Heather Leung could still land in the Conservative caucus despite being disavowed by her party’s lead, according to an outgoing MP and former leadership contender.
On Friday, the Tories issued a statement saying, “Heather Leung is no longer representing the Conservative Party of Canada in the riding of Burnaby North-Seymour.”
The party cited “offensive comments” Leung has made in the past, including saying LGBTQ people were trying to recruit children and accused them of being “perverted.”
The statement, however, came after a Sept. 30 Elections Canada registration deadline, meaning the Conservatives won’t be able to nominate a new candidate and Leung will still appear on the ballot, identified as a Conservative.
On Monday, the riding’s Green Party opponent, Amita Kuttner, issued a press release calling on Leung to take down all her lawn signs identifying her as a Conservative candidate. Kuttner also called on Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer to “remind voters that a vote for Leung is not a vote for the Conservative Party.”
“We’re not taking down our signs because there’s no point taking down our signs,” said Travis Trost, Leung’s campaign manager.
Trost said Leung is still campaigning as a Conservative because that’s how she will be identified on the ballot.
“I just find that reality is at this point that Conservative is next to her name; the ballots are printed. What am I supposed to tell people when they're voting? That's how they'll be able to recognize her name,” he said.
“We are still busy and we're still busy campaigning and we want to try to be as accurate as possible, but I think you can appreciate this is a weird situation at this point. I agree it's really weird at this point, because the national party has cut her loose.”
In an email, Conservative Party spokesperson Morgan Swan said, “Ms. Leung is no longer our candidate and has been told she cannot use our party’s name or logo or represent herself as the Conservative candidate.”
Swan was asked whether the party had any way to enforce this demand. At time of writing, she did not respond.
An Elections Canada spokesperson confirmed Leung would appear as a Conservative candidate on the ballot and that she remains the party’s “duly elected candidate.”
“If she were to win, it would be recorded as a CPC win. She is not running as an independent,” Andrea Marantz said in an email.
If Leung is elected Oct. 21, what happens next could be determined by her caucus colleagues rather than Scheer, according to outgoing Saskatchewan MP Brad Trost.
Brad Trost, a former leadership contender and brother to Leung’s campaign manager, said his party’s caucus could use a secret-ballot mechanism for determining which MPs are in its caucus.
“Scheer, after Sept. 30, doesn't have the power to say whether she's in or out of the Conservatives. That power rests solely to the voters of Burnaby North-Seymour and to elected Conservative members, should they choose to accept that authority,” Brad Trost said.
Asked whether Conservative MPs would choose to bring Leung within the fold against their leader’s wishes, he said, “It would depend on the results of the election and what's going on internally in the party.
“If they had won a government, not a chance. If they suffer a loss to the Liberals and there's unhappiness with Andrew Scheer, well then I think there's a good chance she would be accepted. Maybe not right away, but possibly in a year or so.”
Brad Trost said he would not have dropped Leung from the party had he been leader.
“I haven't seen all of the remarks, but I do know Heather, have known her for a few years off and on. She's a fine lady. She works hard on a lot of issues.”
The former MP said he knows Leung holds “traditional” views, opposing same-sex marriage and sexual education programs designed by “left-of-centre governments” but her remarks may have “come across a little harsh because English is not her first language.”
Asked about Leung continuing to campaign as a Conservative, Brad Trost said, “The reality is, she actually is a Conservative candidate and there's nothing the Conservatives can do to change it … If she can pull off the upset and win, she will be there, voting against Justin Trudeau and the agenda of whatever the Liberals have.”