Two more Conservative MPs joined the party’s leadership roster Sunday, with Ontario’s Scott Aitchison and British Columbia’s Marc Dalton launching their campaigns.
Aitchison, 49, chose a craft brewery in his hometown of Huntsville, Ont., for his opening event, promising to bring an end to the hyperpartisan antics and political games that are the norm now in Canadian politics.
“More partisan bickering is simply not the answer,” he said, as an energetic crowd waved colourful signs simply printed with the word “Scott” on them.
“Solving problems requires real leadership. I’ve been in Parliament now two terms. And I am dismayed by the energy wasted on political games, instead of getting things done. What’s missing in Ottawa is leadership.”
He promised a campaign free of attacks on his opponents that focuses on the economy, national and global security, climate change and housing.
Dalton, 61, did his launch on Twitter, saying in a posted video that one of his first actions as leader will be to initiate a public inquiry into how the federal Liberals handled the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dalton accused the Liberals of using pandemic contracts to line the pockets of their friends, making decisions based on politics rather than public health, and ignoring evidence about vaccine injuries to push ahead with “coercive measures to get people vaccinated.”
Both men were first elected to the House of Commons in 2019. Aitchison previously served as a councillor and then mayor in Huntsville, and Dalton as a B.C. Liberal MLA.
Their entrance means there are now four sitting MPs running, including Pierre Poilievre and Leslyn Lewis.
There are now eight candidates in total, with the four sitting MPs joined by former Quebec premier Jean Charest, Brampton, Ont., Mayor Patrick Brown, independent Ontario MPP Roman Baber and Saskatchewan businessman Joseph Bourgault.
The Conservatives are choosing their third leader in five years after Erin O’Toole was voted out of the job by the Conservative caucus in early February.
The candidates have until April 19 to enter the race and until June 3 to sell memberships. The vote will take place Sept. 10.
Aitchison’s pledge not to run a campaign of attacks is in stark contrast to much of what has been happening in the race so far.
Brown and Poilievre went at each other directly on Twitter last week after Brown accused Poilievre of supporting “discriminatory policies” that target immigrants while a cabinet minister in 2015.
He referred specifically to Poilievre’s support for a ban against women wearing a niqab during citizenship ceremonies, which was a policy of the former Conservative government that was eventually struck down by the courts.
In response Poilievre accused Brown of outright “lies” about everything from the niqab ban policy, to his position on carbon taxes and Ontario’s new sex-education curriculum.
Poilievre in turn has levied sharp attacks at Charest, a former Progressive Conservative party leader nationally who led the provincial Liberals in Quebec. Poilievre has said Charest is not a true Conservative.
Poilievre, with endorsements from 44 current Conservative MPs, is considered the front-runner in the contest, well eclipsing caucus endorsements for Charest, who has nine, and Brown and Lewis who both have two.
On Saturday, Brown got a big endorsement boost from Calgary MP Michelle Rempel Garner, who had declined to endorse anyone in either of the last two contests.
Aitchison’s sole MP endorsement Sunday came from Kenora MP Eric Melillo.
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