One of the reasons I want to serve as Leader of our Party is because of the tremendous respect I have for our grassroots members from across the country.
Leadership races should be a time to engage with our members, and connect with the people who donate their time and money to help elect Conservative MPs, to form Conservative governments.
Members are truly the heart and soul of our Party.
As the Leadership race pushes ahead, there have been a number of decisions that make me concerned that members are not playing the central role they deserve:
1) The disqualification of Richard Décarie as a candidate. Whether or not you agree with his positions, the decision as to whether or not M. Décarie should advance in the Leadership race should have been left in the hands of members. We should trust democracy.
2) The location of our debates. I spent last week in Alberta and BC, and the isolation being felt on the ground cannot be overstated. We should have seized the opportunity to hold official campaign events in Western and Atlantic Canada; not just Toronto and Montreal.
3) The timing of the debates. Only candidates who meet the full requirements (3,000 signatures and $300,000) by March 25 will get to be on the debate stage in April. It would have been better to have at least one debate before the cut-off, so members could hear the candidates' ideas, and decide if there was a candidate that they wanted to support in making it to the final round.
As these decisions add up, we unfortunately see the grassroots having less impact on the direction of our Party.
In the news this morning, at least three Leadership candidates are promising to try to force an election this October.
To be clear: the Conservatives do not have enough votes in the House of Commons to force an election, even if we want to.
So here's why forcing an election will NOT be my top priority as Leader:
We need time to organize open, democratic nominations.
It takes a bit of time to recruit quality candidates, hold the nomination, and then raise the funds necessary to win.
I want EDAs and grassroot supporters to have the time they need to decide who will represent them best in the next election.
I also want the November Policy Convention in Quebec City to be a meaningful chance for Party members to shape the policy that we will run on in our platform in the next election.
I know that our members have courageous, compassionate policy ideas, full of common sense. As Leader, I want to make sure your ideas are heard, and can form our battle plan to take on Justin Trudeau and the Liberals.
No Leader - male or female - should decide by themselves what our policies are on important topics.
I believe our Party policy should be set by members at Conventions, and then by Caucus in between.
How will we balance the budget?
How do we care for the environment while staying true to conservative principles?
What policies are going to serve families best?
Our members can't be ignored because they're too important when it comes to creating the next election platform.
I will be rolling out policy proposals in the weeks ahead. But I want members to know that Party policy matters to me, and I want all of you to shape our next election platform.