Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch is losing the support of some influential party members over her proposal to screen immigrants for anti-Canadian values, CTV News has learned.
Retired senator Hugh Segal and Graham Fox, who served as chief of staff to former prime minister Joe Clark, have both told Leitch and her campaign that they won’t support her bid to be the party’s new leader.
Neither can take an overtly political role because of their jobs (Fox heads up the Institute for Research on Public Policy and Segal runs Massey College at the University of Toronto), but both initially supported Leitch in her bid to be leader. Both are respected within the party and could influence the opinions of other Conservative members.
A spokesman for Leitch suggested she lost support due to pressure from outside the party.
"We fully anticipated that many party elites would succumb to the pressure of left wing organizations and the media," Bradley Breton wrote in an email to CTV News.
"Kellie is not in this campaign for elites, she is in it for ordinary Canadians who overwhelmingly support her views."
Approached by CTV to confirm he had withdrawn support for Leitch because of her proposals, Segal said he had communicated his views with her campaign team.
"As the grandchild of immigrants from Russia and Austria, who came here for freedom from fear and freedom from want just before and after the first world war, I have strong views about the Canadian idea," Segal wrote in an email to CTV News.
"Value tests and an approach that would exclude people from different cultures from being welcomed simply does not reflect my view of Canada."
"I suspect we are all being dismissed as part of the 'elite'," Segal added. "As the son of a cabdriver, that strikes me as a pretty hollow defence."
Both Segal and Fox come from the Progressive Conservative side of the party and have known Leitch for more than 20 years.
But they aren't the only ones withdrawing support.
Newfoundland and Labrador politician Steve Kent, a PC member of the House Assembly, said Tuesday he won't endorse Leitch, despite calling her a good friend.
"I admire so much about her - but I have been struggling with her campaign’s divisive policy positions of late," Kent wrote in a public post on Facebook.
"Frankly, they are inconsistent with my beliefs and the welcoming spirit of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador in general. I have always believed strongly in Canadian values, and I believe those values are based on embracing diversity, not excluding it; and building bridges, not walls."
The Newfoundland and Labrador Liberals said on Twitter that Kent declared his support for Leitch in October. She first discussed testing immigrants for anti-Canadian values in early September.
Kent says he won't endorse any Conservative leadership candidate because he's contemplating a provincial leadership bid.
"I do not believe that any potential PC leadership candidates should compromise that relationship by aligning with any federal campaign," he said.
The party is to select its next leader on May 27, 2017.