By Charlie Senack. Manotick Messenger
Longtime Manotick resident and former Government Leader of the Senate, Marjory LeBreton, has resigned from the Carleton Conservative 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 Conservative 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, says she knew the blockade, which she describes as illegal, wouldn’t end well. LeBreton told the Manotick Messenger she has concerns the divide is becoming too deep.
“I’ve watched the Conservative party evolve through tough times and good times, and I am very fearful that the great accommodation reached between (then Canadian Alliance Leader) Stephen Harper and (former PC Leader) Peter McKay in the fall of 2003 is fracturing, maybe beyond repair,” she said.
LeBreton, who said it brings her no joy to speak out against behaviour she’s seeing in the party, says her breaking point came in the midst of the freedom convoy. Poilievre was one of many Conservative MP’s to openly support their efforts, despite the blockade causing so much unrest.
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.
LeBreton can’t wrap her head around how the Conservative party would support such a movement, which broke countless laws and disrupted the lives of many people.
“When I resigned I said that I really had a problem because one of the main cornerstones of Conservatism is law and order,” said LeBreton. “I just felt that we were taking a sledgehammer to one of the main cornerstones of Conservatism. One of the reasons why I am a Conservative is because I have tremendous respect for the law, so I felt that I could no longer in all good conscience remain on the board.”
LeBreton felt Conservatives support of the convoy movement took attention away from the main problem at hand.
“The responsibility of all this grievance and unhappiness should have been laid at the feet of the Prime Minister for using a health issue in order to win an election,” she said. “He divided people and basically insulted people who didn’t support the vaccine. It was all so unnecessary. 80-90 per cent of Canadians were vaccinated. This is a one hundred per cent success story. But having said that Pierre and people who were advising him decided they were going to jump in front of this parade and I just felt like I couldn’t support that.”
The former Government Leader of the Senate also questioned how Poilievre could support a blockade in Downtown Ottawa, when his tone was different during a rail blockade in early 2020. Back then the Carleton MP openly bashed an Indiginous blockade which was causing disruption in Western Canada.
At the time Poilievre said in a CBC interview: “When Indigenous People protest and blockade it is wrong and the government has laws and tools in place to deal with it. These blockaders are taking away the freedom of other people to move their goods and themselves.”
“You can’t say it’s ok to have an illegal blockade in the City of Ottawa but it’s not ok for another group to have an illegal blockade at a railroad crossing,” noted LeBreton. “An illegal blockade should be dealt with through the full force of the law.”
LeBreton’s resignation came on February 15, but stayed quiet not looking to paint the party in a bad light. She has been a long time supporter of Poilievre, even answering phones during the latest election campaign. That’s why she’s having a hard time coming to grips with the changes she’s witnessing.
“There was a lot of excitement in his campaign, we won by 16 points in the election less than a year ago, but there was a main street poll the other day that had his lead at four percentage points,” said LeBreton. “So I have to ask myself, and we should ask ourselves, and Pierre should ask himself, why is this happening? And when you look at that poll it’s very much tied to his support of the so-called freedom convoy which was an illegal blockade.”
LeBreton says the poll is mirroring what she’s seeing in the riding. Everywhere she goes, she’s hearing from business people, ordinary citizens, and even lifelong Conservatives that the party is beginning to swing too far to the right.
“In the riding after Pierre’s very out-front support of the convoy, I had people who supported him all of a sudden saying they were so disappointed. Before I resigned, I suggested to the riding president as a result of this that we better do a poll in Carleton,” said LeBreton. “Business people thought that Pierre walked away from them during the protests. It was his constituents that were losing their minimum wage jobs in the Rideau Centre, it was his constituents who had small businesses they couldn’t open, losing thousands of dollars. He completely abandoned them.”
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 six and a half years.
It began in 2015 after then Prime Minister Stephen Harper lost the election to Justin Trudeau. Andrew Sheer 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 Sheer stepping down.
Then came Erin O’Toole who took over from Sheer, and began to try and paint the party in a new, more modern and centerized light. He tried to attract groups who normally wouldn’t vote Conservative, focusing on issues like pro-choice and LGBTQ+ rights.
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.
“It’s important for the party to really think about who can lead us and win support and become electable in the whole country,” she said. “By that I mean we have to acknowledge that the country has changed and we have to work really hard to win over people who live especially in the suburbs, and we have to present ourselves in a way where people can see themselves in us. I’m afraid that at the moment they are not seeing themselves in us.”
As for the personal attacks and harsh words candidates are throwing around at one another, LeBreton says they need to stop.
She’s joined a group called “Centre Ice Conservatives”, which aims to focus on issues they care about and impact their communities.
“We are trying to foster debate for people who are in the centre, no matter who they vote for,” stated LeBreton. “We are encountering a lot of blue liberals who just can’t buy the policies of the Trudeau government. I hate to even think about what’s going on in the United States filtering into Canada. I really think we are different in Canada, I’m hopeful that will not happen,”
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. Her message to Poilievre and all Conservative voters is to bring ideas forward that will unite Canadians, not cause an even bigger divide. She says all candidates have good ideas, including Poilievre.
The Manotick Messenger reached out to Poilievre’s campaign multiple times for an interview regarding his leadership race but did not hear back.