Andrew Scheer leads endorsement race in Conservative leadership campaign

Saskatchewan MP Andrew Scheer has the backing of the most former and current Conservative politicians, followed by Ontario MPs Erin O'Toole and Lisa Raitt and Quebec MP Maxime Bernier. But will the voting members agree with what the party establishment thinks?

Conservative grandees in Ontario divided on whom to back

Conservative leadership candidate Andrew Scheer has received the most endorsements so far in the campaign. (Liam Richards/Canadian Press)

In his bid for the Conservative Party leadership, Andrew Scheer has the bulk of endorsements from current and former politicians.

But because of the rules of the campaign, the contest will be decided in favour of the candidate who can garner the broadest base of support nationwide. Seen through that lens, Scheer's endorsement advantage over Erin O'Toole, Maxime Bernier and Lisa Raitt narrows.

Scheer has 58 endorsements from current and former politicians at either the federal or provincial level. O'Toole has 23, followed by Bernier with 16 and Raitt with 13 (a full list can be found at the bottom of this article).

Michael Chong has received the support of nine former and current elected officials and senators, while Kellie Leitch has five, Deepak Obhrai has three and Andrew Saxton has two. Steven Blaney and Rick Peterson have each received one endorsement.

Chris Alexander, Pierre Lemieux and Brad Trost have yet to announce any endorsements in this campaign.

Among fellow caucus members, Scheer has 24 MPs backing him. O'Toole has 14, Bernier has six, Leitch and Raitt have three apiece and Chong has two.

On Thursday, O'Toole also announced the endorsement of Daniel Lindsay, a Manitoba physician who withdrew from the race last month.

Follow the money

While endorsements are one metric that can be tracked to determine the contours of a leadership race, fundraising is often a more revealing set of data. But the next set of fundraising numbers, covering the fourth quarter of last year, won't be released by Elections Canada until Feb. 1.

Some of the campaigns, however, have already publicized their fundraising totals for the end of 2016. Maxime Bernier announced on Facebook that he raised $583,000 in the fourth quarter, boosting his total to over $1 million for the entire campaign, while Andrew Scheer says he raised $323,570.50 in the quarter.

Conservative leadership candidate Maxime Bernier was able to raise about as much money as Scheer and Erin O'Toole combined in the last quarter of 2016, while having a fifth of the endorsements of his two rivals (Liam Richards/Canadian Press)

Erin O'Toole's campaign told CBC News it raised $300,000 to Jan. 11, while Rick Peterson said his campaign raised $71,040 by the end of December, noting he only began to fundraise at the beginning of the month. 

Fundraising can signal organizational strength. But endorsements can hint at the same thing, indicating that people within the party recognize a candidate's capacity to win. And in a race where every riding has equal weight, a call from the local MP favouring one contestant over another can be significant.

Scheer's edge narrows with regional weighting

The Conservative leadership campaign will be decided at the local level, as each of Canada's 338 electoral districts will be weighted equally when the votes are counted, regardless of how many members a riding has. That means having a concentration of support in one part of the country might lead to a lot of wasted votes.

Scheer has received 44 per cent of all the endorsements in the campaign — well ahead of O'Toole at 18 per cent, Bernier at 12 per cent, Raitt at 10 per cent and Chong at seven per cent.

But a lot of Scheer's support is concentrated in two provinces. Fully 66 per cent of his endorsements are from Alberta and Saskatchewan politicians, including 20 Saskatchewan MLAs. The two provinces will only represent 14 per cent of all points awarded to determine the winner.

Michael Chong, Erin O'Toole and Andrew Scheer, left to right, participate in a debate in Moncton, N.B., on Dec. 6. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

If endorsements are adjusted by the weight each province will have in the leadership vote, Scheer's advantage drops. But it still holds, thanks in large part to the endorsements of four Quebec Conservative MPs that Scheer announced Thursday in the run-up to Tuesday's leadership debate in Quebec City.

Before those endorsements, Scheer's weighted share would have been just 22 per cent. With those endorsements, Scheer's weighted share of endorsements stands at 34 per cent. O'Toole and Bernier follow with 17 per cent each, Raitt with 12 per cent and Chong with seven per cent.

Cluttered field in Ontario

The race for endorsements is closest in Ontario, the province that will carry the most weight in the leadership vote.

O'Toole leads the pack with nine, followed by Chong at seven, Raitt at six, Bernier and Scheer with five apiece, Leitch with four and Obhrai with three.

O'Toole is ahead of his rivals with nine endorsements from current or former Ontario politicians. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

There's greater separation in the West, where Scheer leads with 43 endorsements (26 in Saskatchewan, 12 in Alberta, three in B.C. and two in Manitoba). Next is O'Toole with 12, Bernier with seven and Raitt with two.

In Quebec, Scheer has four endorsements while Bernier has two.

And in Atlantic Canada, Scheer narrowly edges out Raitt five to four, with O'Toole sitting at two endorsements. 

