Jean Charest booed after calling convoy of truckers ‘illegal’

The exchanges between Pierre Poilievre, considered the favorite, and Jean Charest, were particularly stormy. Unlike the other candidates, the two men did not even shake hands when they arrived on stage.

Early in the debate, the member for Carleton notably accused his opponent of having been caught up in donation scandals while he was Premier of Quebec, from 2003 to 2012.

To hear you talk about law and order is surprising, considering that your Liberal Party [du Québec] accepted illegal half-million-dollar donations when you were the boss. The average trucker has more integrity in his little finger than your entire Liberal cabinet had. »

A quote from Pierre Poilievre, MP for Carleton and candidate for the leadership of the CPC

When given the opportunity to speak a few minutes later, Mr. Charest replied by criticizing Mr. Poilievre for having publicly supported the truckers who stormed Parliament Hill from January 29 to February 20 and who held, according to him, a demonstration illegal.

This choice of adjective then earned him boos from part of the audience, which was otherwise content Thursday to applaud the different positions presented by the leadership candidates.

No more losing

Called to explain why the Conservatives have been multiplying electoral defeats since 2015, the aspiring leaders, Pierre Poilievre and Jean Charest in the lead, all presented themselves as capable of allowing the party to return to victory.

Mr. Poilievre, for example, boasted about his seven consecutive victories as an MP, his communication strategy (which consists of get around the media, he explained) and the popularity of his activist rallies since the start of the race.

According to him, it is because he is campaigning on the strengths of the CCP that its assemblies are also popular. And our greatest strength right now is that we are the party of tax cuts and fighting inflation, he explained. This is why it is important that we have a chef with an impeccable track record [en la matière].

We can’t elect someone who has already raised taxeshe added, reproaching Jean Charest later in the evening for having introduced in Quebec a health contribution in the 2010s.

The principal concerned, he stressed the importance of electing more Conservative candidates in the Greater Toronto Area, where voters were, according to him, put off by the Conservative promise to set up a whistleblower hotline. barbaric cultural practices in 2015, when Pierre Poilievre was in government.

Lewis pulls out of the game

Leslyn Lewis – the only woman in the running and the sole representative of the social conservatismwhich claims a significant part of the members of the PCC – also stood out Thursday by virulent offensives against his opponents, including Pierre Poilievre.

Pro-life, the member for Haldimand-Norfolk notably accused the leader of not wanting to say what brand he was staying on the issue of abortion. She also criticized him for being late before offering his support to the demonstrators who blocked the approaches to the federal parliament this winter.

Leslyn Lewis on stage.

Leslyn Lewis is running in her second Conservative leadership race in two years.

Photo: The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld

Ms Lewis also directly challenged her opponent Scott Aitchison, who suggested during the debate that the Conservatives should not conspiracy theories.

What concerns me is that we keep running away from trouble because we don’t want to be called conspiracy theorists, she pointed out. And then, a few months later, these realities come into play.

A first glimpse

Unofficially, Thursday’s debate, in English, was held at the Shaw Center in Ottawa. He was opening the 14th Canada Strong & Free Network (CSFN) Networking Conference, formerly known as the Manning Center after Preston Manning, founder of the late Reform Party of Canada.

The oratory contest was moderated by Candice Malcolm, editor of the right-wing media platform True Northand radio host Jamil Jivani, who will become president of the CSFN in the coming days.

It was a first for those aspiring to succeed Erin O’Toole at the head of the CPC, including Pierre Poilievre and Jean Charest. All the certified candidates were present, with the exception of the mayor of Brampton, Patrick Brown, who campaigns behind the cameras with cultural communities.

Important issues

The CCP has faced heated debates since the ejection of Erin O’Toole in February, particularly over the health measures to adopt to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

More recently, the leak hinting that the U.S. Supreme Court may overturn Roe v. Wade also revived the issue of abortion, a practice opposed, like Leslyn Lewis, by dozens of Conservative MPs.

The entire caucus has also been instructed to keep quiet on this issue.

One step ahead for Pierre Poilievre

The CPC leadership race has six official candidates, who will have until June 3 to sell membership cards. Pierre Poilievre, Jean Charest, Patrick Brown, Leslyn Lewis, Scott Aitchison and Roman Baber are in the running.

None of them come from the provinces of Western Canada, where, paradoxically, the militant base of the political formation is found.

Six other candidates had the ambition to replace Erin O’Toole, namely Leona Alleslev, Marc Dalton, Joseph Bourgault, Grant Abraham, Joel Etienne and Bobby Singh, but these failed to have their candidacies certified by the party.


The House of Commons currently has 119 members from the CPC, which forms the official opposition in Ottawa. Of the lot, 52 deputies support Pierre Poilievre, four times more than Jean Charest, his closest opponent on the matter.

The MP for Carleton also leads in fundraising, according to the latest data from Elections Canada.

More debates to come

Several other debates must take place between now and the election of the new Conservative leader on September 10.

The six candidates will notably have to participate in the official debates of the PCC, which will take place on May 11 in Edmonton (in English) and on May 25 in Laval (in French). A third game could also be added if the party so decides.

Former journalist Tom Clark will be responsible for moderating the debate on May 11, but the identity of his French-speaking counterpart, for May 25, has not yet been announced.

More details will follow.

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