Ontario Tory MP Leslyn Lewis confirms second bid for party leader

OTTAWA — Rookie Ontario MP Leslyn Lewis is taking a second run at the Conservative leadership.

She confirmed her candidacy in a 45-second video shared on social media Tuesday and emailed supporters asking for help to collect the 500 signatures she needs to officially enter the race. She also launched her campaign website with a link to purchase memberships to support her and make donations.

“I’m running to lead our party and our country based on hope, unity and compassion,” Lewis wrote on Twitter.

She is the second declared candidate in the race. Ottawa-area MP Pierre Poilievre, announced his candidacy last month just days after Erin O’Toole was voted out of the leadership by the Conservative caucus after just 17 months in the role.

Former Quebec premier Jean Charest has scheduled a campaign launch event in Calgary Thursday, where he will formally announce his candidacy.

Several others are still mulling it over, including former Conservative MP Patrick Brown, now the mayor of Brampton, Ont., former Ontario MP Leona Alleslev, current Ontario MP Scott Aitchison and independent Ontario MPP Roman Baber.

Lewis, a former Bay Street lawyer who moved to Canada as a child from Jamaica, ran in the 2020 leadership contest as a relative unknown, having never before served in elected office. She was the only woman in the race and placed third behind O’Toole and Peter MacKay, a former Tory cabinet minister who led the Progressive Conservative party before it merged with the Canadian Alliance in 2003.

She has been a vocal critic of COVID-19 vaccine mandates and a Liberal campaign promise to revoke the charitable status of anti-abortion pregnancy centres.

She pulled a lot of support from the party’s base in Western Canada and members of its well-mobilized social conservative network, some of whom are already backing her again.

“I can say with confidence we will 100 per cent be endorsing Leslyn Lewis in the upcoming Conservative Party leadership race,” said Alissa Golob, co-founder of the anti-abortion political group RightNow.

“Lewis is currently the only candidate who can truly unite the party and win the demographics the party needs to target to win.”

Lewis was elected as an MP just last fall in the rural southwestern Ontario riding of Haldimand-Norfolk but was not given a role in O’Toole’s shadow cabinet.

That omission drew the ire of the party’s social conservative wing, many of whom moved their votes from Lewis to O’Toole in the 2020 leadership’s final ballot, helping him secure the victory.

In November, O’Toole was critical of some comments Lewis made on social media, questioning the value of vaccinating children against COVID-19.

Lewis has declined to identify her vaccination status publicly, saying she believes such information should be private.

She publicly supported the trucker convoy which blockaded Ottawa streets for more than three weeks this winter to rally against COVID-19 restrictions, vaccine mandates and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government.

She is also backinga private member’s bill brought by Alberta Conservative MP Garnett Genuis that would add political beliefs to the list of protections under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Genuis introduced that bill last week suggesting protesters participating in the blockades who had their bank accounts frozen were the victims of discrimination because of their politics.

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