The Hastings, Lennox and Addington (HL&A) Conservative Association hosted four of the six Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) leadership candidates in Belleville, Ont., in a meet-and-greet on Monday.
“You never really get to know a person until you get to meet them,” says HL&A Conservative Association president Eric Lorenzen. “Get a chance to shake their hand and ask them questions that might not be available online.”
Scott Aitchison, Roman Baber, Patrick Brown and Jean Charest took part in the event, while Leslyn Lewis pulled out last minute and perceived front-runner Pierre Poilievre was noticeably absent.
Candidates were given 10 minutes to address the crowd, all highlighting the need for party unity in what has been a very divisive leadership race.
“Are we going to go down the route of American divisiveness and polarization, or are we going to remain Canadians?” said Charest.
Aitchison delivered the same sentiment in his speech.
“We need to win in places like the 905 around Toronto,” he said. “We need to win in the Lower Mainland of B.C. We need to win on the island of Montreal. And I am convinced that we will never win in those places if we’re screaming at each other and we’re a divided movement and a divided caucus.”
Brown says he’s tired of seeing a Liberal and NDP coalition take Canada in the “wrong direction.”
“The question that every Conservative should be asking is not how we get 81 per cent in Red Deer, it’s, ‘How are we going to win in the ridings where the Liberals have beat us three elections in a row?’ The issue of this election should be electability,” Brown said.
Baber was the last to speak, mentioning his policy priorities.
“I will not be afraid to stand up to the radical left and cancel culture,” Baber said. “I’ve been doing it for the last two years.”
Ballots for the Conservative Party leadership election are set to go out at the end of the month.
Voters are being encouraged to mail their ballots in as early as possible, to ensure that it meets the September election deadline.