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Conservative party internal data shows extent of Poilievre leadership victory


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Conservative party internal data shows extent of Poilievre leadership victory

OTTAWA — Pierre Poilievre began putting his mark on the Conservative party Sunday after a stunning victory in the leadership race which put to bed all questions about how big a mandate he’d get from the membership.

Poilievre swept 330 of the 338 available ridings, analysis of Saturday night’s results shows.

Among them: those represented in the House of Commons by two of the other candidates in the contest, Scott Aitchison and Leslyn Lewis, and the riding of York Centre, which another candidate, Roman Baber, once represented provincially in Ontario.

He also won several of the ridings held by MPs loyal to the second-place finisher in the contest, Jean Charest.

How far back Charest was — he captured only 16.1 per cent of the available points and 11.6 per cent of the popular vote — surprised even his own team, though they had known for weeks their candidate had no shot at victory.

Despite their own get-out-the-vote analysis suggesting 90 per cent of their signed-up supporters did cast a ballot, that support was just drowned out by the breadth and depth of support the Poilievre camp had in their corner, Charest’s team said Sunday.

“It was a tidal wave,” said Fraser Macdonald, who helped Charest craft the policy platform put before party members over the course of the seven-month campaign.

Data obtained by the Star Sunday suggest the extent to which Poilievre’s support did overshadow his rivals.

Party figures circulated mid-June about online sales suggest in Charest’s home province of Quebec, the former premier sold 8,587 memberships via his campaign’s online portal.

Poilievre sold 25,453.

Charest said he intends to remain loyal to and active in the party, though will now return to his work in the private sector.

“Now is time for us to prepare the next election campaign and to unite behind the new leader,” he said in a six-minute video posted online Sunday.

That preparation more or less began Sunday. The Star has learned one of Poilievre’s first moves was to immediately notify members of the Conservative Fund of Canada, the fundraising arm of the party, they are all being replaced.

That includes the head of the fund, James Dodds, an ally of Erin O’Toole’s who was appointed to the job after O’Toole won the leadership in 2020.

The party membership sales figures obtained by the Star pull back the curtain on a question that’s loomed over the final months of the race — what about Patrick Brown’s support?

The Brampton mayor and former MP was in the running for the leadership, and had claimed to have sold 150,000 memberships.

He was then disqualified in July after allegations his campaign broke elections financing law, which he disputes.

The data obtained by the Star puts his final membership number from online sales at just over 62,308, with 41,782 of those in Ontario. Those numbers are from before the party also reviewed suspicious sales linked to Brown.

Brown’s bid had been seen as crucial to Charest’s success.

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Before his ouster, they were counting on his supporters choosing Charest as their number two in the ranked ballot the party uses.

After he was booted, some of his campaign organizers were hired by the Charest team to try to still win over those members.

But ridings in which it was believed Brown would be the most competitive — the five seats around Brampton among them — were all handily won by Poilievre.

Charest’s campaign took pains to point out that by the measure of any previous leadership race, they would have been well-placed to win.

For example, while final fundraising numbers are still coming in, they say they’ve raised around $4 million, comparable to what second-place finisher Peter MacKay raised in the 2020 contest.

In that contest though, there were only 270,000 members signed up to vote.

This race had 678,000, and the party figures confirmed what Poilievre’s camp had claimed — he sold more than 311,000 of those cards.

Charest sold 23,946, according to the data obtained by the Star.

“We were up against the best,” said Macdonald. “Our votes were just not there.”

The same could be said for third-place finisher Lewis.

In the 2020 leadership race, she had more of the popular vote than any of her three rivals on the second round of counting, and finished with 30 per cent overall support.

In this contest, she emerged with just 11 per cent of the popular vote, and 9.69 per cent of the points, though she did come in second place in Western provinces, according to analysis by the Writ’s Eric Grenier.

The party’s internal data showed 13,396 memberships were sold by her campaign.

Her team had previously accused Poilievre’s of duping her supporters into thinking they didn’t have cards when they did, and signing them up.

In a statement to her supporters, Lewis said she’ll remain a loyal member of the team and that Poilievre has her confidence.

“We have hope that a strong Conservative Opposition can push back the decline of our democracy and can restore our foundations as a country,” she said.

“We must, and we will, confront the challenges ahead with courage, wisdom and compassion.”

Poilievre is set to meet with the party’s MPs and senators on Monday morning.

The House of Commons had been scheduled to resume on Sept. 19, but that’s now been pushed back a day to account for Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral, though MPs will gather later this week for commemorations.

Stephanie Levitz is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @StephanieLevitz

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