The Conservatives pick their new leader

This week, The House is at the Conservative leadership convention where the next leader of the Official Opposition will be chosen. We hear from Conservative MPs Candice Bergen, Michelle Rempel and Diane Finley and former MP Peter MacKay about where the party is headed and what bumps could keep them from reforming government 2019.
Supporters take their seats during the opening night of the federal Conservative leadership convention in Toronto on Friday, May 26, 2017. A final winner will be picked to lead the Conservative Party of Canada on Saturday night. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)
Listen to the full episode48:30

It's almost over.

After several debates, millions of dollars raised and months of campaigning — some candidates lasting longer than others — the Conservative Party's 259,010 eligible voters will select their new leader Saturday evening.

Not only will they take the helm as leader of the Opposition, the new leader inherits a party with the most members it's ever had and one with well-lined coffers.

But will they be able to harness that to topple Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the 2019 election?

Before the votes are counted The House sat down with Conservative MPs Candice Bergen, Michelle Rempel and Diane Finley and former MP Peter MacKay about where the party is headed and what bumps could keep them from reforming government.


Candice Bergen, MP Portage Lisgar

Conservative MP Candice Bergen asks a question during Question Period in the House of Commons, Thursday, March 23, 2017. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Conservatie House Leader isn't too worried about attracting women to the party now that interim leader Rona Ambrose is stepping down.

There are only two women vying to take over the top spot.

"I'm one of those women that don't believe that women vote for somebody because of their gender so I'm not a big believer that we need to put women in just so that we can say we have x number of women," Bergen said.

"What I think we have to do though, as both women and men politicians, is we have to talk to women in a bit of a different way. Many women I might speak to and say, "Hey, have you thought of running?' would say, 'Oh my goodness no, I'm not at all political.' So I have to say, 'No you actually are political. You're a soccer mom  but you have very strong opinions."

Bergen said the party needs women, not to fill quotas, but because they're experts in their fields.

"As a woman that's what I want to hear. I don't want anyone saying I want you to run because I need an extra woman in my cabinet," she said.

Bergen  says the packed stage (there are 13 candidates standing, but 16 people entered) has made this race less divisive than if there were three or four candidates.

"We are really have been united as a caucus and I think that has spilled out into the membership as well. At the end of the day, when the new leader is announced we all want to see the Liberals defeated," the Manitoba MP said.


Diane Finley, MP for Haldimand–Norfolk

Conservative MP Diane Finley sat in Stephen Harper's cabinet as minister of human resources and skills development and minister of public works and government services. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

The Harper-era cabinet minister says one of the big challenges for the new leader will be keeping the family together.

"Making sure that we're doing as we did when these candidates were out in the field, focusing on going after the Liberal government and being her majesty's loyal Opposition. So if we can focus the energies there instead of internally I think that will go a long way," the Ontario MP said.

"Because people didn't reject our policies last time. They liked our policies, there were other problems, tone for example."

Finley, who sits on leadership organizing committee and has had to stay neutral throughout the race, says winability in 2019 comes in different forms.

"Nice hair is one thing, but [Trudeau} is going to have a four year record for which he's going to have to answer and that could change the winability and likability factor," she said.

"Then we'll have the factor of having a relatively new fresh face and we'll be distanced from the previous government so it will be someone with a clean record that can take him head on."


Michelle Rempel, MP for Calgary Nose Hill

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel says the party can talk to people like her, young Urbanites, by selling job creation. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

It might have been a former Conservative prime minister who said "an election is no time to discuss serious issues," but this race has dominated by policy debates, said Alberta MP Michelle Rempel.

"It's been really delicious," said the self-described policy wonk. "I'm really looking forward to seeing who the membership picks to embody the party going forward for the next 10 years."

The Liberals attracted younger voters and those in urban cores in 2015, but Rempel says 2019 will be a new game.

"Politics is always a snapshot in time. Any leader, any party  is going to have a best before date in terms of wanting to see change," she said.

"I think a lot of people in Canada are saying, look we don't need you to go to Broadway prime minister and focus on things that aren't the economy. We need to focus on securing Canada's future in terms of economic growth,' she said.


Peter MacKay, former MP for Central Nova

Peter MacKay is seen at the Conservative Party of Canada convention in Vancouver, Friday, May 27, 2016. The previous Conservative government at one point considered working toward giving women a majority of the nine seats on the Supreme Court of Canada, said former justice minister MacKay. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Winning back parts of Atlantic Canada will take some "heavy lifting" from the Conservative's new leader, says former Nova Scotia MP Peter MacKay.

The Liberals swept every riding down east during the 2015 election.

"It will take presence and effort and time and outreach," said the former justice and national defence minister.

"The new leader will inevitably discover that Atlantic Canadians are very open minded, they know the federal government is important."

He said some of perceived front runner Maxime Bernier's policies, including getting the federal government out of health care funding, won't play well in aging Atlantic Canada.

"That really doesn't work for us," said MacKay.

But not every campaign promise is guaranteed to become party doctrine. Conservatives will debate and vote on campaign promises at the policy convention in Halifax next year

"So you may see a walking back of positions," said MacKay. "That's going to be a very important filter."

This week, The House is at the Conservative leadership convention where the next leader of the Official Opposition will be chosen. We hear from Conservative MPs Candice Bergen, Michelle Rempel and Diane Finley and former MP Peter MacKay. 48:30

Listen to the outcome of the Conservative leadership race live on CBC Radio One

A final winner will be picked to lead the Conservative Party of Canada on Saturday night. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

CBC Radio One will air a network special to present the results of the Conservative Leadership race Saturday night.

Chris Hall hosts a live special broadcast bringing listeners results and analysis beginning at about 6:30 p.m ET.