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EDITORIAL: Endorsements don't matter in Conservative Leadership Races

Conservative leadership candidates are phoning all sitting conservative members of parliament and asking them to throw their weight behind them in the September 10th leadership election.

This isn't uncommon, endorsements are about motivation, they are about access to supporters list, they are about momentum. And the frontrunner for the Conservative leadership race is doing his best to show that he has the momentum and he isn't slowing down.

Pierre Poilievre the MP for Carelton and the presumed frontrunner of the race is making the rounds and is picking up endorsements from his fellow caucus members. Just today he picked up the endorsements of BC MP Todd Doherty, Ontario MP Chris Lewis, BC MP Tracy Gray. He has gotten over 40 endorsements since entering the race. He has gotten support from across the country except for one particular province, Quebec. When former Premier has picked up 7 of the 10 MP endorsements.

Charest is slow out of the gate, in total he has 9 endorsements, One from Ontario, One from Nova Scotia, and the rest from Quebec.

Leslyn Lewis and Roman Baber, the only other candidates that have officially entered the race as of publishing have not picked up any endorsements. (Leslyn Lewis an MP for Ontario, but we don't consider that an endorsement).

With Poilievre out front, and racking up the endorsements it begs the question, do endorsements matter?

We looked back on the 2017, and 2020 leadership races, and noticed an eerie similarity, the presumed frontrunner, and candidate with the most endorsements went on to lose the leadership race.

In 2017, while he might have not been the odds on favourite, Erin O'Toole won the endorsement battle with 31 endorsements from the conservative caucus (we are only counting Members of Parliament and not Senators as we assume most people couldn't name their senators if they were challenged to it). O'Toole bested the eventual winner of the race Andrew Scheer who only picked up 24 endorsements.

Runner up in that race Maxime Bernier who is now the leader of the PPC picked up 7 endorsements from his former conservative caucus (Bernier was ejected from caucus by Scheer months after the leadership vote). Former MP Lisa Raitt and Kellie Leitch got 3 endorsements each, Ontario MP Michael Chong picked up two endorsements, and all other candidates weren't able to pick up any endorsements.

In 2020 presumed frontrunner Peter MacKay, former leader of the Progressive Conservatives won the endorsement battle picking up 47 endorsements from sitting MPs. Erin O'Toole did better than in 2017 but fell short of topping MacKay with 38 caucus endorsements.

Two other candidates were in the race, then unknown Leslyn Lewis who nabbed 7 endorsements from the conservative ranks, and Derek Sloan who didn't nab any (Sloan was ejected from caucus a year after the leadership vote).

O'Toole trumped MacKay in that race even with fewer endorsements. Which begs the question if O'Toole couldn't win in 2017 with more caucus support, and MacKay couldn't win in 2020, does the caucus believe backing the presumed frontrunner will work out in the end.

Either way, the next 7 months are going to be a hoot to watch, and if we've learnt anything from the past, endorsements don't matter and at least one candidate in this 2022 leadership race is about to get ejected from the party afterwards.

So a simple heads up to Conservative MP's, to quote a famous Conservative Prime Minister, "Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it."


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