Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Tories to announce next leader 'with a revised program' reflecting Queen's death

OTTAWA — The Conservative party says the event announcing its next leader that is scheduled for Saturday will go ahead as planned, but in a more muted way.
A man is silhouetted walking past a Conservative Party logo before the opening of the Party's national convention in Halifax on Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018. The Conservative party says the event announcing the next leader scheduled for Saturday will go ahead as planned, but in a more muted way. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

OTTAWA — The Conservative party says the event announcing its next leader that is scheduled for Saturday will go ahead as planned, but in a more muted way.

The Queen's death on Thursday prompted the party to rethink the event, since it will fall within an official mourning period. 

After learning of her death, the chair of the Tories' leadership election organizing committee said it would look for ways to announce the results in a respectful manner.

In a brief statementearly Friday, committee chair Ian Brodie confirmed the event in Ottawa will go ahead on Saturday, but "with a revised program" that reflects the situation. 

"We considered all options," party president Rob Batherson said in an interview later Friday afternoon. 

"One of the things that certainly inspired the party in our decision-making is Her Majesty was someone who was resolute, resilient and proceeded through some very challenging times," he said. "We're letting the example of her life, example of her service, guide us."

The party is now planning to open Saturday's event with a tribute to the Queen, and it axed elements that would create a festive atmosphere, such as confetti guns.

Batherson added that speeches will also strike a more somber tone, and campaigns have been informed about the event's change in tenor. 

"The campaigns are aware of the direction that we're going in and so, ultimately, we're all grown-ups here," he said.

The party had been selling tickets to the event for $150, with members arriving Friday from across the country.More than 1,000 people are expected to be on site. 

The party's interim leader Candice Bergen, who recently announced that she doesn't plan to run in the next federal election, will address the crowd.

There will also be video greetings from Erin O'Toole, the Ontario MP and former leader who was voted out of his job by the majority of his caucus in February, triggering the current leadership contest. 

Former Conservative cabinet minister Peter MacKay, who ran for leader in the contest that elected O'Toole, was to be the event's special guest. But in a video posted to social media late Friday from Nova Scotia, MacKay, in a raspy voice, sent last-minute regrets.

"While it's not COVID, I've come down with some sort of strep throat or laryngitis that would make it very difficult to deliver a speech," MacKay said, adding he regrets he'll miss being with his "Conservative family" as it makes "this important decision."

Batherson says all of the speakers have a connection to the Queen and the Royal Family. 

He says Bergen met the new monarch, King Charles III, during his visit to Canada this past summer. He also pointed to O'Toole's time in the Canadian military, which has strong ties to the British monarchy.

The upcoming gathering of Conservative faithful caps off a seven-month leadership contest between five candidates vying to replace him. 

Members of Parliament Pierre Poilievre, Leslyn Lewis and Scott Aitchison are running, as are former Quebec premier Jean Charest and Roman Baber, a former Ontario legislator who was removed from Premier Doug Ford's caucus over his opposition to COVID-19 lockdowns. 

Many in the party see the race as a competition between Poilievre and Charest, although an expectation that Poilievre is likely to take the prize has grown throughout the summer. 

That is based on reports from Poilievre's campaign that it sold more than 300,000 memberships, and the MP's consistent ability to draw crowds by the hundreds — and, at times, by the thousands, which is rare in party leadership contests. 

Still, Charest's campaign has said it has enough support in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada to give Charest a narrow path to victory, according to the point system that will be used to determine the outcome.

The party has begun the first stage of the ballot-counting process by inputting voter cards ahead of Saturday's event. More than 400,000 party members cast a ballot out of some 678,700 eligible members, which is a record-setting figure.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 9, 2022. 

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press