Doug Ford nemesis Roman Baber eyes Federal Conservative leadership bid

A Toronto nonconformist MP expelled from Premier Doug Ford’s caucus for questioning pandemic shutdowns is considering a bid for the leadership of the federal Conservatives.

Roman Baber, the Independent MPP for York Center expelled from the provincial Progressive Conservatives last year, said on Wednesday he had “received calls encouraging me to run”.

“I also made phone calls to try to determine the level of support and a lot of people were supportive,” he told The Star.

The Conservative Party will announce its new leader on September 10. Contestants will have until April 19 to register, for a $200,000 registration fee plus a $100,000 deposit, to ensure they follow the rules.

Baber gained a national profile in January 2021 after Ford defenestrated him over a two-page open letter that maintained COVID-19 lockdowns, despite evidence of their public health benefits and widespread support from the public, were ineffective and caused more harm to mental health than public-good health.

“The drug kills the patient,” the lawyer wrote at the time, noting the rise in suicides and opioid overdoses, among other apparent side effects of the lockdown.

Ford insisted it was an “irresponsible” stance, undermining the government’s pandemic plan.

Baber – who is vaccinated but thinks vaccines should be voluntary and is pushing ‘jobs and shots’ legislation on Thursday to reinstate workers fired for not being vaccinated – said he was encouraged by the Tories’ response federal.

“I think the party is looking for principled leadership and looking for someone who stands up for what they believe in,” he said, adding that he backed centrist Peter MacKay in the 2021 CPC contest won by Erin O’Toole, who was dumped by the federal caucus last month.

“Like most Canadians, I’m fiscally centre-right and socially slightly centre-left,” said the first-term MLA, whose family fled the former Soviet Union to Israel at the age of nine. He came to Canada at age 15.

“I am Exhibit A for the Canadian Opportunity. I was fortunate to be elected to represent the same electoral district that welcomed me as an immigrant (26 years ago).

Baber, who also objected as “ineffective” to phasing out the mandatory vaccine passport in Ontario on Tuesday, said he would study the federal rules of the Conservative contest before making a final decision soon.

So far, the only declared candidate is Carleton MP Pierre Poilievre, a career politician with strong caucus support. He is already organizing rallies, including one this week in Saskatchewan.

But some prominent Tories are throwing tires on a bid, including former Quebec premier Jean Charest, who led the former federal Progressive Conservatives. Charest organizes a meeting with MPs in Ottawa on Thursday evening. His campaign is supported by several Quebec Conservatives, including the party’s former Quebec lieutenant, Alain Rayes.

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, former PC Ontario leader, and Conservative strategist Tasha Kheiriddin are also making calls, as is rookie MP Leslyn Lewis, who placed third in the 2020.

With files from Stephanie Levitz and The Canadian Press

Robert Benzie is the bureau chief at Star’s Queen’s Park and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

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