Former British Columbia Premier Christy Clark on Wednesday endorsed Jean Charest to be the next leader of the federal Conservatives, at a time when she says the party is running on edge.
He also revealed the choice words for a pitch from a front-runner in Alberta’s United Conservative Party leadership contest who has vowed to introduce legislation to override the federal laws.
“I think it’s bat-shit crazy,” Clark said of Daniel Smith’s proposed Alberta Sovereignty Act.
Clark’s comments followed an impassioned speech in Edmonton to a roomful of conservatives gathered to discuss the federal party’s need to stay closer to the political center.
The event was hosted by the Center Ice Conservatives, an advocacy group formed at the start of the Tories’ leadership contest to encourage candidates to focus on issues such as the economy.
It argues that championing affordability measures resonate more with mainstream Canadians than others, such as fighting pandemic-related health restrictions, which have become a rallying cry for many in conservative movements.
Its co-founder Rick Peterson participated in the party’s 2017 leadership contest and has said the new group will not endorse a candidate in the current race.
Clark was the keynote speaker at Wednesday’s event and was only prompted to comment on the competition to replace Alberta Premier Jason Kenney as UCP leader when asked by an audience member.
Clark, who previously led the centre-right BC Liberal Party, spoke for about 20 minutes about the need for political leaders to focus on what Canadians have in common and not block division.
He accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of dividing the country when he said the views of “Freedom Caravan” protesters, who blocked roads and highways to protest Covid-19 vaccination orders last winter, were unacceptable. were
Clark said that politicians who divide create opportunities for others to do the same.
“Now we’re seeing the Conservative Party of Canada head into its race to play to the very edge of the political divide,” he said.
“I think some days their rhetoric is just as bad or worse.”
His comments come as party members have less than a month left to vote to elect the next leader.
The race, which began in February, has been a battle for the soul and future direction of the party.
The main rivalry has been between longtime Conservative MP Pierre Poilivre, who is running on a broad campaign message of “independence,” and former Quebec premier Jean Charest, who has denounced the convoy as flouting the rule of law.
Of the 678,000 Conservative members eligible to vote in the race, the party reports that around 174,000 ballots have been returned before September 6. Deadline
Speaking Wednesday, Clarke said she recently received her ballot in the mail and will vote in the contest.
“I think Jean Charest would be an excellent prime minister,” he said.