Kellie Leitch tears into rivals for her former riding, suggests they're not 'real' conservatives

Kellie Leitch has weighed into the at-times nasty fight to replace her as a Conservative candidate. In an email, she suggested two of the contenders aren't 'real Conservatives.'

One candidate is the target of an email campaign accusing her of Liberal leanings

Conservative MP Kellie Leitch will not be running in the 2019 election. She recently sent out an email suggesting that only two of the four candidates running to replace her as the Conservative party candidate are 'real Conservatives'. (Liam Richards/Canadian Press)

She may have lost the Conservative leadership race and decided not to run in the next federal election, but it seems Kellie Leitch is still screening for values. This time, she's deciding who the "real conservatives" are among those trying to replace her.

In a recent email to supporters, Leitch took the unusual step of making it clear she only thinks two of the four people running for the Conservative nomination in her former riding of Simcoe-Grey pass her test.

"I believe that Marc [Biss] and Tim [Bulmer] are the only real conservatives running in this race ..." the email reads. 

The two candidates that Leitch omits are the two who initially opposed her for the Conservative nomination in Simcoe-Grey. Leitch chose to drop out of the race rather than face off against them. She has insisted repeatedly she dropped out to concentrate on practicing pediatric medicine full time — and not because she feared losing.

Leitch confirmed the e-mail came from her but declined to comment further.

Anonymous campaign against one candidate

The message from Leitch isn't the first time the conservative credentials of one of the Simcoe-Grey candidates have been questioned. Gillian Yeates, a local obstetrician, has been the target of an an anonymous email campaign slamming her as a closet Liberal.

Several emails featuring a large red stop sign bearing the words "Stop Gillian Yeates" were sent out during the campaign. One noted she had a Liberal sign on her lawn during the last election.

Yeates, who was born in Tanzania but grew up in Canada and attended Harvard University on a hockey scholarship, told CBC News that she is a committed Conservative.

"If the content of those emails is the worst someone can say about my character, then that's a testimonial to what a positive person I am," she said.

She said that the lawn sign was put up by her son, who was a young Liberal at the time. Yeates said she fosters open discussion of politics in her household and notes that Stephen Harper was also a young Liberal once.

As for Leitch's decision to come out against her, Yeates said she's focused on bringing a positive vision to the riding.

"People are ready for a change. They're ready for a positive tone."

Leitch tells supporters to leave others off ballot

The vote to replace Leitch as the Conservative candidate in the 2019 election will be held this Saturday. It will be decided by ranked ballot. In her email, Leitch told supporters they did not have to vote for the people she doesn't consider Conservatives.

 "You do not need to list all four candidates on your ballot. I am not. I am listing only the two real Conservatives, Marc Biss and Tim Bulmer. I encourage you to do the same. Your vote is critical in order to help send a real Conservative to Ottawa!"

Terry Dowdall, a local mayor who is also running to replace Leitch rejects any question of his Conservative credentials.

 "I am a Conservative. I've always been a Conservative. I've voted in all the elections up here and nominations as well."

He, too, said he is focused on keeping a positive tone, as he has done throughout his own time in politics.

"It's certainly not something that I would partake in. I've got my eyes straight forward and try to run a positive campaign."

Leitch's email was sent out from a gmail account, not her parliamentary email address. She did not respond to questions about who the recipients of the email were.

Defining 'real conservative'

Marc Biss, one of the two candidates endorsed by Leitch, said he welcomes all endorsements. However, he would not repeat the suggestion that only some of the candidates are "real conservatives."

"I don't know what 'real conservative' means. You see that written in somebody else's email."

Biss, a local ward councillor and technical sales engineer in the automotive sector, did say that two of the candidates are "life-long, capital-C Conservatives." 

"I believe Kellie has looked my platform and has said my platform represents the most conservative values and represents our party better than the others," he said.

As for the emails targetting Yeates, he said his campaign doesn't know where they came from. He doesn't believe they've been a distraction during the campaign.

"I think a lot us, we've got thick skins. We can take — and we should be able to take — it, if we're going to represent our riding in Ottawa."

About the Author

Catherine Cullen

Parliamentary Bureau

Catherine Cullen is a senior reporter covering politics and Parliament Hill in Ottawa.