up absorbing many Kevin O’Leary staffers after the celebrity businessman dropped out and endorsed the Quebecer.
“I don’t want to let which camp affect [hiring decisions] too much but I feel safer hiring someone from O’Leary’s camp than I do from Andrew Scheer’s,” Graefe told iPolitics.
Conservative leadership candidate profiles:
• Pierre Lemieux declined to be profiled by HuffPost Canada.
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