OTTAWA—Winning the leadership of the federal Conservative party means candidates will have to sign up thousands of members.
But before they even get there, there’s a Facebook friend they must make first.
To qualify to run, would-be candidates have to complete a 44-page application that takes a deep dive into their personal and professional lives, including full disclosure of their social media footprint.
In addition to providing links to their various profiles, candidates must download their entire Twitter history and submit it to the leadership race’s organizing committee.
For Facebook, they’re required to submit a friend request to an account identified as “Jessica Richmond” in order to allow a review of their content.
This year’s ask for social media content goes farther than past contests; the application for leadership candidates in both 2020 and 2016 only required links to their accounts.
The extensive probe reflects the perennial election issue of candidates being green-lit to run for elections only to have controversial social media posts surface and derail their campaign.
How much digging the party is doing right now is unclear.
Some leadership candidates, like Pierre Poilievre, have been active on social platforms for years and have thousands of videos, photos and posts organizers would potentially have to review.
Jean Charest, by contrast, joined Twitter last month.
Both men, as well as Scott Aitchison, Patrick Brown, and Roman Baber have been approved as candidates to run in the contest, meaning the answers to the questionnaire passed muster and they’ve paid the first $50,000 of the registration fee.
To get on the ballot now, they have until April 29 to pay the full $300,000 fee and submit 500 signatures in support of their nomination.
The only candidate to hit that benchmark so far is Leslyn Lewis.
There are seven other potential contenders trying to register. The cut-off is April 19.
Aside from the social media element, the candidate questionnaire — a copy of which was obtained by the Star — probes nearly every element of a candidate’s financial, professional and personal history.
Among the dozens of questions: whether a candidate has ever been accused of improper sexual behaviour, or activities that promote discrimination or hatred. There’s also questions as to whether a candidate has ever been investigated by police or is aware of any potential lawsuits that could be filed against them.
They’re also asked about potential conflicts of interest and how they’d manage them, whether they’ve ever been associated with “any groups that promote the secession of any province or region of Canada,” and whether they’ve ever been discharged, suspended or asked to resign from any employment.
Candidates must also open up their credit histories and submit to a criminal reference check.
In the introduction to the questionnaire, the party says it asks the questions for four reasons: to assess whether a candidate should seek the leadership, help the committee evaluate whether they are suitable, help prepare for the candidate interview and “provide the party with information for election readiness and strategy.”
Insiders tell the Star that no single answer would outright disqualify a candidate, and the leadership organizing committee has latitude to determine what past event is grievous enough to bar someone from seeking the job.
The Conservatives have disqualified people from running for the leadership before, and not because of answers on their questionnaire.
In the 2020 leadership race, Richard Décarie was told he wasn’t allowed to run, a move that came after he appeared on television making comments widely seen as homophobic.
In that same contest, Jim Karahalios did meet all the requirements to run, but was disqualified over allegations he made racist remarks about another candidate. He took the party to court, but lost.
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