Will the Liberals’ handgun crackdown spur interest in the Conservative leadership race?

OTTAWA — The latest push to sell memberships in the Conservative Party leadership race is on and the final tally is the help of two recent Liberal politicians.

The deadline for all six candidates to sign up new members to support their bids is Friday at 11:59 p.m., and sales are expected to top 400,000.

Much of that will be thanks to the candidates themselves, who have been aggressively courting supporters since the race began in February, both renewing outdated members and signing new ones.

In recent days, they’ve raised the bar: this week Patrick Brown’s team went live via Twitter and Instagram, while on Tuesday night Pierre Poilievre’s campaign launched an old-fashioned telethon , streamed live online.

Many MPs supporting Poilievre ran phone banks across the country, trying to sell memberships and also defend Poilievre.

The team made nearly 10,000 calls overnight.

But how many members they — or any of the other campaigns — have specifically signed up is a closely guarded secret.

It’s also an issue that campaigns are currently grappling with – surging sales are straining party infrastructure, creating delays in sending new lists to candidates and, in turn, hampering efforts to contact new members.

But forces bigger than campaign marketing moxy are also at play.

The leak of a US Supreme Court ruling that would strike down abortion rights in that country, and the Liberal government’s subsequent announcement of increased funding for abortion services, galvanized social conservatives, injecting renewed financial and membership support to candidate Leslyn Lewis.

Meanwhile, anti-abortion group Right Now claimed on Wednesday that it alone sold 6,000 race memberships, after spending two months traveling to more than two dozen cities.

“If every member of our database sells three additional memberships to family and friends by Friday’s deadline, pro-life voters can massively increase our influence and win,” they wrote in an email. -mail sent to their followers.

The Liberals’ announcement this week of an upcoming freeze on handgun sales could do for the race what their May 2020 executive order banning 1,500 other types of firearms did for the campaign in leadership that year, conservative insiders told the Star.

“It could be quite significant,” said a longtime curator.

The 2020 announcement came two weeks before season ticket sales ended, and multiple campaign sources told The Star it had led to a massive surge in sales, especially in rural Quebec.

In this province, the number of members is traditionally quite low.

Candidates able to increase support in smaller constituencies gain an advantage in the point system the party uses to elect a leader: each constituency is worth 100 points, and candidates get a share of the points that matches their total vote.

That’s why in this race, some candidates have focused less on large-scale membership sales and more on targeting ridings with typically low membership numbers: the GTA, the Atlantic provinces and Colombia. -British.

In 2020, the main beneficiary of this strategy was Erin O’Toole, whose stance on guns was seen as tougher than his main rival, Peter MacKay.

O’Toole would go on to win Quebec, with a leading gun advocate in that province, Guy Morin, publicly claiming credit for the victory.

When O’Toole then flip-flopped on his gun policy in the 2021 election, many gun advocates felt burned.

Morin told his own supporters this spring that the primary task of any new leadership candidate is to rebuild trust with this movement.

He now supports Poilievre, who has also won accolades from the Canadian Shooting Sport Association (CSSA) and the Canadian Coalition for Gun Rights (CCFR).

Canadian political rock star rocks CSSA’s ‘Stick to your Guns’ dinner,” read a headline recently posted on the band’s website.

Both groups have also been active in criticizing candidate Jean Charest, pointing to his support for gun regulation during his tenure as premier of Quebec, and the CSSA has also warned against its members supporting Brown on ethical grounds.

While conservatives accused liberals of politicizing the shooting deaths of 19 children and two teachers in Texas earlier this month, Brown announced an element of his own gun policy the same day: a pledge to scrap the entire gun law and start from scratch. , a question that has already been asked by the gun lobby.

Charest, Lewis and Poilievre suggested looking into it, and all say more needs to be done to tackle gun smuggling and crime.

Scott Aitchison is expected to outline his approach on guns later this week, while Roman Baber said the focus should be on stopping the flow of guns into Canada.

The fact that the handgun freeze could come at any time — the Liberals have said it could be in place by the fall — could result in a last-minute surge this time around or be used as a a way to earn existing ones after the deadline. , said the insider.

“The firearms community is very well connected to each other, they know who they are and how to mobilize,” they said.

“The sense of urgency might even help.”

The new leader is expected to be announced on September 10.

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