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Charest Wins First English Debate

The first all-candidates English debate for the Conservative Party leadership was filled with rhetoric and lots of promises

Through the first Conservative debate, the public got their first assessment of the candidates’ positions and commitments on significant issues affecting Canadians. Every Candidate made lofty promises but fell short on specifics as to how they planned to pay for them. With one notable exception, Charest seemed best poised to deliver on his promises.

By: Charlotte Hui

Six of the candidates participating in the debate are:

  • Scott Aitchison: Real estate agents, Mayor of Huntsville.
  • Roman Baber: Lawyer, member of the Ontario Provincial Parliament for York Centre.
  • Patrick Brown: Lawyer, Mayor of Brampton.
  • Jean Charest: Lawyer, former premier of Quebec.
  • Leslyn Lewis: Lawyer, the only minority female candidate.
  • Pierre Poilievre: Shadow Minister for Finance.

Here’s a snapshot of where they stand on economy and inflation, housing, climate, defense and foreign policy, social issues, and child care.

Economy and Inflation

  • Scott Aitchison: Aitchison thinks the federal government should lower taxes and balance its budget.
  • Roman Baber: When it comes to the economy, Baber only mentions the negative impact of the lockdown on small businesses and workers.
  • Patrick Brown: Brown pointed to his experience as mayor lowering taxes and balancing budgets and noted the positive impact of ending restrictions on small businesses during the pandemic.
  • Jean Charest: Charest has promised to cut taxes, balance the budget, manage federal spending, and get Canadians’ wages to rise.
  • Leslyn Lewis: Lewis promised to eliminate the deficit, balance the budget over time, cut red tape, and make small and medium-sized businesses the leading employers of Canadians.
  • Pierre Poilievre: Poilievre promises to improve the deficit over time by cutting spending and changing liberal party policies. He is a big supporter of cryptocurrencies, promising to make Canada the “Blockchain Capital of the World.”


  • Scott Aitchison: Aitchison states he will use federal funds to build more new homes, bulldoze land and take in more skilled workers.
  • Roman Baber: Baber promises a great housing plan but has not released details.
  • Patrick Brown: Brown called for cutting red tape to increase supply, tightening the rental market, developing an Aboriginal housing strategy, and building more affordable housing.
  • Jean Charest: Charest’s “Building the Canadian Dream Plan” will tie infrastructure funding to significant densification near new transit built with federal funds; simplify and digitize the permitting process; restore tax incentives for new multi-home rental developments to encourage investment in affordable housing; and review all 37,000 national properties.
  • Leslyn Lewis: Solve a housing problem by “removing the red tape that slows down development and drives up prices.”
  • Pierre Poilievre: Reduce the administrative costs of building homes to build more homes in response to the housing crisis.


  • Scott Aitchison: Scrapping the carbon tax. Aitchison promises a plan to tackle climate change, but not by increasing the carbon tax.
  • Roman Baber: Baber thinks Canada should develop clean energy and abolish the carbon tax.
  • Patrick Brown: Brown will orchestrate a membership-wide consultant on climate policy. He supports eliminating the carbon tax and legislating to give provincial authorities sole jurisdiction over setting caps on greenhouse gas emissions from specific industries.
  • Jean Charest: Developing the “Environment and Clean Growth” program to promote investment in areas such as carbon dioxide removal; Supporting the development of clean energy; Legislation to introduce “Right to Repair” for electronic equipment, agricultural equipment, and vehicles; Scrap the Liberals’ carbon tax and replace it with a price on industrial carbon.
  • Leslyn Lewis: Eliminate the carbon tax, reduce emissions, encourage people to recycle, and make Canada an independent energy nation. Lewis does not support expensive electric car schemes.
  • Pierre Poilievre: Poilievre promises to scrap the carbon tax, stop importing Canadian oil from abroad within five years, and repeal bills C-69 and C-48.

Defense and Foreign Policy

  • Scott Aitchison: Aitchison will spend 2% of GDP on defense and repair the military procurement process.
  • Roman Baber: Baber has yet to come up with any defense solutions.
  • Patrick Brown: Brown promised to increase defense spending.
  • Jean Charest: Charest promises to boost defense spending; expand the Canadian Armed Forces training system; increase troop strength to 100,000; invest in cybersecurity and restore the pre-2006 Pension Act Benefits System.
  • Leslyn Lewis: Lewis believes that the Russia-Ukraine war showed Canada’s lack of energy security, so it should vigorously develop Canada’s oil and gas industry.
  • Pierre Poilievre: Poilievre accused the federal government of being too slow to support Ukraine and providing more lethal aid and military equipment. The federal government should expel Russian diplomats, provide more humanitarian assistance, and export oil and gas to Europe.

Social Issues and Child Care

  • Scott Aitchison: Aitchison supports passing the conversion therapy ban and supports Transgender Day of Visibility, abortion should be voted on by MPs, and against COVID-19 vaccine regulations.
  • Roman Baber: Baber has been talking about the impact of the lockdown on people’s mental health. He proposed a national plan for childhood autism, investing $500 million a year in autism treatment.
  • Patrick Brown: Brown will set up more nurseries, provide different types of childcare services, make sure small business parents can get the same parental leave benefits, and would not change abortion laws.
  • Jean Charest: Charest supports a woman’s right to choose and opposes legislation restricting reproductive rights. Charest promises to introduce a childcare tax credit, extend eligibility for Canadian Child Benefit to the beginning of the second trimester and extend parental leave benefits to two years.
  • Leslyn Lewis: Lewis promised to increase child benefits, improve local childcare deals, and fight COVID-19 vaccine regulations.
  • Pierre Poilievre: Poilievre has always supported Canadians’ “freedom” — the idea that Canadians should regain control of their lives — so he opposes the COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Poilievre had opposed gay marriage in previous votes, but he supported the conversion therapy ban.


Roman Baber has yet to develop concrete proposals on many of the main issues, while Jean Charest is prepared with plans and promises. Pierre Poilievre played to the far right and loyal conservatism, while Leslyn Lewis focused on social policy issues and programs.