BY SCOTT HAYWARD
“Disappointing results, especially with Charest winning second place.”
“I was hoping for a better result.”
These are some of the initial reactions we received from pro-lifers regarding the results of the 2022 Conservative Party of Canada leadership race. As you will recall, Pierre Poilievre won a resounding victory claiming over 70% of the raw vote and 68% of the points, which surprised no one except for perhaps a few hardcore Jean Charest or Patrick Brown supporters.
However, as disappointed pro-lifers are that Leslyn Lewis, the star of the 2020 leadership race only two years earlier finished third (again) in terms of points and raw votes, there merits some deeper reflection upon the result and what it means for pro-lifers going forward.
HOW DOES THIS COMPARE TO PAST LEADERSHIP RACES?
Firstly, let us be honest about the top line numbers and put things into a proper context.
There were over 400,000 ballots cast and counted in this leadership race, more than double the 2020 Conservative Party of Canada leadership race and more than four times the amount of people who voted in the leadership race that elected Justin Trudeau as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada in 2013.
In fact, let us take a brief look at the 2013 Liberal Party of Canada leadership race for comparison’s sake:
- The Liberals did not charge any fee to vote in their leadership race, unlike the Conservatives in 2022 ($15/membership)
- There were just over 100,000 Liberals who voted in the 2013 leadership race (around a 82% turnout rate), while over 400,000 vote in the 2022 Conservative leadership race with a turnout rate of around 65%
- Justin Trudeau won on the first ballot winning over 78% of the raw vote and over 80% of the points while Pierre Poilievre won his race with 71% of the raw vote and 68% of the points
- The Liberals did not charge any fee to vote in their leadership race, unlike the Conservatives in 2022 ($15/membership)
When Justin Trudeau won the leadership race, it was noted that it was the largest number of people to ever vote in a leadership race in Canadian history at that time. The media (rightfully) noted the impressive campaign that Trudeau’s team had ran to win the leadership in such a resounding fashion. That team would go on to take the Liberals from 36 seats and 19% of the vote won in the 2011 federal election (which earned them third party status in the House of Commons, a worst-ever status for the Liberals since Confederation) to winning over 180 seats and almost 40% of the vote (along with a solid majority government) four years later in the 2015 federal election, something that had never before occurred in federal Canadian politics.
The point of highlighting Trudeau and his team’s impressive leadership race and general election victories is to put into context what Pierre was able to accomplish in this latest leadership race, having earned higher numbers than Justin Trudeau in the 2013 Liberal leadership race.
HOW DID LESLYN DO?
In the 2022 Conservative Party of Canada leadership race, Leslyn Lewis was able to increase her raw vote compared to the 2020 leadership race by over 3,000 votes. This may not sound like a very large number and to be fair, it is not. However, if we consider that a significant amount of Leslyn’s 2020 vote shifted from her to Pierre in the 2022 leadership race, then it is impressive that she increased her vote total at all.
Assuming that one-third of those who voted for Leslyn in 2020 voted for Pierre in 2022, that means Leslyn’s campaign was able to find an additional 20,000 new voters in this leadership race.
Moreover, assuming that one-half of those who voted for Leslyn in 2020 voted for Pierre in 2022, that means Leslyn’s campaign was able to find an additional 25,000 new voters in this leadership race.
This is to say that Leslyn’s campaign was able to increase the number of new voters for her in this leadership race by around 20,000—25,000, or an increase of around 46%--58%. A lot of leadership candidates running a second time would be ecstatic if you told them that their raw vote would increase by 50% in the second leadership race.
While Leslyn did not place first in any of the 338 ridings across Canada (Pierre placed first in 330 ridings), she did increase her vote count in almost 75% of the ridings from 2020 to 2022.
WHAT IF PIERRE DIDN’T RUN?
Having spoken to team members from the various leadership campaigns, it seems most agreed that there would have been around 300,000 Conservative Party of Canada party members that would have casted a ballot in this leadership race if Pierre Poilievre had not run in the race. This means that approximately 40% of party members who placed Pierre first would not have cast a ballot or (more likely) would have not been members of the party.
Speaking to these same campaign team members, most suspect that just under 60% of those who cast a ballot with Pierre ranked in the first spot and had ranked other candidates behind him, ranked Leslyn Lewis in second with around another 40% for Roman Baber. The rest would have been split between Jean Charest and Scott Aitchison. Having spoken to scrutineers who were in the ballot counting room for the leadership race, this seems to have been the trend from their observation.
We know that the assumption of a high amount of Pierre-Leslyn switchers is reasonable, because we saw it in our own database amongst our own supporters, perhaps even by those reading this analysis now.
