02/29/2020 13:45 EST | Updated 03/03/2020 15:43 EST

Richard Decarie Barred From Tory Leadership Race After Claiming Being Gay Is A 'Choice'

Eight official candidates are now in the race.

OTTAWA — Richard Decarie, a social conservative whose views have been condemned by some senior Conservatives, has been barred from running in the party’s leadership race.

Decarie, who believes being LGBTQ is a choice and the government should defund abortion, had submitted the required application, fee and nomination signatures to run in the contest by Thursday’s deadline.

He was also interviewed by the party, as per the rules.

Party spokesman Cory Hann said he can’t say specifically why Decarie wasn’t allowed to run, as the process is confidential.

Twitter/Richard Décarie
Richard Décarie, a former Conservative party staffer looking to run for the party's leadership, is shown in an image from Twitter.

Brad Trost, a former leadership candidate himself who had been helping Decarie’s campaign, said they were blindsided by the news and had no immediate comment.

It came via a list released Saturday by the party naming the eight official candidates now in the race, with Decarie’s name absent.

Seven of them now have until March 25 to meet the remaining criteria to be eligible to run; one, Peter MacKay, has already submitted the full $300,000 and 3,000 signatures.

Conservative party members will elect a new leader on June 27.

Many Conservatives had called for Decarie to be barred from the race following comments he made to CTV’s Power Play in January.

They included his belief that LGBTQ is a Liberal term, and governments should work to uphold and restore “traditional values.”

Some of his opponents, including MacKay, Erin O’Toole and Marilyn Gladu, condemned his remarks as did current MPs, party strategists and former staff.

He later apologized if he’d offended people but stood by his beliefs.

In addition to the fees, signatures, application and interview, there are only two other requirements for candidates: that they’ve been a member of the party for at least six months before applying, and that they support the founding principles of the party.

But the leadership race rules also say a candidate can be barred for any reason, and the decision can’t be appealed.

While Decarie made it clear he was running to espouse “traditional” views, there are others still in the race occupying a similar place on the conservative political spectrum.

Other social conservatives make cut

Current MP Derek Sloan, in the wake of Decarie’s early remarks, said he believed the science was not clear on whether being LGBTQ was a choice. He’s also said he’d encourage MPs to bring forward bills to regulate abortion.

Leslyn Lewis, a Toronto lawyer, is also running with the support of social conservatives.

On Saturday, she tweeted that history suggests the party wins when they have strong social policy that values and protects the vulnerable.

“While columnists may adopt the cliche position of ‘Conservatives can’t win with social conservatives’ I believe our party members know better,” she wrote.

Candidates’ positions on abortion and same-sex marriage have been early issues in the leadership race due to the role they played during the last federal election.

Current party leader Andrew Scheer’s own opposition to abortion and refusal to march in gay pride parades became a liability for the party during the campaign and in the weeks after, contributing to the pressure placed on him to step aside.

He did so in mid-December, setting in motion the current leadership contest.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 29, 2020.

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