Conservative leadership hopeful Patrick Brown takes part in the Conservative Party of Canada French-language leadership debate in Laval, Quebec on Wednesday, May 25, 2022. According to a spokesman for Brown his supporters believe the best choice for federal Conservative leader is Jean Charest now that Brown is out of the race. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Patrick Brown campaign says if not him, then Charest best alternative for supporters

A spokesman for Patrick Brown says supporters on the front lines of the campaign believe that if their candidate is not reinstated, then Jean Charest is the best alternative.

Chisholm Pothier said Brown spoke on a call Monday evening to supporters, many of whom were “ground troops” in the campaign to elect him federal Conservative leader.

Brown was disqualified from the contest last week by party members on a committee overseeing the leadership race, but he is fighting for an appeal to the decision.

“There was overwhelming support for Charest among the Brown supporters on the call,” Pothier wrote Tuesday.

He said Brown “spoke very highly of Charest,” the ex-Quebec premier and Brown’s former political mentor, and “the people associated with our campaign feel Charest is the best option if Patrick is not reinstated.”

Pothier, however, stopped short of calling Brown’s message an official endorsement.

What happens now to the supporters Brown signed up as party members remains one of the major outstanding questions in the race.

His campaign said it sold 150,000 memberships, although party headquarters hasn’t validated that figure or any others publicized by the five remaining campaigns. Longtime MP Pierre Poilievre has said he sold a whopping 312,000 memberships.

Brown’s strategy in the race had been trying to recruit new members to the party, rather than trying to court favour with existing ones — who, he mused, were more likely to back Poilievre and his populist messages.

Brown has targeted his message specifically at racialized Canadians and those who hail from immigrant and newcomer communities.

Not only did Brown deliver his pitch by saying he wanted to build a more inclusive Conservative party, he also committed to giving communities a better seat at the table and advocating for their specific interests.

Despite being disqualified from the race, Brown’s name will still appear on the final ballot, as the party said some had been put in the mail by the time he was voted out.

Party spokesman Yaroslav Baran said as of Tuesday, more than 280,000 ballots had been delivered, with another large batch scheduled to be dropped in the mail by the end of the week.

Although headquarters hasn’t confirmed specific membership sales from each campaign, it has recorded a voting base of more than 670,000 members, which is more than double what it had for the 2020 leadership race.