At the beginning of the 2022 Conservative Party of Canada leadership race in February 2022, RightNow conducted a survey amongst our supporters of who they would place first on their ballots if they were or planned to be members of the party. We conducted the same survey at the beginning of June 2022; check out the change:
Applying these reasonable assumptions, the result of the leadership race would have been the following on the first ballot:
Clearly, the party is heavily supportive of Leslyn Lewis as she would have had over 50% of the raw ballot votes and just under 47% of the points on the first ballot, had Pierre not ran. While it would not have been quite as resounding of a victory as it was for Pierre Poilievre or Justin Trudeau, it would have been tremendously successful for someone who was elected to public office just over 12 months ago in the 2021 federal election.
WHAT DID RIGHTNOW DO IN THE RACE?
The mission and goal of RightNow is to nominate and elect pro-life politicians, federally and provincially, across Canada. This includes federal and provincial party leadership races. Given that Leslyn Lewis is such a strong pro-life candidate, we were compelled to help her as best we could when she announced that she would be running for the leadership of the party.
RightNow got to work contacting our key supporters across Canada in specific ridings and amongst specific communities to sell memberships to their personal networks on behalf of the Leslyn Lewis campaign. We were able to track their membership sales through an automated method. We were able to find, train, and engage hundreds of sales captains in every part of Canada to support the Lewis campaign.
RightNow also contacted each leadership candidate and conducted an interview, as we always do for political party leadership races. For the first time, all five leadership candidates responded positively to our interview request. From this, we were able to provide a recommended ranked ballot to our supporters voting in the leadership race.
At the beginning of the leadership race, the COVID-19 gathering and travel restrictions were beginning to be lifted by the provincial and federal governments. Given that Alissa was going on maternity leave, we hired Gaby Fernandes to cover Alissa during her maternity leave. Gaby was able to go on tour through Atlantic Canada and British Columbia during May 2022 (prior to the membership sales deadline at the beginning of June 2022), visiting provinces, ridings, and communities that RightNow (or frankly, any national political pro-life organization) has not visited for decades, if ever. Simultaneously, we had a similar tour occurring in southern Ontario.
These tours were able to establish new pro-life contacts, increase RightNow’s database, but most importantly to sell political party memberships to pro-lifers across Canada in key ridings so they could vote for the pro-life leadership candidate, Leslyn Lewis.
By going on tour and meeting people on the ground, we were able to provide them direct information on the leadership race, answer their questions and concerns, and inform people as to who was actually pro-life and who was not pro-life. It was eye-opening to see how many pro-life party members who were not in our database at that time were assigning a pro-life label to pro-abortion leadership candidates, such as Pierre Poilievre. It was equally eye-opening to see how quickly pro-lifers changed their votes to Leslyn Lewis once they were informed of Pierre’s pro-abortion voting record in the House of Commons and pro-abortion statements he made during the leadership race debates.
One instance involved Gaby speaking to a Christian congregation in rural Newfoundland who were strongly pro-life. Everyone in the congregation from the pastor down through the congregants were intending on voting for Pierre. Once Gaby went through her presentation, which informs people on the pro-life record of Leslyn Lewis and the pro-abortion records of the four other candidates (including that of Pierre Poilievre), the pastor announced that he would be voting for Leslyn and everyone followed suit.
Finally, we emailed, texted, pre-recorded called, and live called all of our supporters in our database to encourage them to purchase a membership to vote in the leadership race. While emails and pre-recorded calls are relatively inexpensive, text messaging cost us thousands of dollars as it costs $0.05/text (with 30,000 supporters, you can imagine how quickly that adds up!). RightNow was able to work with other pro-life organizations, such as 4 MY Canada, to recruit and engage volunteers to conduct live phone calls through our list. In the final 48 hours, live phone callers sold over 1,000 additional pro-life memberships to the party.
Between airline tickets to fly Gaby to Atlantic Canada and British Columbia, car rentals, gas, food, some hotel fees (we try to stay with host homes as often as possible to reduce costs, but it is not always an option), and text blasts RightNow invested over $15,000 into the leadership campaign. Given that the top three leadership campaigns spent millions of dollars, their $/membership sold would be around $20--$70/membership sold. At RightNow, we were able to generate a rate of $1/membership sold, far more efficient than the various leadership campaigns.
WHAT DOES THE RESULT MEAN FOR PRO-LIFERS?
There are some key lessons in this leadership race for both pro-lifers and the pro-life movement, especially the political pro-life movement.
Firstly, while it is an impressive accomplishment that RightNow has grown from a database of two people in February 2016 to over 30,000 supporters in September 2022, that is still not enough to reach our goals and objectives.
We heard rumours that Pierre Poilievre had built a database of over 900,000 Canadians by the beginning of the leadership race in February 2022. He did this over the past almost 20 years of being in publicly elected office, especially since the Conservatives lost government in 2015. The methodologies utilized for amassing such a large database include physical petitions, e-petitions, GoogleForms, and strong social media, especially in terms of short video clips.
Unfortunately, some of these tools are no longer available to RightNow. Up until the spring of 2019, RightNow could post an e-petition on our social media channels and boost those e-petition posts for $20 and receive close to 1,000 new names and contact information in our database over the course of a few days. Since the spring of 2019, social media companies will no longer accept our ad buys and we are no longer able to boost our posts on social media.
