Are They Ready to Rumble?

3 minute read

For Conservatives and avid political watchers, this week is a big week. Once the clock strikes midnight on Friday, the final slate of candidates will be confirmed and the field of perspective Tory leaders could be cut in half. The deadline marks the last chance for leadership hopefuls to submit their paperwork, signatures and most importantly, the $300K entry fee. Currently, only three candidates, Jean Charest, Lewslyn Lewis and Pierre Poilievre, are verified as having met those requirements. 

Qualified candidates won’t have much time to celebrate. They will have to get right down to work preparing for the first English debate hosted by the Canada Strong and Free Network on May 5th. The two official Conservative Party debates are scheduled to take place later in the month. Pundits, and even some candidates, always question the merits and importance of a debate but in a leadership race like this, they really do matter. It is an opportunity for a lesser-known candidate to get some airtime and share their values and ideas with the Tory faithful. 

For candidates struggling to generate excitement and moment, debates present them to showcase their leadership ability and to carve out a name for themselves. Each candidate will be given an equal amount of time to pitch their vision of the Conservative Party to members. They will then be able to challenge their opponents and leverage key wedge issues, such as supply chain management or a price on carbon. 

The likely target for most of the candidates on stage will be Pierre Poilievre, whose team has been successfully driving the overall narrative and the media coverage since the race began. Poilievre is widely seen as the front runner and a shoo-in for the Conservative Party’s top job. 

By leveraging social media, utilizing a well-managed database of members’ contact information and holding large rallies in traditional Liberal strongholds, Poilievre has dominated the political conversation. The debates, with their less controlled format, may give other candidates their best shot yet at knocking him off his pedestal. Poilievre has a tendency to go off-script when rattled, so the hits will likely come fast and furious. 

While Poilievre will be the main focus of attention for his fellow candidates, Jean Charest probably has the most to lose in these debates. As a former party leader and Quebec premier, Charest has positioned himself as the only contender with the experience and ability to lead the country. If he comes out flat or looks like he has lost a step or two in retirement, it will be a huge obstacle for his campaign to overcome. Look for Poilievre to level most of his attacks at Charest in an attempt to portray his main rival as out-of-touch with the problems of today.

No matter where you stand, the next few days will be important for the future of the Conservative Party and possibly the rest of Canada. The pathway to becoming Prime Minister is never easy, but neither is winning a leadership race. With the entry deadline looming, and the first debate a week away, the work for Conservative leadership hopefuls has just begun.

Missed this week’s Look Ahead?

We’ve got you covered.

Articles we think you’ll like

Subscribe to our mailing list.