Leona Alleslev rises during Question Period in the House of Commons, Monday, March 9, 2020 in Ottawa. The former Conservative deputy leader has officially announced she's running for leadership of the party. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

‘I am not behind’: Leona Alleslev officially enters Conservative leadership race

‘I am not behind’: Leona Alleslev officially enters Conservative leadership race

OTTAWA — Former Conservative deputy leader Leona Alleslev has officially entered the party’s leadership race.

Alleslev, who lost her Greater Toronto Area seat in last year’s federal election, unveiled her plans at a Parliament Hill news conference Wednesday afternoon.

She did so standing alone behind a microphone, save for reporters and several of her team members who were in the room.

Despite her low-key launch, Alleslev said her campaign has a solid foundation. She denied that she was going to have to play catch-up to the other candidates in the race, who for weeks have been criss-crossing the country selling memberships and campaigning with supporters.

Candidates have until April 29 to submit all the necessary signatures and pay $300,000 in fees to appear on the ballot. They have until June 3 to sign up new members.

“Simply because I chose to wait until now to announce doesn’t mean that I haven’t been doing all of the work that the other candidates have been doing,” she said.

“I am not behind.”

Alleslev, a former logistics officer in the Air Force who then worked in the private sector, is one of 11 people who have declared they want to replace former leader Erin O’Toole in the Conservative party’s top job.

The race was triggered after O’Toole was ousted by a majority caucus vote in early February.

Among the contestants Alleslev faces is former colleague and Ottawa-area MP Pierre Poilievre, whose recent rallies have attracted thousands, generating buzz about the level of momentum behind his message of “freedom.”

Poilievre’s campaign has also taken to accusing fellow candidate and former Quebec premier Jean Charest as being a Liberal for having led the Quebec Liberal Party.

Unlike Charest or any other candidate in the race, Alleslev was first sent to Parliament Hill as a Liberal MP in 2015 before she crossed the floor to join the Conservatives in 2018.

Former leader Andrew Scheer then appointed Alleslev to be the party’s deputy leader. She stepped down from the role to help Peter MacKay, the ex-leader of the federal Progressive Conservatives, try to win the party’s leadership in 2020.

On Wednesday, she defended her Liberal history by stating that she made her decision to cross the floor based on principle.

“In order for (Conservatives) to be successful in an election, to win a majority government, we need a lot of other people to make the same choice that I did,” Alleslev said.

The former MP also declined to identify why she thinks she lost her seat in last fall’s federal election, saying there were a number of reasons.

“Even the best candidate can only do so much in an election. They actually also need a strong party and a strong leader.”

In terms of policy, Alleslev raised concerns about the federal government’s level of spending and its national carbon price. In her launch speech, she also spoke about how Canada needs to better support its military and the country’s resource sector.

She was set to attend a meet and greet in Ottawa Wednesday evening.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 6, 2022.

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

Conservative Party of Canada