The president of the organization representing Conservatives in the riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands said his party is on the rise as the leadership race heads to its conclusion on Sept. 10.
“We came second to the Green Party in the last election and I think the Greens are slowly getting weaker,” said Michael Dickerson, president of the Saanich-Gulf Islands Conservative Association. “So I expect the next election is going to be a lot closer and I think we got a good chance.”
Dickerson said the leadership race has sparked a surge in new memberships and interest in the party, when asked why he believed his party was on the rise.
“In terms of the Greens, I don’t need to explain all the internal problems that they have had,” he said. “They lost a lot of credibility.”
He made these comments Tuesday morning after the leading candidate in the leadership race — Pierre Poilievre — drew an estimated crowd in excess of 1,200 people to Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre. Dickerson said he did not attend Poilievre’s appearance for scheduling reasons, not having received much advance notice. “But a lot of people from our group were there and the reports I got were that it was a very impressive crowd and a very lively crowd,” he said.
Poilievre spoke for about 20 minutes Sunday evening during his second stop on Vancouver Island that day. He had earlier spoken in Nanaimo. He spent Monday in Vancouver.
Also running for the leadership is former Quebec premier Jean Charet, who helped lead the federal forces during the last referendum on Quebec’s sovereignty in 1995, Scott Aitchison, Roman Barber and Leslyn Lewis. All candidates had visited Vancouver Island during the campaign with all but Lewis coming through Greater Victoria. Aitchison, in fact, attended the association’s annual barbecue earlier this summer as the only candidate to accept the association’s invitation.
Experts consider Poilievre and Charest the front-runners to replace outgoing leader Erin O’Toole, whom Conservative MPs pushed out of office in early February 2022. O’Toole himself had replaced Andrew Scheer in early 2020.
Dickerson said it is not clear whom local Tories favour. “Most people believe (Poilievre) is the front-runner,” said Dickerson.”But you can’t tell until the votes are counted.”
Overall, the campaign has invigorated the local association, said Dickerson. He said local memberships have doubled since the start of the leadership campaign, now standing at 1,200 members.
“It’s the highest level (of local memberships) we ever had and obviously there is a lot of excitement around the party for the first time in a while,” he said. “It is a credit to Pierre and a credit to all the other candidates who have been working hard to generate interest.”
Dickerson said the current minority government of Liberal Justin Trudeau is deeply unpopular and voters are looking for alternatives.
Leadership ballots must be received by the Conservative Party by 2 p.m. Pacific time on Sept. 6.
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