Conservative Party bars Richard Decarie from joining leadership race

A man is silhouetted walking past a Conservative Party logo before the opening of the Party's national convention in Halifax on Thursday, August 23, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

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.

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

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.

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Decarie later said on Twitter that he had support from thousands of party members and the unelected Leadership Election Organizing Committee has disallowed his candidacy.

“No reasons were provided to me by the committee,” he wrote Saturday afternoon. “It seems my candidacy was viewed as a threat to the establishment of the CPC and to the kind of leader THEY want to select.”

Decarie noted he was the only candidate who took a strong position in support of traditional marriage and who proposed to defund abortion federally as health care.

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“True Blue Conservatives, including those with traditional values, are a major force within our party,” he said. “They are a force with or without my candidacy in this leadership contest.

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“I continue to work with all True Blue conservatives who support and take action in the conservative movement, and within the CPC regardless of how uncomfortable this makes the unelected Red Tory elite.”

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The news that Decarie had been barred came via a list released Saturday by the party naming the eight official candidates now in the race, with Decarie’s name absent.

Seven other candidates 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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