By Charlie Senack, Manotick Messenger
Longtime Manotick resident and former Government Leader of the Senate, Marjory LeBreton, has resigned from the Carleton Conservarive riding board after Pierre Poilievre’s support for the Freedom Convoy.
Poilievre, who has been Carleton’s MP since 2004, is now running in the Conservarive Party leadership race, and is a frontrunner to be their next leader. He’s always been a man to not shy away from words, and has been seen as a vocal and oftentimes controversial figure.
This winter Poilievre faced backlash after supporting the so-called “freedom” trucker convoy, which shut down parts of Downtown Ottawa for well over a week. He posted many pictures with people from the movement, and even brought them coffee.
LeBreton, who’s been a well respected Conservative all her life and has deep roots in the party, told Global News’ ‘The West Block’ in an exclusive interview that she believes the party might be “fracturing beyond repair.”
“I really fear that the great accommodation that was reached between (then Canadian Alliance Leader) Stephen Harper and (former Progressive Conservative Leader) Peter MacKay in the fall of 2003 is fracturing beyond repair,” she told Global News’ Mercedes Stevenson.
LeBreton’s breaking point with the party came in the midst of the freedom convoy. Poilievre was one of many Conservative MP’s to openly support their efforts, despite many of the protesters’ acts being illegal.
The demonstrators, who participated in what authorities called an “illegal convoy occupation”, blocked access points at land crossings between Canada and the US, and disrupted the lives of downtown Ottawa residents by blaring their horns at all hours of the night.
Police and other authorities had to be brought in from across the country to end the siege, coming in on horseback with shields. It cost the city and Ottawa Police more than $36 million.
By the end of March 230 arrests were made, with 180 of those individuals being charged with over 400 offences.
Last week a number of Conservatives MP’s hosted prominent members of the trucker convoy on Parliament Hill. Video reviewed by CTV News also showed that in the months since the occupation, roughly 20 per cent of the Conservative Party caucus has met with members of the group.
LeBreton can’t wrap her head around how members of the Conservative party could support such a movement, which broke countless laws and disrupted the lives of many people.
“I’m a traditional Conservative and one of the main cornerstones of Conservatism is law and order. And law and order is law and order. And illegal blockades are illegal blockades, whether they’re at the border crossing, a pipeline, a railway line, they’re illegal,” LeBreton said.
The former Government Leader of the Senate was referencing Indigenous rail blockades which were blocked in early 2020. At the time many Conservative MP’s including Poilievre, had a deep discontent with the actions.
LeBreton says it makes no sense how causing a blockade in Downtown Ottawa is ok, but when it’s with another group at a railroad, it becomes a problem.
Future Of The Conservative Party
It’s been a messy leadership race with many of the candidates attacking each other over issues. It’s also the third time Conservative members are voting to bring a new leader in over the past six and a half years.
It began in 2015 after then Prime Minister Stephen Harper lost the election to Justin Trudeau. Andrew Scheer was chosen as his replacement as leader, but then resigned in December 2019 after the party lost that year’s election, and after a scandal over the party paying a portion of his Children’s private school education broke. The Conservative Party however initiated that was not the reason for Scheer stepping down.
Then came Erin O’Toole who took over from Scheer, and began to try and paint the party in a new, more modern light. He tried to attract groups who normally wouldn’t vote Conservative, focusing on issues like pro-choice and LGBTQ+ rights. During a campaign stop in Barrhaven during the fall 2021 federal election, O’Toole even talked about potentially legalizing ‘poppers’, a drug which many gay men use to relax muscles during intercourse.
The Conservatives again lost that election, but O’Toole vowed to stay on as party leader, despite a divide which was growing in the party. Fast forward to January 2022, he was ousted as leader of the official opposition after a leadership review was called. He lost by a margin of 73 votes to 45.
LeBreton says if the party wants a chance at winning the next election, they need to unite and vote in a leader who Canadians could see as an alternative choice to Justin Trudeau and the Liberals.
“Right now we have an incompetent government who has a scatter brained approach to everything,” she said. “People want an alternative. We have to be electable. We have to win an election in order for any of the issues we care about to be addressed. So when you mark your (leadership) ballot you have to factor in who you think is the best person who is electable in the whole country.”
As for the personal attacks and harsh words candidates are throwing around at one another, LeBreton says they need to stop.
“The idea of accusing people of lying and crooks, this is not the debate we should be having,” LeBreton stated. “We should be having a debate about who we are, what we stand for, and what we would do if we were to form a government. Canadians are not adverse to voting for Conservatives. Eight of the 10 provinces have Conservative-leaning governments.
The Conservative party is now “completely foreign” to LeBreton, who adds she is starting to feel like she no longer has a home in the party.
She added it was “extremely hard” to leave the Carleton Conservative riding board of directors, but could not stand behind a group which supported the “illegal convoy.”
LeBreton has known Poilievre for years and even answered the phones in his office during the recent 2021 federal election campaign. She’s also joined a group called “Centre Ice Conservatives”, which aims to focus on issues they care about and impact their communities.