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Negative Politics Will Drive Our Conservative Party Into The Ground

01/12/2017 01:46 EST | Updated 01/12/2017 01:56 EST

It's time to take a stand.

After listening to worried Canadians in every province and territory, I have to speak out against two of my opponents who are using the phenomenon of negative and irresponsible populism imported from the United States to successfully garner media attention.

If the Conservative Part of Canada is going to achieve victory in 2019, we will need a strong, unified and inclusive party. I'm running for leader because that is my vision for our party and our country.

Stephen Harper showed us a path to win three elections and make life better for Canadians. How did we earn the trust of Canadians for nearly a decade? We were in touch with the values and concerns of Canadian families.

And always thoughtful about how Canadians would hear our words.

We knew the only path to victory was a united and inclusive party focused on our shared values of hard work, optimism and self-reliance -- the keys to a better future.

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Conservative MP Lisa Raitt responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016. (Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)

These are the values that inspired me to seek public office in 2008 to be part of a pragmatic, unified Conservative team that was ready to lead and win.

Today, we have two leadership candidates who threaten that path.

Kevin O'Leary and Kellie Leitch are embracing elements of Donald Trump's campaign while ignoring others.

O'Leary is the TV entertainer with no filter. The man who told our soldiers and veterans there is "nothing proud about being a warrior." The man who said if he were "prime minister for 15 minutes" he would "make unions illegal" -- and in his words, "anybody who remains a union member will be thrown in jail."

Canadians will not elect someone who says nonsense like this.

Meanwhile, Kellie Leitch is embracing the other half of Donald Trump -- the half that wins votes by pinning all our problems on immigrants.

Leitch called Trump's message "exciting" and she wants to bring it to Canada. She wants to test immigrants for her undefined "Canadian values."

She wants to destroy one of the pillars of my party's success -- a decade of work becoming the party of immigrants, the party of Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney.

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Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch, left, speaks and holds up a book as Lisa Raitt listens during the Conservative leadership debate in Saskatoon, Wednesday, November 9, 2016. (Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Richards)

Kevin O'Leary and Kellie Leitch are both taking lessons from the worst of what we saw in the U.S. election and embracing a style of negative, irresponsible populism.

Unfortunately for them, we are not Americans and neither of them are president-elect Donald Trump.

This brand of negative and divisive politics would drive our party right into the ground.

Their bluster would allow Justin Trudeau to govern for a generation. Instead of talking about broken Liberal promises and foolish Liberal failures, we would be wasting time and energy on baiting and sensational antics with O'Leary or Leitch.

I refuse to let that happen.

Canadians deserve a candidate who is willing to stand up to them and their cheap talk. I will. I am reaching out to Canadians across the country who want neither of these candidates in our politics.

I will oppose any attempt to take our party down a self-defeating or divisive path because that will only guarantee four more years of Justin Trudeau.

Too many Canadians are hurting and they won't be helped by sensationalized theatrics.

We can unite, lead and win by being the party that embraces lower taxes and smaller government while protecting the services that matter most.

A party that respects diversity but understands the difference between right and wrong -- and is always prepared to stand up for what is right. A party that will put jobs first -- not just in one region, and not just in our cities but for farmers, fisherman, miners, mill and factory workers as well.

And a party that avoids cheap demagoguery -- and ensures everyone is judged not by who they are, but what they do.

If principled, pragmatic Conservatives don't join together, we will see our party hijacked by the loudest narcissistic voices who aim to boost their profile at any cost.

I will oppose any attempt to take our party down a self-defeating or divisive path because that will only guarantee four more years of Justin Trudeau.

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