Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown is not ruling out a return to municipal politics if the Conservative leadership race “got to a point where it looked like Pierre (Poilievre) was going to win.”
“But I think we’re nowhere near that point,” Brown said in an interview with The West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson.
“I continue to believe that we can win this leadership. I continue to believe that we can beat Pierre Poilievre and make sure that we actually have the capacity to defeat Justin Trudeau in the next election.”
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The municipal election timing is awkward for Brown, who has served as Brampton mayor since 2018 and continues to fill that role while seeking the Conservative leadership. The deadline to declare as a candidate for Brampton’s mayoral race is in mid-August, several weeks before the next federal Conservative leader will be named.
The issue is much-discussed in Conservative circles but has yet to become a much of a factor in the federal leadership race.
Despite both Brown and Poilievre having served together in Ottawa during the Stephen Harper years, the animosity between their two camps has been apparent since the start of the Conservatives’ latest leadership race.
Brown accused Poilievre of employing a “scorched earth” campaign in his bid to take the party’s top job, and reiterated that he would not run in a federal election under the Carleton MP’s banner.
“The fact that he continues to attack my campaign with a scorched earth approach I think speaks to the fact that he’s not confident. That doesn’t leave the impression of a confident frontrunner,” Brown said in an interview.
Brown said that he holds other candidates in “high regard,” including Jean Charest and Leslyn Lewis, and would “be happy” to run under either candidate in the next federal election. But he said he does not believe Poilievre is “electable” in regions of the country that the Conservatives need to win to form government.
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One of Poilievre’s chief advisers, Conservative strategist Jenni Byrne, has repeatedly accused Brown of lying, and the Poilievre campaign released a social media advertising campaign suggesting the Brampton mayor would “say and do anything.”
The party’s deadline to sign up members eligible to vote in the Sept. 10 leadership contest came and went earlier this month, and now campaigns are busy attempting to woo existing members to support their leadership bids.
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In his interview with The West Block, Brown addressed some controversial foreign policy positions he’s taken in his bid for the leadership. That includes supporting a no-fly zone over Ukraine, a position Canada and its NATO allies have refused to take, fearing escalating the conflict with Russia.
On Thursday, the party’s leadership took an unusual step of reassuring the leadership campaigns — and members — that the next leader would be announced on Sept. 10 after an unprecedented surge in membership sales.
While the Conservative party itself will not confirm numbers, Poilievre’s campaign has claimed that more than 311,000 members signed up through the candidate’s website during the race, while Brown claims to have sold roughly 150,000 memberships.
The Charest campaign reassured their supporters they signed up enough members to ensure they have a “path” to victory, although declined to release specific numbers. The campaigns of Leslyn Lewis, Scott Aitchison and Roman Baber have not released their own membership sales spin.
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The party has yet to confirm the number of members that will be eligible to vote in the contest. That’s largely because the party does not know — the various campaigns still have the ability to pore over the membership rolls and challenge any name they believe to have been fraudulently added to the lists.
Global News reported in May that the party could hit 500,000 members — which would be a record in modern Canadian politics, and for the Conservative party — but the party said Thursday they expect “well over” 600,000 eligible voters. The party committed to getting a final list of eligible voters to campaigns by July 29.
Despite the unprecedented number, party brass said they’d be ready to send mail-in ballots to members in late July or early August ahead of the Sept. 10 announcement.
“Due to the party’s recent experience in running national leadership elections involving hundreds of thousands of members, it has been able to scale up operations to manage the increased membership numbers,” the party’s leadership wrote in a press release Thursday.
The 2022 contest has been a particularly pointed and personal campaign, even by the standards of recent Conservative leaderships.
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Poilievre, the purported frontrunner, has accused former Quebec Premier Jean Charest of being a Liberal and Brown as being a liar. The Brown campaign has hit back with personal attacks of their own, while Charest has repeatedly mocked Poilievre’s embrace of cryptocurrency and pledge to fire Canada’s central bank chief.
The last Conservative leader, Erin O’Toole, was ousted by deep divisions within the Conservative movement and caucus. The next Conservative leader will have to find a way to heal those fractures — and any new ones that have popped up over the course of this leadership tilt.
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