Conservative leadership candidate Roman Baber said it would be an “error” to suggest his Conservative leadership bid is all about COVID-19 and lockdowns.
The former Ontario PC MPP – ousted from Premier Doug Ford’s government over his opposition to pandemic public health measures – is instead framing his campaign around what he called an “erosion” of Canadian democracy.
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Still, in a conversation with The West Block guest host David Akin, Baber drew attention to the millions of unvaccinated Canadians unable to board a plane or train due to the federal government’s vaccine mandate.
“Many Canadians are forced to choose between their health and their ability to put food on the table,” Baber said in an interview, referring to Canadians who refuse to get the jab.
(Canadian health regulators – alongside health authorities the world over – agree that COVID-19 vaccines are a safe and effective way to protect populations against the deadly pandemic. Nearly 85 per cent of all Canadians have had at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccines.)
But Baber said his supporters are “a truly grassroots movement” of Canadians across the country “concerned about the erosion of Canada’s democracy and Canada’s opportunity.”
“Our message … is resonating with voters. And we’re in the habit of exceeding expectations with our campaign,” Baber added.
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Baber is not a household name in Canadian politics, but he was able to get over the Conservative leadership’s most significant hurdle – raising $300,000 in fees and compliance deposits – to earn a podium at the leadership debates and have his name on the final ballot.
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Pushing back against suggestions he’s a one-issue candidate, Baber promised “robust” natural resources and housing plans, accused the Bank of Canada of “printing money” and said Canada’s national debt – the lowest in the G7 – is “unsustainable.”
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“But beyond that … we just saw the seizing of bank accounts without a court order, using what I believe to be, eventually what would be found an unlawful emergency declaration,” Baber said, referring to the couple hundred Canadians who had their bank accounts temporarily frozen during the convoy protests in Ottawa.
“We see Quebec Bill 21, which prevents Canadians from practicing their faith without a bona fide occupational requirement. And so I think that there are a lot of Canadians watching what’s presently transpiring in our country, who think that we need to restore our democratic principles.”
Asked why Conservative members should choose him over candidates like Leslyn Lewis or perceived frontrunner Pierre Poilievre – who have espoused similar positions during the race – Baber heaped praise on his rivals.
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But Baber also raised a few points of contrast with Polievre, who has been drawing significant crowds as he tours the country in pursuit of the leadership.
“For instance, I oppose Quebec Bill 21,” Baber said, referring to the provincial law banning the wearing of religious symbols by many public servants.
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“I’m not sure that Pierre has the same position. I would also not seek to protect supply management, I would seek to phase it out. If Mr. Poilievre proposes that we should eliminate ‘gatekeepers,’ then we should certainly not place quotas on how much dairy we can produce.”
Poilievre has called Bill 21 “wrong” and said while he respects Quebec’s right to legislate, he hoped the province would repeal the bill.
Conservative leadership hopefuls had until Friday afternoon to submit the full $300,000 entry fee to have their name on the final ballot. As of the deadline, there were six “verified” candidates – Poilievre, Lewis, Baber, Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, former Quebec Premier Jean Charest, and Conservative MP Scott Aitchison.
The campaigns have until June 2 to sign up members to support their bid – a crucial component in any Conservative leadership race – and the next leader will be announced in September.
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