Conservative Party bars controversial candidate Richard Décarie from leadership race

The Conservative Party has named eight candidates who passed the first hurdle to become a contender in the party's leadership race — a list that does not include former Stephen Harper adviser Richard Décarie, who made controversial comments about the LGBTQ community earlier this year. 

Quebec social conservative candidate had caused a furor after remarks about LGBTQ people

Social conservative Richard Décarie failed to advance in the Conservative Party's leadership race after a list of approved candidates was released Saturday. Décarie told CBC's Power & Politics in January that he was representing the views of many party members when he delivered controversial remarks about the LGBTQ community. (Power & Politics/CBC)

The Conservative Party named eight candidates Saturday who passed the first hurdle to become a contender in the party's leadership race — a list that does not include former Stephen Harper adviser Richard Décarie, who made controversial comments about the LGBTQ community earlier this year. 

In response to his unsuccessful bid, Décarie, a social conservative from Quebec, took aim at the Conservative Party's committee responsible for having final say in the decision.

"The unelected Leadership Election Organizing Committee (LEOC) of the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) has decided I am not an 'Approved Candidate,'" he said in a series of tweets. "Despite the support and signatures of thousands of CPC party members, this unelected committee has disallowed my candidacy and will not allow my supporters to cast their ballots for me."

The party would not say why Décarie's application failed to land a green light. 

"Eight candidates were approved by the committee. Reasons for not approving a candidate are not disclosed, but it's not a decision the committee ever takes lightly," said party spokesperson Cory Hann. 

Approved candidate Derek Sloan — a Conservative MP in Ontario — slammed the committee on Twitter, calling its decision "outrageous".

LGBTQ comments yielded backlash

In January, Décarie caused an uproar when he appeared on national television and claimed that being gay is a choice. 

The comments prompted other leadership candidates — including Peter MacKay, Erin O'Toole and Marilyn Gladu — to condemn Décarie's remarks, calling them "ridiculous" and "unacceptable." 

In 2016, the party's rank and file members voted to remove the traditional definition of marriage from its official policy. 

Décarie stood by his earlier remarks Saturday.

"Thus far I was the only candidate who took a strong position in support of traditional marriage and who proposed to defund abortion federally since it is not health care," he posted. "True Blue Conservatives, including those who hold traditional values, are a major force within the party."

Kory Teneycke, Harper's former director of communications, said it was "good news" that Décarie would not move ahead in the race. 

"Candidates have to hold beliefs that are consistent with the Conservative Party's principles," he said. "Richard Décarie's views on sexual orientation are, in the minds of many, bigoted."

Décarie made Thursday deadline

Décarie made Thursday's deadline to submit his application to be a candidate, which included an initial $25,000 entry fee and 1,000 signatures from party members who live in 30 ridings in seven provinces and territories.

But to become an "approved applicant," Décarie's signatures needed to be verified, his application required review and he underwent an interview conducted by a nine-person Leadership Candidate Nomination Committee.   

CBC News has learned that Décarie's interview took place Thursday. 

On Thursday, seven candidates had met the first eligibility criteria to replace Andrew Scheer as party leader.

Saturday's list includes an eighth candidate, former Conservative staffer Rudy Husny, who previously told CBC News that he had the signatures and entry fees needed prior to securing approval.

The final candidates are:

  • Marilyn Gladu, MP for the Ontario riding of Sarnia–Lambton since 2015.
  • Rudy Husny, former Conservative staffer and unsuccessful candidate in Outrement, Que., in 2011 and 2015.
  • Jim Karahalios, an anti-carbon tax activist who previously filed a lawsuit against the Ontario PC Party.
  • Leslyn Lewis, a lawyer and unsuccessful Conservative candidate in Ontario's Scarborough–Rouge Park in 2015. 
  • Peter MacKay, former minister of justice, foreign affairs and national defence in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's cabinet, Nova Scotia MP from 1997 to 2015 and the last leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.
  • Erin O'Toole, former minister of veterans affairs, MP for Durham, Ont. since 2012, and third-place finisher in the 2017 Conservative leadership race.
  • Rick Peterson, a businessman who finished 12th in the 2017 Conservative leadership race.
  • Derek Sloan, MP for Ontario's Hastings–Lennox and Addington riding since 2019.

With files from the CBC's Raisa Patel