Over the past three years we have seen a decline in social media engagement from approximately 500 interactions per social media post in 2019 to less than 50 interactions per post in 2022, despite having a higher number of social media followers.
It is vital for RightNow to grow our database of pro-lifers over the coming years for a variety of reasons.
Secondly, non-political pro-life organizations, especially ones with charitable status, are not able or willing to share basic political information that affect pro-lifers, including providing pro-lifers knowledge of when a pro-lifer is running for a political party nomination or leadership and how to support and vote for those pro-life candidates. These are easy votes that are left on the table and have resulted in far too many pro-lifers not being elected to public office for the past number of decades.
Thirdly, RightNow is effective at getting pro-lifers engaged in the political process when necessary. For example, RightNow sold over 10,000 memberships (we calculate around 40% of our database) to the Conservative Party of Canada for the 2022 leadership race. As a comparison, the Pierre Poilievre team sold just over 300,000 memberships from a database of around 900,000 (or around 33%). Since we have a higher engagement rate than an extremely strong candidate such as Pierre Poilievre, it is vitally important to get as many pro-lifers as possible into our RightNow database.
Finally, RightNow is also effective at encouraging pro-lifers to vote for winnable pro-life candidates. As you will recall, at the beginning of the 2022 Conservative Party of Canada leadership race in early February 2022, RightNow conducted a survey amongst our thousands of supporters. We conducted the same survey at the beginning of June 2022, at the end of the membership sales period. Here are the results:
As you can see, RightNow was able to communicate with pro-lifers in our database as to why they should place the pro-life leadership candidate (Leslyn Lewis) over the other leadership candidates who were all pro-abortion (including Pierre Poilievre). However, not every pro-life party member is in our RightNow database. We heard stories from RightNow supporters whose pro-life family and friends from their congregations were placing pro-abortion candidates ahead of pro-life candidates, because they did not have the proper and accurate information.
According to most polls in Canada, somewhere around 15%--20% of the population agrees that abortion should be illegal in all but very few instances, with exceptions for sexual assault and the life of the mother (both of which account for around 1% or less of abortions). Given that there are around 40-million Canadians, that represents at least 6,000,000 Canadians who are 100% pro-life. While it is not reasonable to expect every single of these pro-lifers to be in one database, it is not unreasonable to expect that somewhere around 5%--10% of these pro-life Canadians to be in our database. A database of 300,000 pro-lifers is roughly 1,000 pro-lifers per federal riding. With a database like that, we could win any political party leadership race, riding board meeting, policy convention, nomination, and even elections. And not just in the Conservative Party of Canada…
A database with an average of 1,000 pro-lifers in each riding is roughly 100 pro-lifers from 10 different parishes, congregations, mosques, synagogues, gurdwaras in one riding. That would be approximately 20 families of 5 family members from each religious community. If you attend a religious community, surely you can think of close to (if not more than) 100 pro-lifers who attend religious services with you in your community. Clearly, not enough (if any of them) are in our RightNow database.
That needs to change.
As at the end of the last leadership race for the Conservative Party of Canada in 2020, the needs for RightNow remain the same. Now that the COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted federally and provincially, we will be traveling across Canada to increase the number of monthly investors so that we can hire regional co-ordinators across Canada (British Columbia, Alberta/the North, Prairies/NW Ontario, southern Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada). Each regional co-ordinator will be responsible for roughly 50 federal ridings. The responsibilities will include increasing our database in those ridings, finding solid pro-life candidates to run for public office, and ensuring that pro-lifers have majorities on party riding boards in those regions. This is beyond full time work.
With no federal or provincial election scheduled for quite some time (the Alberta and Manitoba provincial elections are scheduled for the spring and autumn of 2023, respectively) and no federal nominations open, now is an excellent time to seek the proper financial investment to grow our team and grow our political pro-life wins across Canada.
While prima facie results of the 2022 Conservative Party of Canada leadership race may be disappointing to pro-lifers, once one delves into the numbers one can see some promising strength.
It brings up the question of what if?
What if every pro-life member of the Conservative Party of Canada were in the RightNow database? Would they be part of the 85% who voted for Leslyn or the 12% who voted for Pierre?
What if RightNow were to find an additional 1,000 pro-lifers to invest $25 monthly to generate $40,000 in monthly revenue (less than $500,000 annually) to hire six regional co-ordinators?
What if those six regional co-ordinators were able to get the 5% of Canadians who hold a 100% pro-life view (approximately 300,000 people) into RightNow’s database within the next 5-7 years?
What if RightNow were able to surpass these goals and timelines?
What if your children and grandchildren could grow up in a country that leads the world on helping pregnant women and protecting their pre-born children?
What if you could help with all of this in your own small (or large) way?
What if you started today?
The time for what ifs is over; the time to start is right now.