04/30/2020 10:42 EDT | Updated 04/30/2020 10:43 EDT

Conservative Leadership Race Is Back On, Party Will Pick New Leader In August

The contest was suspended in late March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Conservative leadership candidates Peter MacKay and Erin O'Toole are shown in a composite image of photos from The Canadian Press.

The Conservative Party of Canada will now select its new leader in late August.

The party’s leadership election organizing committee (LEOC) announced in a statement Wednesday night that the contest, which was suspended on March 26 due to the escalating crisis, can resume “effective immediately.”

The party had postponed leadership fundraising until May 1 and urged contenders to refrain from courting party members.

The Tories had initially planned to pick a replacement for Andrew Scheerat a convention in Toronto on June 27.

Watch: Here’s who is in the running to replace Andrew Scheer


The membership deadline of May 15 will remain unchanged. The process will proceed with mail ballots, as required by the Party Constitution, and all ballots will need to be completed and received by August 21,” said Cory Hann, the party’s director of communications, in the release.

“The result will be announced as soon as those ballots can be properly processed and examined by scrutineers while respecting any health guidelines in place at that time.”

Hann noted the health and safety of party volunteers is of paramount importance for the LEOC.

“While the date to announce a new leader will be largely dependent on what health guidelines and government orders are in place in August, the LEOC has committed to monitoring the situation closely, and will look to confirm the announcement details in the coming weeks,” Hann said.

Just four candidates remain in the race: former cabinet ministers Peter MacKay and Erin O’Toole, rookie Ontario MP Derek Sloan, and Toronto lawyer Leslyn Lewis.

Three other candidates were unable last month to meet the threshold required to get on the ballot, which included raising $300,000, obtaining 3,000 signatures from party members, and having their applications approved by party officials.

Those three hopefuls — Ontario MP Marilyn Gladu, businessman Rick Peterson, and former political staffer Rudy Husny — had urged the party to either extend deadlines or postpone the contest, arguing it was wrong to be seeking donations and campaigning in the thick of a pandemic.

Conservative activist Jim Karahalios was kicked out of the race last month after sending an email accusing O’Toole’s campaign manager of wanting to bring Islamic religious law to Canada. Karahalios has filed a lawsuit to get back in the contest. He will make his case in an Ontario court on May 15.

O’Toole also called for the June vote to be postponed, while MacKay, the presumed frontrunner, raised eyebrows by standing alone in calling for the vote to be moved up.

The news of the race’s resumption comes as Sloan faces pressure from the very MPs he hopes to lead to retract comments attacking Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, and questioning her loyalty to Canada.

Justin Tang/CP
Conservative MP Derek Sloan attends a Conservative caucus retreat on Parliament Hill on Jan. 24, 2020.


In an email and video released last week, Sloan called for Tam to be fired and blasted her for relying on data from the World Health Organization while advising the government during the pandemic. The WHO is facing scrutiny after it emerged that China, where the outbreak of the novel coronavirus began, potentially underreported the extent of illness in that country.

Sloan asked if Tam, who was born in Hong Kong, works for “China or Canada.” Several Conservatives, including prominent voices Michael Chong and Michelle Rempel Garner, joined MPs from other parties in publicly condemning the remark.

The Ontario Conservative caucus passed a motion this week demanding Sloan apologize or else some MPs could seek to have him removed from caucus in a vote, The Canadian Press reported. 

According to CBC News, O’Toole joined Sloan in voting against the motion.

Sloan released a statement Wednesday saying he was not questioning Tam’s loyalty and claiming the question about whether she works for China or Canada was rhetorical. However, he refused to apologize.

None of Sloan’s rivals in the contest have denounced him for the episode. 

Outgoing Tory Leader Andrew Scheer initially refused to weigh in on the controversy, even though Sloan is a member of his caucus. Days later, Scheer told reporters Sloan was wrong to question Tam’s “loyalty.”

With files from The Canadian Press