OTTAWA — An apology to the Tamil community, improving cricket infrastructure, and putting a visa office in Kathmandu are just some of the promises Patrick Brown has made in hopes of becoming the next leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.
But a search for these pledges on the campaign website, and social media accounts of the Brampton, Ont., mayor come up empty.
They appear only to exist in pitches he delivered to leaders and members of the country’s Tamil and Nepalese community, whom he’s courting, among other immigrant and racialized Canadians, to buy party memberships as the clock ticks down to the June 3 deadline.
And while Brown’s main rival, Pierre Poilievre, is drawing crowds by the thousands, the former MP and leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives has been criss-crossing the country, making his case to rooms of sometimes only as many as 20.
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A glimpse into his strategy can be found in a series of videos and clips shared on Facebook by those who attended such events, including a meeting Brown had with Muslim community members in British Columbia, 17 minutes of which was livestreamed April 1.
“In the existing Conservative membership Pierre is more popular. The existing Conservative membership wants someone who is more hard- right,” says Brown, seated on a couch as others appeared in nearby chairs listening to him answer their questions.
“My path to victory is not winning the party membership,” he says. “My path to victory is bringing new people in and having a decent level of support within the party.”
He says they have a large campaign in the Sikh, Muslim, Tamil and Chinese communities “that have all felt mistreated by the party”
After a brief pause, Brown says: “If we pull this off, this is part of Canadian history.”
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Since entering the race, Brown has fashioned himself as a fighter for religious freedoms, pointing to his vocal opposition of the controversial secularism law in Quebec known by its legislative title of Bill 21. Passed in 2019, it prohibits public servants in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols, like hijabs, turbans, kippahs on the job.
While Brown includes that in his speeches, he goes further: He bills the leadership contest as a chance for communities to see their interests better reflected in federal policy and as a way to put both a friend and an ally in the Prime Minister’s Office, which is where he tells them he believes the next Conservative leader is headed, after three terms of Liberal rule.
Among those he’s targeting are Nepalese Canadians. His campaign includes a coordinator dedicated to signing up at least 5,000 from their community.
In a roughly 36-minute Facebook video shared April 3, Brown tells a room of them in Mississauga, Ont., that as group, they have “never played a significant role in a Conservative party leadership.”
Getting involved will open the door to seeing community members represented in the country’s institutions of power, he says, noting the lack of Nepalese faces within government.
“If you’re not part of the process it’s easy to get forgotten,” Brown says.
Near the end of the video, he requests their help by adding that “I never forget those that are part of my journey. We support each other, we create opportunities for each other.”