Conservative source says Brown’s exit raises questions about vote count

A Conservative party insider says Patrick Brown’s departure is unlikely to change the outcome of the leadership race, but it may encourage candidates to change their strategies.

Cory Hann, who was the party’s director of communications until March, said the party needs to carefully consider how it will handle the vote count on Sept. 10 given that the classified ballots already have Brown’s name on them.

This seems like familiar territory for Conservatives: In 2017, Kevin O’Leary dropped out of the leadership race after ballots were printed and the party decided to count his votes.

“They were forced to keep counting their votes, so as not to upset that balance,” Hann said Thursday. “We actually had to announce the votes that Kevin O’Leary got, and he was an integral part of the reveal.”

But Hann said things are “a little trickier” this time around because the game has disqualified Brown from the race.

“If you’re just going to skip counting Patrick Brown’s votes and maybe go to the second and third choice of people on your ballot, that has some unintended consequences from the start,” Hann said.

Party chairman Rob Batherson said the Conservatives are working with a contractor to determine the best way to ensure all ballots are counted properly.

Hann said the race is “Pierre Poilievre to win,” though he believes Brown’s elimination may change the number of rounds of votes that will be counted.

Process aside, he said it would be wise for other leadership hopefuls to begin seeking support from the people Brown’s team signed up. He thinks most of those new members will go ahead and vote, since they’ve already paid for a membership.

Candidates had until June 3 to encourage people to register as party members and be eligible to vote. Brown made it his strategy to primarily reach out to diverse communities, including new Canadians. His team claims to have signed up more than 150,000 people.

Insider Tory says @patrickbrownont’s exit raises questions about how #ballots will be counted. #CDNPoli #ConservativeLeadership #CPC

He has previously said he has campaigned in Sikh, Muslim, Tamil and Chinese communities “who have felt mistreated by the party.”

A video shared on Facebook of a meeting Brown had with members of the Muslim community in British Columbia on April 1 captured him saying that his “path to victory is to attract new people and have a decent level of support within the party.”

“In the existing Conservative membership, Pierre is more popular. The existing Conservative membership wants someone who is more far right,” Brown said on the live stream.

Akolisa Ufodike, national president of the Association of Black Conservatives, said the other candidates have to “learn a thing or two” from Brown’s campaign.

“He has a verifiable track record when it comes to tapping into diverse cultural communities,” he said.

“The party risks leaving a quarter of our registered members upset about the whole situation.”

While Ufodike called himself an outsider in the race, he said he feels Brown’s campaign strove to expand the “big tent” conservatives have been talking about for years.

“The demographics of our country are changing. This party, and all candidates, need to be more intentional about broadening the base,” she said.

Hann said likely Brown voters may look to Jean Charest or Scott Aitchison, but he’s not ruling out the possibility that Leslyn Lewis or Poilievre could win them over in the coming months.

“I think every candidate is probably looking at that right now, seeing how he does it,” he said.

Lewis issued a statement on his website Thursday night, saying his intention is to build a party that has room for all Conservatives.

“Like Patrick, I believe our party tent needs to expand to include many new Canadians who have settled in large urban centers like Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal,” the statement said.

Poilievre has been a supporter of the “Freedom Convoy” and recently joined Private James Topp on the last leg of a march opposing vaccination mandates in the military. Critics, including Brown, have pointed out that convoy organizer Pat King has spread the racist “white replacement theory.”

That prompted Poilievre to issue a statement denouncing “white replacement theory” as a disgusting and disgusting hate speech that condemned King.

Hann acknowledged that the campaign has drawn a lot of attention for its “appeal to those who have issues with vaccine mandates and all the other parasites on that movement that are dragging it into darker spaces.”

He said he thinks Poilievre knows the party needs to attract new members to win a general election.

Ufodike’s advice to the favorite in the final two months of the race: “Stick to Poilievre, who did a good job of holding (former finance minister Bill Morneau) accountable.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 7, 2022.

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