Conservative fundraising calls ask if Poilievre would ‘restore faith’ in party

Click to play video: 'Poilievre will ‘get more Conservatives off the bench and into the game’:  Baird'
Poilievre will ‘get more Conservatives off the bench and into the game’: Baird
RELATED: Poilievre will ‘get more Conservatives off the bench and into the game’: Baird – Feb 6, 2022

Fundraising calls on behalf of Conservative Party HQ have asked members if Pierre Poilievre would restore their “faith” in the party after Erin O’Toole’s ouster, Global News has learned.

The calls have led to multiple complaints from the rank and file that Poilievre’s name was being floated in party fundraising calls, a Conservative source said. The Conservative Party apparatus – including the current House of Commons leadership team under Candice Bergen – is expected to stay neutral during leadership contests.

A spokesperson for the party confirmed they had received complaints and raised the matter with Responsive Marketing Group (RMG), one of the companies that does external marketing for the Conservatives.

“We’re aware of isolated incidents of call agents of a party vendor that is used for outbound calls not adhering to a pre-approved call script,” Cory Hann, the party’s director of communications, wrote in a statement.

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“The matter has been raised with the vendor and the vendor has taken appropriate action. All call scripts provided never mention leadership candidates whether official or prospective.”

RMG did not respond to Global News’ request for comment. The Poilievre campaign has not contracted RMG for any work, according to a source close to the candidate.

Poilievre is the only declared candidate in the race to replace O’Toole, who was ousted in an unprecedented 73-45 vote of the Conservative caucus in early February.

Poilievre is also the prohibitive frontrunner. A number of Conservative MPs and senators have already rallied to his banner, including MP Tim Uppal and Sen. Leo Housakos, who are serving on the campaign team.

John Baird, a well-connected Harper-era cabinet minister now working as a Bennett Jones consultant, and Jenni Byrne, a former senior staffer and the party’s 2015 campaign manager, are also helping to guide Poilievre’s bid.

The Conservative Party leadership, under interim leader Candice Bergen, is expected to stay neutral as the party’s rank and file select their third leader in five years. But there have been grumblings that Poilievre’s ascension seems to have the quiet backing of the party elite.

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Begen announced on Feb. 25 that Uppal would step down from the House leadership team, where he served as the chair of outreach, to take an active role in Poilievre’s campaign.

Bergen replaced Uppal with Melissa Lantsman – a rookie Ontario MP who has already declared her support for Poilievre’s leadership bid.

Click to play video: 'Pierre Poilievre enters Conservative leadership race, says he’s ‘running for prime minister’'
Pierre Poilievre enters Conservative leadership race, says he’s ‘running for prime minister’

Bergen has made other significant changes to the party apparatus since becoming leader, the most consequential of which was replacing Janet Fryday Dorey as executive director of the party.

Fryday Dorey is a well-known Atlantic organizer elevated to the role by O’Toole. She served as executive director for less than two years before Bergen replaced her with Wayne Benson, a longtime party operative from Manitoba. Fryday Dorey is now the party’s director of strategic operations.

With the debate over the so-called Freedom Convoy and the ongoing war in Ukraine, the Conservative leadership race has been on the back burner in terms of media coverage. But behind the scenes, potential candidates have been working the phones to gauge support for a leadership bid.

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Jean Charest, the former Progressive Conservative leader who served as the Liberal premier of Quebec from 2003 to 2012, met with an undisclosed number of Conservative MPs and senators Wednesday night in Ottawa.

Charest had considered a run in 2020, but backed out reportedly because he felt the party had changed dramatically since he was involved in federal politics in the 1990s. Should he run, the former Quebec premier would be a centrist counterweight to the sharp-elbowed Poilievre.

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, who led the Ontario Progressive Conservatives before scandal forced him out of provincial politics, has also been preparing a bid just barely behind the scenes. National Post columnist Tasha Kheiriddin has also been exploring a run, and a social conservative candidate – potentially MP Leslyn Lewis – is almost certain to enter the race.

The party announced late Wednesday evening that the next leader will be selected on Sept. 10.

But the more important date is June 3. That’s the cutoff for campaigns to sign up new members to support their candidate – an all-important part of winning a leadership contest. That would give Charest, Brown or any other outside candidate just three months to sign up enough members to give Poilievre a run for his money.

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Candidates have until April 19 to apply to enter the race.

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