Canadian Conservative Party members are marking their mail-in ballots to choose their candidate for the role of Prime Minister of Canada. More than 269,000 members, the highest number ever, will be deciding between four candidates. The fact that the membership has increased, even during COVID-19, means something is up.
That something is candidate Leslyn Lewis. She brings a new immigrant’s passion, innovation, and work ethic to the Conservative leadership race. Her modern take on conservative values is obvious in every answer she gives. Whether the question is about racism, the economy, government debt, international relations, crime, or First Nations issues, her answers are not picked-out-of-a-box of stuffy. It is obvious that between growing up as one of five children in an immigrant family, being a young single mom, and earning several degrees and a doctorate, she has thought long and hard about better solutions than what the Liberals, Greens, or NDP are offering.
Lewis has the values required to renew the Conservative vision for Canada that I have written about previously. To appeal to modern voters, a Conservative candidate must be able to respond to modern concerns with a Conservative solution and believe that Conservatives have better solutions. She has this refreshing ability in spades and has upped the campaign dialogue substantially. Unafraid to speak to any topic, she gives clear, nuanced, smart, conservative answers; answers which seem to come from her heart, her experience as an immigrant, and her years of experience practicing law.
A visible minority woman, she has insight into the current racial tensions that the other candidates can only learn about. Her statements about this have been, roughly paraphrased: “It is a conservative value to ensure that every Canadian gets equal treatment. Wherever systemic racism is found, we must remove it, so that everyone has an equal playing field.”
Lewis highlights the belief in the socially conservative values of freedom of choice and freedom of conscience, allowing those principles to override her personal socially conservative beliefs. She speaks strongly about the right for families to raise their children without government interference and personal choice for issues like same-sex marriage and abortion.
Asked what is the most pressing issue for Canada, more experienced politicians would not have said national unity. But she did because she seems willing to tackle the hard but urgent issues. This has helped to drive the campaign in the direction of finding what unifies us rather than what divides us. There is much work to be done there, and Lewis may be the one to unite our country that has been fractured by campaigns that pit us against each other.
Asked about the UN, her answers are nuanced by her own experience as an international trade and environment lawyer. She knows there are parts of the UN that mesh perfectly with a conservative, pro-trade, pro-friendly relations agenda, but she also knows that a Prime Minister must protect Canada’s sovereignty as the first responsibility; she sees the UN as there to serve countries, and not govern them, so she has no reluctance to state that she would pick and choose carefully only those UN agreements and initiatives which benefit Canada.
It is no wonder that during the first English debate, the most used phrase from the other candidates was “as Dr. Lewis said…”