OTTAWA -- The four Conservative leadership candidates are kicking off the final stretch of COVID-19-style campaigning, with just over a month to go before all ballots are cast, after breaking a party record for membership signups.

After going head-to-head in two debates on June 17 and 18 the leadership hopefuls are continuning to try to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.  

Erin O’Toole, Peter MacKay, Leslyn Lewis, and Derek Sloan battled it out in French on June 17, doing their best to deliver their platform pitches despite not one being fully bilingual. On June 18, Toronto played host to the first and only English-language debate.

Co-chairs of the Conservative Party leadership election organizing committee Dan Nowlan and Lisa Raitt were chosen to moderate. 

Under the original leadership race timeline, the party was set to hold its debates in April, but those were cancelled when the entire race was put on pause due to the pandemic. 

Given the public health concerns at play, there was no live audience, and physical distancing measures were in place. 

Another pandemic-prompted workaround, the voting process will be conducted through mail-in ballots, which party members need to send back to the party by August 21. 

On July 14 the party revealed that it had set an internal record for the total number of memberships in a leadership race, with 269,469 members eligible to vote.

“With nearly 270,000 paid Conservative Party members as of cut-off on May 15, 2020, that also means it’s the largest membership eligible to vote in a leadership in Canadian history,” said the party in a statement. According to the Conservatives, the biggest growth in new support came from voters in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, and Alberta.  

The race resumed on April 29 “with adjustments to accommodate current circumstances,” a month after it was initially suspended, with LEOC saying at the time that it wouldn’t be possible to meet all deadlines necessary in time for the originally-planned June 27 announcement of a winner. 

While all ballots need to be submitted by August 21, it’s yet to be determined how quickly they will be scrutinized and a winner declared.

The ballots have begun to be mailed out and should soon be in eligible voters’ inboxes, the party said in mid-July. 

The date and format of how the party will announce its new leader once the results are tallied will also depend on the health guidelines and government orders in place at the time.


To reach this phase, each contender had to raise $200,000, put forward an additional $100,000 as a compliance fee, and gather 3,000 signatures from members. This secures their name on the ballot.

Erin O’Toole:

Erin O'Toole

A three-time Conservative MP from Ontario and former cabinet minister. Prior to entering politics O'Toole was in the Royal Canadian Air Force for a decade and later worked as a lawyer. O'Toole placed third in the 2017 leadership race, and since re-entering has taken policy positions that appear to be appealing to the base of the party. He's described himself as the "true blue" candidate.

O'Toole says he's running because "the country needs a strong Conservative party." He's taking the position of uniting Conservatives.

Peter MacKay:

peter mackay

A former federal cabinet minister from Nova Scotia and the last leader of the Progressive Conservatives pre-merger with Stephen Harper’s Canadian Alliance in 2003. After deciding not to run in 2015, MacKay was working at a Toronto law firm and was a frequent political commentator. Since throwing his hat in the ring he's faced questions over some conflicting positions.

MacKay says he is running "to keep the Conservative movement united and to defeat Justin Trudeau in the next general election."

Leslyn Lewis:

Leslyn Lewis

An Ontario lawyer who was an unsuccessful 2015 federal election candidate. Lewis lost after being put into a race at the last moment when the previous candidate quit once a video of him urinating in a cup while working in someone's home surfaced. She came to Canada as a child from Jamaica and has received the backing of Campaign Life Coalition, as well as the support of a prominent Christian activist, who called her a "breath of fresh air" as a woman who is against same-sex marriage and abortion.

Lewis says she is running because "Canadians can and should expect much more from their leaders," and because she is seeing "opportunities for future generations falling away."

Derek Sloan:

Power Play: One-on-one with Derek Sloan

A rookie Ontario Conservative MP elected for the first time in 2019. Prior to entering politics he worked as a lawyer and small business owner. Since entering the House of Commons he's stated that he believes the "cause of sexual orientation" is "scientifically unclear," and has also received the backing of social conservative organization Campaign Life Coalition.

Sloan says he believes the country is "under siege by a tide of political correctness that seeks to destroy Canada," and vows to "take a stand for Canada against radical progressivism."


Marilyn Gladu:

Marilyn Gladu

A two-time Conservative MP from Ontario, who was first elected in 2015. Prior to entering politics she worked as a chemical engineer. As a parliamentarian she's advocated for palliative care and, during her time as the health critic, she voiced concerns about the Liberals’ rollout of marijuana legalization.

Gladu said her vision included: "Canadian policy rooted in a better balance of fiscal common sense and social compassion."

Rudy Husny:

Rudy Husny

A longtime Conservative party member and former staffer. Husny worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers in Montreal before trying his luck twice at running as the Conservative candidate in the riding of Outremont in 2011 and 2015. Husny worked as a senior adviser to the Minister of International Trade in between his two unsuccessful bids. After 2015, he spent time both in the private sector in the Gulf region and in outgoing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer's office. Husny was the only Quebec candidate, and he had already established that he would tell MPs looking to bring forward anti-abortion bills that it's "not the priority."

Husny said he was running "to bring generational change to our party, to our politics, and to our country."

Rick Peterson:

Rick Peterson

A businessman from Alberta and past leadership candidate. He came 12th in the 2017 leadership race and touted his bilingualism and openness to diversity as assets. He proposed a 15 per cent flat personal income tax and a roll back of Liberal gun laws.

Peterson said he was running to "help restore and reinvigorate the investment climate and job creation." He billed himself as the candidate with a "bold vision" that included tax reform and a climate plan.

Jim Karahalios:

Jim Karahalios

An Ontario lawyer who has advocated for the elimination of carbon taxes. He's also married to Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP Belinda Karahalios and is suing the provincial PC party over allegations that the 2018 race for party president was “rigged” to keep him out. He received the backing of social conservative group Campaign Life Coalition.

Karahalios said he was running to fight against what he called a "top-down coronation" for "the well-connected establishment candidates."


The leadership race got underway on January 13, giving hopefuls 45 days to declare. The hunt for a new head of the party was prompted by Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer announcing on Dec. 12 that he was stepping down as leader but would be staying on until a replacement is named.

Under Scheer, the Conservatives increased their seat count to 121 seats in the 2019 federal election, but in the weeks following the election, Scheer faced a steady stream of criticism for his performance and personal stance on same-sex marriage and other social issues. He was also questioned about his expenses and use of party funds in the lead-up to the federal campaign.