Q & A
Cape Breton native comes home to talk to Conservative Party members
Conservative Party leadership hopeful Lisa Raitt talks to the Post.
Whitney Pier native Lisa Raitt is one of 13 candidates still in the running for the federal Conservative leadership. She was in Sydney Monday and met with the Cape Breton Post for an interview. The leadership election will take place May 27. The interview has been edited for length.
Q : How is the campaign going so far?
A: It’s going really well. I’ve been travelling on the East Coast swing. I did a West Coast swing about three weeks ago, so it was Whitehorse, Vancouver Island, the Vancouver area, the debate was on Wednesday night, (I) got a great response from the debate and then headed right away to Moncton, so Moncton, Charlottetown, Malpec … Summerside, back down to Amherst, New Glasgow, Port Hawkesbury, here in Sydney and back to Ontario (Monday night) and then Ottawa (Tuesday).
It’s very busy. This is getting out the vote time, so people have their ballots and as my sisters reminded me here, they’re getting 17 calls a night from all the different candidates who want to have that last pitch, so that’s why it’s important for me to be here in person. And I’m sending out emails, I’m sending out video emails, I’m doing everything that everybody else is doing just to get that vote out.
Q : And the way the vote is structured, it seems it’s important to hit as many as possible, where every riding is equal.
A: Every riding is equal so here in Cape Breton, for example, I think it doubled your membership in some of these ridings, I know for a fact you doubled the membership over in Port Hawkesbury-Canso, so it’s important to try to reach those new members because we wouldn’t have met them before and to just pitch them on why I think I’m the best leader. It’s different dealing with a riding with 150 members than it is dealing with a riding with 15,000 members, because they exist out there as well. That’s why the smaller ridings are important, like the ones I’ve been going through in the past couple of weeks.
Q : Maxine Bernier was here, what do you take from the fact that another candidate decided to come here as well?
A: Andrew Saxton was here (Sunday) too, we both actually addressed the Sydney-Victoria AGM, and that’s great. It’s a preferential ranked ballot, so it’s more than just one person on the ballot and if your first choice doesn’t make it through to the end then you want to make sure you have a say on who eventually the leader will be or who the leader will not be and that’s why it’s important to vote as far down the list as you want to vote down the list.
Conservatives want to know who they’re voting for and these in-person kind of dropins do matter.
Q : What’s your big weakness?
A: French. The fact that the fear is that I’m not going to be able to learn the language is
the biggest concern, that’s kind of a positive, because when you put me up against the whole crew in terms of my qualifications, I’m the most qualified up there. I have the most cabinet experience; I’m the only one that’s ever been a CEO of a major organization; I’ve built airports; I’ve built ports; I’m a mother of two teenagers, makes me very unique from anyone else in terms of perspectives of what is important in life, what’s important for our country, and no one else shared that on that panel. If I were perfectly bilingual today, I think that this race would be me at the top, for sure.
Q : Where do you think you lie in the contest right now?
A: It’s hard to tell from polling. It would appear that Max (Bernier) has a lot of popular support, but you can’t tell where it is. It’s 100 points a riding, so what if you have 25 per cent of a Brampton riding with 16,000 members, if I have 100 per cent or 90 per cent of a Cape Breton riding, we get the same amount of points. That’s the beautiful part about how we’ve structured this leadership race and we’ve got to thank Peter MacKay for that because he was the one that was adamant that we had to have 100 points per riding so you didn’t have this populist thing.
Max is polling at the beginning, Andrew Scheer has got lots of support out west and is translating; Erin O’Toole, me, Michael Chong, Kellie Leitch, we’re all in that area, but no one’s winning on the first ballot, so we’re all in the race and I’ll keep going.
Q : Has there been anything that surprised you about the campaign?
A: No, other than there are 13 people in it, that’s been the big surprise. I really would have thought that we’d be down to five candidates, to be able to discern a lot more than just a couple of soundbites. What are you going to know about Lisa Raitt? Cabinet experience, woman, mother, Ontario, Cape Breton, that’s it. Erin O’Toole — Canadian Forces, cabinet, competence, Ontario, French. Andrew
Scheer — used to be Speaker, Saskatchewan, nice, French. Maxime Bernier — supply management, get rid of CRTC, get rid of CBC, French and English.
What about the other things like judgment and how you perform under pressure and how good you are in a oneon-one debate? None of those things are coming out, we’re all running on a paper resume, and that I find unfortunate because we may get a big surprise on how people actually manage.
It’s challenging for the voter to make a decision based on anything more in-depth than what you’re reading on a piece of paper or seeing in a 30-second clip.
Q : Is there one particular message that you would like to get out?
A: I think in 2019 there’s a good chance that we can replace the current Liberal government, but I also know that we’re not going to do it if we run on extreme policies, if we divide our people, if you appear to be arrogant or if you appear to not have consideration or compassion for those who don’t do as well as you. Those are the qualities that I bring to the table, that’s how I got elected in Ontario, because that big red wave came through hard and I was able to stop it because I built a nice, community, part of my community in Milton, Ont. and they gave me the benefit of the doubt that I was a worthy member of Parliament despite the fact that they did not like my leader.
You’re not going to win the hearts and minds of Atlantic Canadians by saying things that are extreme because we’re not extreme by nature.
Lisa Raitt answers questions about her Conservative leadership bid during an interview with the Cape Breton Post on Monday. The 48-year-old MP for the Ontario riding of Milton is a native of Whitney Pier.