Jamaican Leslyn Lewis, a Toronto attorney, is the first black woman to seek the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada, and so in one sense, she has already won a significant victory. Lewis was a relative unknown when she made her decision to run for the top position in the party, but she impressed experienced party operatives and members of its grassroots organization as well. Lewis has a Ph.D. in law and a master’s degree in environmental studies. She has managed to attract supporters from both established Conservative Party figures and individuals from a broader swath of the conservative movement.
In an interview with the Star, Lewis said that she did not originally even identify herself as a social conservative as she had always considered herself a fiscal conservative. This was what brought her to the party in the first place and not her social conservative values. Now, while she does not believe that is a complete definition of her thinking, she does believe that the media has not provided the public with a fair representation of what a social conservative is.
She feels that what makes her appealing to the electorate is that she is authentic, saying, ‘This is who I am and this is what I believe, and this is the beauty of our democracy that people are free to have their beliefs.”
While Lewis has a different profile and experience than those described as “front-runners” in the election, a number of Tory political strategists have said that she is someone to watch. Jenni Byrne, a former advisor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the founder of Jenni Byrne and Associates, has said that Lewis has changed the dynamics of the race, raising $996,000 in this quarter and attracting more donors than the three other candidates in the running. She had 10,000 contributors, while front-runners Erin O’Toole had 8,900, and Peter McKay had 6,800. Much of Lewis’s appeal to voters is that her approach appears to fill gaps in a traditional party split on social issues like environmental policy. Strategist Ken Boessenkool, research fellow at the C.D. Howe Institute and former advisor to Harper, described Lewis as “sophisticated and smart” and a voice for those social conservatives who may be critical of the more “intense rhetoric” of other candidates. Dennis Matthews, strategist with Enterprise Canada and also a former Harper advisor, believes Lewis represents a new opportunity for conservatives who want to change party policy.
The race to become the leader of the party is based on ranked ballots that allow members to put their choices in order of first, second, third, and fourth. If Lewis attains second place in the first round of balloting, she could win the leadership position on a subsequent ballot. Even if she doesn’t come out victorious in the election, whoever does win will want to keep her close by.
The votes in the election will be counted on August 21, 2020, with the winner announced at the end of the month.
Photo Source: Leslyn Lewis Facebook