Leadership candidates, left to right, Leslyn Lewis, Roman Baber, Jean Charest, Scott Aitchison, Patrick Brown, and Pierre Poilievre pose on stage following the Conservative Party of Canada English leadership debate in Edmonton, Alta. on May 11, 2022. It’s safe to say that Liberals are gathering up all the back-and-forth between the Conservative leadership contenders over the Patrick Brown expulsion, Susan Delacourt writes.

There is no Four Seasons landscaping outlet in Brampton, which is just as well.

Now that the Conservative leadership race has exploded over allegations of wrongdoing by newly-expelled candidate Patrick Brown, no one in the party should be inviting comparisons to the ongoing mess after the last U.S. presidential election.

Any suggestion that the whole contest is corrupt — as Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani famously declared at Four Seasons Total Landscaping in Philadelphia days after the 2020 vote — would only give more ammunition to those keen to see Canada’s Conservative party as a branch-plant operation of the U.S. Republicans.

This is the risk the Conservative party incurred by tossing Brown out of the contest late on Tuesday night, and as others have observed, that’s why the expulsion wasn’t likely done lightly.

“Disqualifying the second-place candidate in your leadership under scent of scandal?” Scott Reid, a former Liberal campaign strategist said on Twitter on Wednesday morning. “No sane operation wants to manage that. Bad for the brand.”

As Reid also pointed out, this isn’t even good for front-running candidate Pierre Poilievre, who presumably doesn’t want the prize on Sept. 10 to be a poisoned chalice.

What’s more, it’s in all the Conservatives’ interest to keep this leadership race from looking like a coronation for any candidate this summer. The trick of winning a leadership contest isn’t just signing up members, but getting those members to vote. Who’s going to bother to cast a ballot in a race that’s already decided?

This development is indeed bad for the brand. Jean Charest theoretically could reap some of the votes that would have gone to Brown — there have been suggestions, though denied, that there’s some kind of pact between the two candidates. If there is any nascent, anybody-but-Poilievre campaign simmering among the voting membership, Charest would presumably be the prime beneficiary.

But Charest was sending up flares of brand caution on Wednesday morning too, with an email to supporters describing the expulsion as “deeply troubling” all around.

“Party members deserve the truth. We need to understand what the allegations are, how Patrick Brown’s campaign responded and why (leadership election organizing committee) LEOC took such drastic action. Transparency is paramount,” said the email, signed by Charest’s communications director, Michelle Coates Mather.

Only some weeks ago, Charest was joking on Twitter that Poilievre was bringing enough American content to Canada. It was a lighthearted poke on the subject of funding for the CBC, but the former Quebec premier has been pretty steadily drawing lines between Poilievre and Trumpism south of the border.

At times it’s seemed that Poilievre doesn’t mind the comparison all that much — courting the convoy protesters, for instance — but going down the road of Trump’s “big lie” campaign doesn’t seem particularly astute for anyone in Canada right now.

On timing alone, the ongoing hearings into the Jan. 6 insurrection in the U.S. have demonstrated the peril of trashing the democratic process, as Trump and his enablers have. The revelations at those hearings should be sending chills down the spines of Americans, and Canadians too, who are being shown how easy it is to hurl democracy into chaos with some well-placed, even false accusations of a rigged system.

In short, this is the last thing the Conservative race needed right now.

One doesn’t even need to look south of the 49th parallel either to gauge the possible damage of Brown’s expulsion.

A bad day for the Conservatives is a good day for the Liberals and vice versa. Justin Trudeau’s Liberals were reasonably restrained in their glee on Wednesday morning, though the prime minister’s old principal secretary, Gerry Butts, permitted himself a poke at the inevitability of the result now.

“Dispensing with the need for a vote is on brand for today’s right wing political parties,” Butts said on Twitter.

It’s probably safe to bet that Liberals are gathering up all the back-and-forth between the Conservative leadership contenders over this new wrinkle in the race, particularly the hints about a dirty contest, for some future showdown with the opposition.

Earlier this year, Trudeau himself casually disparaged the leadership race as “farcical” during some back and forth with Conservatives in the Commons. If Brown or any other Conservatives are now using similar terms to describe what’s happened this week, it’s a good day indeed for the Liberals.

A very good day would be some kind of Conservative showdown at a landscaping headquarters in Brampton or elsewhere, but the party is no doubt aware that it’s very hard to grow respectability out of political dirt.


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By Jon Doe