Brown considering a run in Brampton mayoral race if rival Poilievre looks likely to win Tory leadership
Party to release membership list to the campaigns on Thursday, sources tell CBC News
Brampton, Ont. Mayor Patrick Brown says he's considering a run for re-election if it seems he's going to lose to Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre in the party's September leadership race.
Brown said he's ruled out running under the federal party banner if Poilievre gets the top job and his recourse may be to ask Brampton voters to return him to the mayor's office.
"If it looks like Pierre is going to win, I would prefer to continue to serve municipally, rather than being a part of what will be an electoral train wreck of the Conservative Party," Brown told CBC News.
While he may be thinking about another run at municipal politics, Brown said he hasn't made up his mind just yet — there's still two months of campaigning to go before the leadership is decided.
"At this point, we still believe we can win this leadership, so not looking at any other possibilities at this moment," Brown said.
If Brown does decide to stay on in municipal politics, he'd have to file his paperwork for re-election by Aug. 19 — weeks before the Conservative leadership election results will be known in early September.
Brown said he'll make a decision on whether to run in the mayoral race before that cutoff date.
"I will look at the numbers at the end of the summer," he said. "It's not something I will look at until we know what this leadership race looks like and we don't even have the voters list yet."
Brown's musings about his future came as Conservative sources told CBC News that the party will release a preliminary membership list to the campaigns on Thursday.
With access to a master list, the campaigns will have a better sense of just how many memberships have actually been sold by rival campaigns.
The sources, who spoke to CBC News on the condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly about party matters, said the campaigns will have just 96 hours to review the list and flag any irregularities, like duplicates or questionable payment information, to party headquarters.
The final list of eligible voters will then will be released sometime at the end of July.
Preliminary membership sales figures released by the campaigns suggest Poilievre has a sizeable lead in the race, although the numbers have not yet been independently verified by the party.
Poilievre's team said earlier this month that they have sold more than 310,000 new memberships — an eye-popping number that his campaign said indicates their candidate can win on the first ballot. Brown has said he's sold more than 150,000 memberships.
Brown also said he'd consider running for a seat in Parliament if anyone but Poilievre wins.
"If any of the five candidates have a path to victory I would run under any of the other candidates," he said.
"I won't run under Pierre. He would be an electoral disaster and would lose the remaining seats in urban Canada. The extreme approach would not sell in my backyard."
Brown camp calls Poilievre 'extreme'
Brown didn't say why exactly he sees Poilievre undermining the Conservative vote in the Toronto area. The mayor previously has cited Poilievre's past support for a niqab ban at citizenship ceremonies and a "barbaric cultural practices" tip line as an election liabilities in the vote-rich region.
Brown has always said his path to victory will not require just winning over the existing Conservative membership base alone, but by bringing in new, diverse members.
Brown's campaign co-chair, John Reynolds, said the team is confident they can pull off a win, even if the numbers look daunting at this stage of the campaign.
He said they're getting calls from many Conservative members who are turned off by what he calls Poilievre's "extreme" approach to politics.
"People in our party don't like people who call other people liars — we're getting that a lot from people," Reynolds said in an interview.
"People that have been to his meetings say, 'Anybody who wants to start playing with funny money, I don't want to be leader of this party. He'll get killed by the Liberals,'" Reynolds said, referring to Poilievre's support for new financial instruments like cryptocurrency, which has tanked in value in recent months.
"I think they also got killed for the statement on firing the Bank of Canada head — we're getting calls about that. I've personally had people call me and say, 'I was going with Pierre but I'm going with Patrick now. We need somebody who can beat the Liberals,'" Reynolds said.
Poilievre has promised to fire Tiff Macklem, the governor of the central bank, blasting him for mishandling the fight against inflation. That has drawn criticism from some who say he's unfairly politicizing an institution that is inherently non-partisan.
Tory leadership contenders want the membership list
It's not just Brown's campaign that wants to get its hands on the membership list to try and block Poilievre's path.
All the campaigns want to phone or email the estimated 600,000 would-be Conservative leadership votes to try and bring them on their side.
"With the list, we can start to see the true shape of things," said Steve Outhouse, the campaign manager for MP Leslyn Lewis.
Outhouse said, based on the limited data that's available to him now, there may be as many as 750,000 members eligible to cast a ballot — which means it's not a lock that Poilievre will take this race on the first ballot.
There were already 140,000 active members before the race started, another 150,000 memberships were sold on the party's website, Outhouse said, which, when combined with the 150,000 memberships Brown claims to have sold and the 311,000 memberships Poilievre's team has touted, there could be well over 700,000 voters to try and sway.
Tasha Kheiriddin, former Quebec premier Jean Charest's national campaign co-chair, said getting the membership list will define the parameters of the campaign from here on out.
"We know that there's been a lot of discussion of duplication, of registrations, this kind of thing. So, to get the final count will be good," Kheiriddin said.
"Also to be able to connect with all those members and, of course, also to challenge that. All the campaigns will be doing this. They'll be scrutinizing the list to make sure that everyone that's there is legitimately a supporter," she said.
Conservative MP Scott Aitchison's campaign manager, Jamie Ellerton, said his candidate will do a summer tour and look to increase digital engagement ahead of September's vote.
He's also lobbying for a third official debate, which the party has not yet agreed to hold.
"Given the party membership has doubled, it's important members be given the chance to see candidates tested on the debate stage before casting a ballot," he said.