Conservative leadership convention coincides with Pride weekend in Toronto
Revelers in the crowd cheer along the route of the 2019 Pride Parade in Toronto, Saturday, June 23, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Lahodynskyj
TORONTO -- When Conservative members gather in Toronto to elect their next leader on June 27, thousands of members of the LGBT community will be celebrating the annual Pride Festival on the other side of town – a fact organizers say wasn’t done on purpose.
On Friday, Conservative MP Michelle Rempel reacted to the announcement by posting on Twitter: “There’s something else that usually happens in Toronto that weekend…” followed by rainbow hearts and a wink-face emoji.
Lisa Raitt, co-chair of organizing committee for the Conservative Party leadership race, told CTV News Channel that the Pride event “wasn’t part of the decision-making process” and that organizers wanted to hold the vote “as quickly as possible.”
“In Toronto, the whole month of June is Pride month, so if we’re going to have an election in June, it’s going to be part of that process anyways,” Raitt, a CTV News political commentator, said on Saturday.
Pride Month lasts all of June, but Toronto’s Pride Festival is scheduled for the weekend of June 26 to June 28. Pride organizers say well over 1 million people attend the annual celebrations, including the parade.
Last month, Andrew Scheer announced that he was stepping down as the party’s leader. Scheer has been criticized in the past for not participating in Pride parades and for his lack of clarity on where he stands on issues such as same-sex marriage.
“We knew we wanted to have this convention in Toronto. We thought that would be important,” she said.
The Conservatives struggled to win over voters in Toronto and the surrounding 905 region the 2019 election, with the Liberals winning the vast majority of seats.
Other considerations, such as the availability of hotel rooms, were factors in choosing the date, Raitt said.
“Then what you need to do is match up venues that are available with preferred times and make sure hotel rooms are available. We ended up with the date of June 27. I think it’s a good date.”
In November, Conservative strategist Jason Lietaer said that Scheer not marching in the Pride parades was a “mistake.” And Stephen Harper’s former director of communications Kory Teneycke said Scheer’s position on same-sex marriage “could be fatal” to his future as leader.
Toronto’s Pride Festival takes place downtown in Toronto’s Church and Wellesley neighbourhood. The leadership vote will be held at the Toronto Congress Centre near Pearson airport.
Raitt added that the date was chosen with the current state of government in mind.
“Last time, we were at the beginning of a Liberal majority government. This time we are in a minority situation. There is no assurance that is going to go longer than the next vote of confidence,” she said.
“We want the party to be prepared.”
Many believe high-profile Tories such as Rona Ambrose, Peter MacKay, Pierre Poilievre, Michelle Rempel Garner and Candice Bergen may be potential candidates.
Raitt said Friday that anyone thinking about throwing their name into the running has another 10 days to make up their mind.