The CPC Leadership Race is uncertainty in the face of the Coronavirus Pandemic

Written By Daniel Bordman, Posted on March 13, 2020

In the last 48 hours, the WHO has declared Coronavirus a global “Pandemic”, major sports leagues have been suspended, the Prime Minister’s wife has tested positive for Covid-19 and the entire Canadian parliament has been shutdown until at least mid-April.  However, one ongoing public event is still taking place, the Conservative party leadership race.

It is still running despite the fact that the two leading candidates Peter MacKay and Erin O’Toole have done the wise thing, and suspended their campaigns.  The reason these two have done this, while none of the other candidates have, is because they have already reached the insanely high $300 000 entrance fee and compliance deposit set for March 25th.  To put this number in context, the total number needed to be on the CPC ballot in 2020 is $325 000 gathered from the January 11th 2020 start date until the March 25th deadline.  Contrast this to the total $75 000 candidates needed to gather in the 2017 CPC race, which had a much longer timeline of January 17th 2016 through December 31st.

Essentially, the current race for Conservative leader is a test of fundraising race, not voter appeal.  Now the remaining contestants will be pushed in the potentially unethical position of fundraising during a pandemic.

Fundraising for leaders in a pandemic is dangerous under the current rules.  The maximum personal donation is $1 625 per person. This means that candidates can not just call up a few wealthy industry figures to get the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed, they must gather large crowds of people to fundraise from and that is a major problem.

These concerns were echoed by Conservative MP for Fort McMurry David Yurdiga, who is currently home in Alberta as parliament is closed due to the pandemic.  Yurdiga said “With the current outbreak of the Coronavirus, and the warnings from Public Health to avoid public gatherings, the prospect of fundraising over the next few weeks presents a potential safety risk to the candidates and Canadians”.  

There was another matter which Yurdiga pointed out, which is the optics/practicality of fundraising during a pandemic when he said “right now most Canadians are focused on essentials.  Canadians have been hit hard by recent economic pressures like the oil pricing war between Russia and Saudi Arabia. Add to that the uncertainty of the pandemic economy which has already seen sharp declines in the stock market, and Canadians don’t have time to worry about leadership politics.”  Yurdiga went on to add that he hopes all of the leadership candidates can come together and agree on a solution that is the best for all Canadians to these extreme circumstances. 

It looks like this decision will ultimately fall into the lap of Lisa Raitt, a long time Conservative MP and former deputy leader of the party, who is now the co-chair of the organizing committee for the CPC race.  If anyone should understand the circumstances surrounding fundraising in a pandemic Lisa Raitt would be it, as she ran for leader in much cheaper 2017 race.

Raitt and the Conservative party need to act fast on this as every hour they delay they are putting more people at risk.  If it were up to me, I would take all 8 candidates who have been authorized and paid the $25 000 entrance fee and qualify them at the 2017 number of $50 000 on March 25th.  

This would make everyone happy, as the CPC would not have to change their rules too much, 8 candidates in the field is still less than the 13 the CPC ran in 2017, and most importantly, Canadians are kept safe.


Daniel Bordman

Daniel is the host of political satire show Uninterrupted, runs multiple podcasts and has written for a variety of publications. Daniel is also the communications coordinator of the Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation. You can find him on Twitter here. Uninterrupted on YouTube

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