Leslyn Lewis latest federal Conservative leadership hopeful to hit N.B.

·4 min read
Federal Conservative leadership candidate Leslyn Lewis greets residents at a grocery store in Hartland, part of the riding of Tobique-Mactaquac Conservative MP Richard Bragdon. Bragdon supports Lewis in the leadership race.  (Jacques Poitras/CBC News - image credit)
Federal Conservative leadership candidate Leslyn Lewis greets residents at a grocery store in Hartland, part of the riding of Tobique-Mactaquac Conservative MP Richard Bragdon. Bragdon supports Lewis in the leadership race. (Jacques Poitras/CBC News - image credit)

Federal Conservative leadership candidate Leslyn Lewis didn't let her objections to federal vaccine mandates prevent her from campaigning in New Brunswick this week.

The first-term Ontario MP is the latest potential leader to look for support in the province, arriving just a day after former Quebec premier Jean Charest made his own visit.

Lewis opposes the federal requirement for proof of vaccination to fly on a commercial airline within Canada.

She has refused to disclose her own vaccination status, but suggested to CBC News Friday she was able to fly to Quebec this week to campaign before continuing by car to New Brunswick.

"I didn't get on the plane illegally," she laughed. "I can tell you that. I didn't illegally barge in. I'm a person who respects laws."

Last week Lewis refused to say in a broadcast interview whether she'd been vaccinated against COVID-19.

"I believe in people doing what is necessary to keep themselves safe, keep their families safe," she said in an interview Friday during her New Brunswick stop.

"My objection with not disclosing vaccination status is because I believe we are normalizing prying into people's lives."

While she implied that she met the proof-of-vaccination requirement to fly this week, she argued the rule is not based on science and is unfair to six million unvaccinated Canadians.

"These individuals are a part of society and are moving around in other respects in close proximity with other Canadians."

Jacques Poitras/CBC News
Jacques Poitras/CBC News

Campaigning in Sussex, Saint John on Saturday

Lewis greeted a large crowd of Conservative members Thursday night in Fredericton and stopped Friday afternoon at a grocery store in Hartland, part of Conservative MP Richard Bragdon's Tobique-Mactaquac riding, who is a supporter of Lewis.

She is campaigning in Sussex and Saint John on Saturday.

Lewis said while she objects to federal mandates, she respects whatever vaccination and public health rules provincial leaders, including Premier Blaine Higgs, have had in place.

"I trust the provinces have their scientific backing for whatever mandates they've imposed," she said.

Lewis was scheduled to meet with Higgs during her campaign swing.

The premier, who has not endorsed a federal leadership candidate, also met Charest last weekend and candidate Pierre Poilievre in March.

Lewis placed third in the last Conservative leadership race. She was the top vote-getter among Tobique-Mactaquac voters in the first round of the leadership vote.

This week, Lewis, who is often described as a social conservative, released a four-point plan for limiting some types of abortions, identical to her promise in the last leadership race.

CBC News
CBC News

Support for Lewis's firm positions

Many supporters who showed up to meet her in Hartland said they support her because of her positions.

"She's not backing down from where she stands," said Murray Whitehouse of Woodstock, citing her opposition to abortion and her support for the Freedom Convoy.

"What she says today that she stands for, that's the way she'll be tomorrow. It's not going to be fluctuating."

Suzanne Matheson, another Woodstock resident, said she appreciates that "Leslyn stands up for her morals and ethics, regardless of the backlash that people often get for that. I like the fact that you know exactly what she's thinking."

Time to leave divisive labels behind: Lewis

Lewis dismissed a question about where her social conservatism fits into the Conservative debate about centrism versus populism.

"I am a conservative that believes in the unity of our party and the unity of our country, and I believe it's time that we leave a lot of the labels that have divided us behind," she said.

"I'm a bridge builder. I believe in finding commonalities between people who may have divergent perspectives."

Lewis also said she would give provinces more latitude to spend federal health transfers the way they want, rather than imposing strict requirements.

Any national guidelines should be "flexible enough to meet the geographical, demographic needs of the provinces, and I trust the provinces would be able to do that without being micromanaged. I don't believe in giving transfers and then dictating a federal result."

She also said she'd be open to a formula that gives provinces with older populations, such as New Brunswick, more funding to cover the extra cost of caring for elderly people.

COVID-19's impact on older Canadians shows the importance of targeting that demographic, she said.

"Those regions that have those growing segments should be able to have the resources allocated to deal with them and should not have to pull from other health care services and needs."

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