Harper didn’t address ‘batty’ Poilievre policies in endorsement: former cabinet ministers

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on June 15.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Two Stephen Harper-era cabinet ministers say his endorsement of Pierre Poilievre for the leadership of the Conservative party failed to address the candidate’s “batty” economic policies.

Lawrence Cannon, a Quebec lieutenant and foreign affairs minister under Mr. Harper, and former environment minister Peter Kent are supporting Jean Charest, the former Quebec premier, in the leadership race.

This week, Mr. Harper, the only leader of the current iteration of the Conservative Party to serve as a prime minister, endorsed Mr. Poilievre for the leadership over the other four candidates in the race.

In a written commentary on Wednesday, Mr. Cannon and Mr. Kent described Mr. Harper’s move as a “surprising intervention” in the campaign because they could not recall a former prime minister similarly making such a public endorsement for a successor.

But they said “the most puzzling piece” of Mr. Harper’s endorsement was that he “did not address Pierre’s batty – in some cases irresponsible – proposals to address today’s economic challenges.”

They referred to the Ottawa MP’s promoting crypto currency as a hedge against inflation, promising to fire the Bank of Canada Governor, “pandering to convoy participants” and inciting “frustrated angry supporters with promises of Freedom.”

Coyne: Winner of one majority in five tries says Poilievre has what it takes

The commentary was written amid fallout from Mr. Harper posting a tweet this week in which he declared support for Mr. Poilievre. Since his nine-year run as prime minister ended in 2015, Mr. Harper has not similarly weighed into either of the two previous leadership races.

He said in his social-media posting that Mr. Poilievre stands out among the candidates for his role as an opposition critic, his articulate approach to issues and his caucus support and recruitment of new members.

There are five candidates in the race, which ends with the announcement of a winner on Sept. 10. In addition to Mr. Charest and Mr. Poilievre, they are Ontario MPs Scott Aitchison and Leslyn Lewis as well as Roman Baber, a former Progressive Conservative member of the Ontario legislature.

Also Wednesday, Ms. Lewis said she won’t attend next week’s party debate for Conservative leadership candidates unless certain topics are raised, including abortion, the World Economic Forum and the WHO pandemic treaty.

“If we are not going to address these topics, I don’t see how I can justify anything other than going straight to the members myself to answer these questions,” Ms. Lewis says in an open letter to the leadership organizing committee of the party.

She said Conservative party members want answers to six questions on topics including abortion; an inquiry into the pandemic response; severe adverse reactions to COVID-19 vaccines; and the World Economic Forum “and their plans for programs that encroach on the privacy of Canadians.”

Ms. Lewis who has declined to disclose her own vaccination status, denounced discrimination based on vaccine status, and blamed the Liberal government for divisions that have emerged during the pandemic.

She has advanced a policy of ending sex-selective abortion and supports “pregnancy care centres” (which are known for discouraging abortions) and also says Canada’s overseas funding should be directed to support mothers and children rather than fund abortions.

The MP for the Ontario riding of Haldimand-Norfolk said these were questions “everyday Conservatives” are asking. Among other subjects, she also wants a question about what the party will say when the Liberals bring up abortion in the next election.

“I cannot in good conscience sinter away an opportunity to meet thousands of Canadians who are desperate for answers so that I could attend an impromptu meeting with leadership candidates to discuss questions to which the answers have already been memorialized in previous debate videos that exist online, “Ms. Lewis writes in her letter.

Her comments represent a new challenge for the Aug. 3 debate, organized after the party took a vote of members to see whether they wanted the event. It stands to be the third official debate after events in Edmonton and Laval, Que.

Mr. Poilievre’s campaign said in a statement last week that he will not attend the debate because he would prefer to be encouraging party members to complete and send out their ballots.

Mr. Aitchison, Mr. Baber and Mr. Charest have all committed to attend the debate.

When Mr. Poilievre refused to attend the debate, party spokesman Yaroslav Baran cited a section of the party’s leadership campaign rules that says failure to participate in a party-sanctioned debate will result in an automatic $50,000 penalty – or any amount deemed appropriate by the party’s leadership debates committee.

On Wednesday, Mr. Baran said the request from Ms. Lewis is a non-starter.

“Obviously, it would be inappropriate for anybody to dictate what the questions are going to be as a condition for attendance,” he said.

He said planning is advancing on the format and logistics for the debate, and the campaigns have been asked to confirm by Thursday whether or not they will attend this week.

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