But Scheer's edge in endorsements does not necessarily make him the favourite — it is one metric among others. Bernier was able to raise about as much money as Scheer and O'Toole combined in the last quarter of 2016, while having just a fifth of the endorsements of his two rivals. This suggests he might be having more success resonating with rank-and-file members. 

In the end, endorsements are just one factor in a multi-faceted race with a long list of candidates and a preferential ballot that makes being a voter's second choice almost as important as being their first.

At this stage, it seems the Conservative Party establishment thinks Scheer is the one to beat. It won't be clear until May 27, when the results are announced, whether the voting members agree.

Endorsements from sitting and former federal and provincial politicians

Saskatchewan MP Andrew Scheer (58): 

  • MPs: Ziad Aboultaif, John Barlow, Luc Berthold, Kelly Block, Sylvie Boucher, Jim Eglinski, Ted Falk, Garnett Genuis, Marilyn Gladu, Matt Jeneroux, Tom Lukiwski, Kelly McCauley, Pierre Paul-Hus, Alain Rayes, Scott Reid, Gerry Ritz, Kevin Sorenson, Mark Strahl, Shannon Stubbs, Arnold Viersen, Cathay Wagantall, Mark Warawa, Chris Warkentin and Bob Zimmer.
  • Former MPs: Paul Calandra, LaVar Payne, Peter Penashue, Kyle Seeback, Devinder Shory and Jeff Watson.
  • Saskatchewan MLAs: Steven Bonk, Bill Boyd, Fred Bradshaw, Greg Brkich, Jennifer Campeau, Lori Carr, Herb Cox, Dan D'Autremont, Terry Dennis, Larry Doke, Jeremy Harrison, Warren Kaeding, Greg Lawrence, Hugh Nerlien, Greg Ottenbreit, Kevin Phillips, Doug Steele, Warren Steinley, Lyle Stewart and Christine Tel.
  • New Brunswick MLAs: Jeff Carr and Carl Urquhart.
  • Senators: Denise Batters, Norman Doyle, Dennis Patterson, Don Plett, David Tkachuk and David Wells.

Ontario MP Erin O'Toole (23):

  • MPs: James Bezan, John Brassard, Colin Carrie, Michael Cooper, Todd Doherty, Randy Hoback, Ron Liepert, Larry Maguire, Cathy McLeod, Blake Richards, Jamie Schmale, Robert Sopuck, Karen Vecchio and Kevin Waugh.
  • Former MPs: Laurie Hawn, Ed Holder, Gerald Keddy, Wladyslaw Lizon, Ted Opitz, Bernard Trottier and David Wilks.
  • New Brunswick MLAs: Brian Macdonald.
  • Former Ontario MPPs: John O'Toole

Quebec MP Maxime Bernier (16):

  • MPs: Dan Albas, Alupa Clarke, Tony Clement, Jacques Gourde, Tom Kmiec and Alex Nuttall.
  • Former MPs: Ryan Leef, Gary Lunn, Pat Perkins, John Reynolds, Brian Storseth and Lawrence Toet.
  • Saskatchewan MLAs: Laura Ross.
  • Senators: Lynn Beyak, Nicole Eaton and Stephen Greene.

Ontario MP Lisa Raitt (13):

  • MPs: Dean Allison, Phil McColeman and Bruce Stanton.
  • Former MPs: Keith Ashfield, John Carmichael, Rob Clarke, Kerry-Lynne Findlay, Robert Goguen and Gary Goodyear.
  • Ontario MPPs: Lisa MacLeod.
  • Nova Scotia MLAs: Alfie MacLeod.
  • Former Nova Scotia MLAs: Cecil Clarke.
  • Senators: Judith Seidman.

Ontario MP Michael Chong (9):

  • MPs: Peter Kent and David Tilson.
  • Former MPs: Chungsen Leung, Mike Wallace and Terence Young.
  • Ontario MPPs: Ted Arnott.
  • Former Alberta MLAs: Gary Mar.
  • Former New Brunswick MLAs: Réjean Savoie.
  • Senators: Victor Oh.

Ontario MP Kellie Leitch (5):

  • MPs: Ben Lobb, Peter Van Loan and David Yurdiga.
  • Former MPs: Ronald Atkey.
  • Former Senators: Consiglio Di Nino.

Alberta MP Deepak Obhrai (3):

  • Former MPs: Corneliu Chisu, Joe Daniel and Julian Fantino.

Former B.C. MP Andrew Saxton (2):

  • Former MPs: John Duncan.
  • Former Senators: Noel Kinsella.

Quebec MP Steven Blaney (1):

  • Senators: Jean-Guy Dagenais.

Businessman Rick Peterson (1):

  • Former MPs: Bill Clarke.

Saskatchewan MP Brad Trost and former Ontario MPs Chris Alexander and Pierre Lemieux have yet to announce any endorsements.


Éric Grenier

Politics and polls

Éric Grenier is a senior writer and the CBC's polls analyst. He was the founder of ThreeHundredEight.com and has written for The Globe and Mail, Huffington Post Canada, The Hill Times, Le Devoir, and L’actualité.