Marilyn Gladu is carrying a message of inclusion into the most expensive leadership contest in Canadian political history.
The Sarnia-Lambton MP is one of half a dozen declared candidates seeking to lead the Conservative Party of Canada.
Each must pay an entry fee of $300,000 — one-third refundable — and get signatures from at least 3,000 party members from 30 electoral districts in seven provinces and territories to qualify.
“I said to myself, ‘We need a strong and likeable leader,’” Gladu, 57, said of her decision to run.
“When I heard about who might be running… I thought this is the same old, same old. Really, we need somebody that can grow the base and who knows how to lead.”
To start, Gladu has put up $25,000 of her own money. She has already met the seven-province requirement, a result of contacting riding associations and fellow Tory MPs coast to coast, she said.
Local Conservatives can boost her bid by attending a nomination paper-signing event Feb. 4 at the Navy Club, 1420 Lougar St. from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. It will be repeated Feb. 18.
Only party members can sign nomination papers and vote in the leadership race. Memberships are available online at www.conservative.ca.
Gladu has brought in long-time Conservative strategist Georganne Burke to assist her campaign team. Burke chaired Maxime Bernier’s leadership bid before joining Andrew Scheer’s campaign as outreach chair in the 2019 federal election.
Gladu said she is nothing like Sheer, who resigned Dec. 12 after failing to win a majority government in the fall election.
During a recent appearance on CTV’s Question Period she said she supports LGBTQ+ rights and the importance of safe access to abortion.
“I’m going to stand up for everybody’s rights and freedoms. For this community that’s an important thing,” she said.
“Some people are not happy about that but I have reminded them that we’re supposed to love everybody.”
Gladu said inclusion will be a dominant theme of her campaign.
“We have to stop pitting one group against another group and just recognize that if we’re going to have our individual freedoms then we’ve got to give everybody else their individual freedoms.”
Others running for party leader include former Progressive Conservative leader Peter MacKay, B.C. businessman Rick Peterson, Ontario MP Derek Sloan, former Harper advisor Aron Seal, Toronto businessman Bobby Singh, and possibly undeclared Ontario MP Erin O’Toole.
Many high-profile Conservatives have said they aren’t running, including Bernier, Jean Charest, Rona Ambrose and Caroline Mulroney.
The new party leader will be elected June 27 in Toronto.