CPC icy on PC MPPs running for federal nominations: sources

By Allison Smith and Alan S. Hale January 25, 2024

Premier Doug Ford and CPC Leader Pierre Poilievre pose in various promotional media.

Multiple sources with deep ties to the Conservative Party of Canada and Ontario PC Party said CPC Leader Pierre Poilievre and his team are not enthusiastic about the prospect of PC MPPs running under their banner in the next federal election — save for a few potential exceptions.

Despite coming from the same political stripe, Poilievre and Premier Doug Ford are not close allies. The CPC declined to offer up volunteers to help the PCs campaign in a recent byelection, and Ford refused to let his caucus get involved in federal votes or the last two CPC leadership races.

As Poilievre dominates in the polls, the enthusiasm of Canada’s conservatives has shifted from Queen’s Park to Parliament Hill, where they hope the CPC will soon form government. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau must call an election by October of next year.

This week, Poilievre recruited a sitting politician from British Columbia into his fold. High-profile BC United MLA Ellis Ross was acclaimed as the CPC candidate for Skeena—Bulkley Valley.

However, Tory sources say most Ontario PC MPPs are not being encouraged to run federally and overtures from one prominent cabinet minister were shut down by the CPC.

According to those sources, Poilievre’s team does not want the “stench” of “corruption” attached to their party, pointing to the Greenbelt scandal in particular.

Poilievre also disagreed with Ford’s handling of the Covid pandemic. The CPC leader has been more eager than Ford to appeal to anti-vaxxers and anti-lockdown contingents of the electorate.

Who could make the cut?

“CPC doesn’t want PC,” one source said. Another pointed to a lack of “talent” in the PC caucus.

Ex-labour minister Monte McNaughton was an exception, the second source said, and continues to be well respected by federal Tories — but the CPC already has an MP in the House of Commons representing his former Lambton—Kent—Middlesex riding.

According to the first source, the federal party also likes Red Tape Reduction Minister Parm Gill, Transportation Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria and Long-Term Care Minister Stan Cho, and would consider letting them run if they were interested.

All three cabinet ministers have avoided serious scandal at Queen’s Park. They also hold seats in GTA ridings that will be key to the CPC’s electoral success.

Gill is the most likely to make the jump, both sources said, while Cho’s Willowdale riding would be the most challenging to win in a federal election, making it a bigger risk for him to resign his provincial seat.

Gill’s office did not respond to questions about his plans. The Milton MPP previously served one federal term in former prime minister Stephen Harper‘s government.

Queen’s Park Today asked Poilievre’s top advisor Jenni Byrne whether there is a process in place to weed out PC MPPs from CPC nomination races and, if so, the rationale behind it.

Byrne, who worked on Ford’s 2018 election campaign and served as his principal secretary, did not respond to those questions.

However, she did shut down another rumour that has been circulating: that former federal cabinet minister Tony Clement was fired from the board of the Conservative Fund, the federal party’s fundraising arm, because of a podcast episode he recorded with controversial Greenbelt lobbyist John Mutton — a.k.a Mr. X — in September 2022.

“Tony was not removed from the Conservative Fund Canada board. He resigned from the fund board due to time constraints. Tony works on a number of projects in news media and is involved in several other initiatives. Tony remains an important part of the team and a strong supporter of Pierre Poilievre and the Conservative Party of Canada. At the annual general meeting of the fund, Tony was replaced by Robert Batherson,” Byrne said by email Tuesday.

Clement did not respond to a request for comment.

Ex-Queen’s Park political figures running under the CPC banner include former PC MPP Roman Baber, who Ford removed from caucus in 2021 because of his anti-Covid lockdown stance, and Jamil Jivani, who served as the premier’s special advisor on community opportunities for several years. Jivani later distanced himself from the PC Party because of its Covid policies.