Politics

Leona Alleslev steps down as Conservative deputy leader, backs MacKay's leadership bid

Ontario MP Leona Alleslev says she is stepping down as deputy leader of the Conservative Party in order to free herself to participate in the party's leadership race.

Former Liberal MP who switched parties in 2018 wants to 'engage' in Tory leadership campaign

Ontario MP Leona Alleslev, who crossed the floor from the Liberal Party to the Conservatives in 2018, is stepping down as deputy leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Ontario MP Leona Alleslev says she is stepping down as deputy leader of the Conservative Party and throwing her support behind Peter MacKay's campaign to lead the party.

In a resignation letter addressed to Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer on Sunday, Alleslev said she wanted to free herself to participate in the party's leadership race.

"The Conservative Party of Canada is in the process of choosing a new leader that will guide us through the nation's next chapter," Alleslev wrote.

"This is a decision that is too important for me to stand to the side."

Today, Alleslev tweeted her support for MacKay, the former Progressive Conservative Party leader and cabinet minister in Stephen Harper's government.

Alleslev, who represents the riding of Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill, was elected as a Liberal MP but crossed the floor and joined the Tories in 2018.

The former Royal Canadian Air Force member and business owner cited the Trudeau government's handling of the economy, tax reform and foreign affairs, along with "inadequate" military spending, as her reasons for crossing the floor.

One of MacKay's leadership rivals, Durham MP Erin O'Toole, was among the politicians who helped woo Alleslev to the Conservatives.

Scheer chose Alleslev as his deputy leader in November 2019 following a bruising defeat in the federal election, when the Conservatives failed to defeat a Liberal Party weakened by Justin Trudeau's blackface scandal.

Alleslev quickly caused a stir when, asked about Scheer refusing to march in Pride parades, she equated participating in Pride events with taking part in St. Patrick's Day parades.

In her resignation letter, Alleslev praised Scheer for his leadership and thanked him for the opportunity to hold the high-ranking position.

"In this role, you gave me the opportunity to influence the direction not only of our party but also of our country," Alleslev wrote.

"Together, our Conservative team has held the government to account and challenged them to address critical policy flaws that they had failed to consider or deliberately neglected."

Four candidates are in the running to become the Conservative Party's next leader: MacKay, O'Toole, rookie MP for Hastings—Lennox and Addington Derek Sloan and Toronto lawyer Leslyn Lewis.

The party had planned to elect its new leader at a convention on June 27, but that plan was put on hold because of COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings.

Instead, Conservative Party members will vote by mail-in ballot by August 21.

MacKay campaign says no deal was made for endorsement

Should MacKay win, he'll have to appoint someone to lead the party in the House of Commons in his stead, as he does not currently have a seat.

Given Alleslev's past role within caucus, many asked whether she already has been tapped for that job.

MacKay's campaign said today that Alleslev wasn't promised a high-profile position in the House of Commons in exchange for supporting MacKay for the leadership.

"Absolutely not," MacKay campaign spokesman Chisholm Pothier said in an email.

"Those are decisions for once he's leader."

Alleslev was billed by Scheer as sharing some valuable political qualities with the party's former deputy leader, Lisa Raitt — another female MP from a Greater Toronto Area seat.

Alleslev was held up as proof the party did still have support in the area and could win more in the next election.

MacKay's campaign said much the same about Alleslev on Monday.

"She's a great person to have supporting us. Served the country in the military, accomplished in her career after that and before politics, and was elected as a Conservative in a suburban Toronto riding, where very few did and we need to next election," Pothier said. 

With files from the Canadian Press

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