Two Ontario members of Parliament switched allegiances in the Conservative leadership race Tuesday as growing divisions prompted them to throw their support from Patrick Brown to Pierre Poilievre in the name of party unity.
Flamborough-Glanbrook MP Dan Muys and Dufferin-Caledon MP Kyle Seeback previously signalled their support for the Brampton mayor in March, but now say Poilievre is the candidate who can pull the party together.
"Let's put the divisiveness away, unite our movement behind #Pierre4PM," Seeback wrote on Twitter Tuesday morning.
Muys followed up shortly after, backing Seeback's sentiments.
"I am increasingly concerned about the divisiveness," Muys wrote on Twitter of the party's leadership race. "Let’s unify behind Pierre Poilievre."
Party unity has been a growing concern for the Conservative faithful since the fractious leadership race began, and has only intensified as rhetoric from the various camps has become less forgiving.
Brown already enjoys less favour from sitting caucus members than most of his opponents, and the loss of the two MPs means he has only two left on his side, including campaign co-chair Michelle Rempel Garner.
Party divide prompts 2 Ontario MPs to switch allegiances in Conservative leadership. #CPC #CDNPoli #ConservativeLeadership
Brown's spokesperson Chisholm Pothier told The Canadian Press late Tuesday that the campaign likes where it's at, and considers the lost endorsements to be two votes they will make up "somewhere else."
"There’s a weird lack of confidence coming from the Poilievre camp with their over-the-top attacks that tells me not everything is sweetness and light over there," Pothier said in an email.
Seeback told reporters back in March he supported Brown in part because of his vocal opposition to Quebec's secularism law, which bans religious symbols for civil servants in positions of authority.
"There are a lot of cultural communities that take things like Bill 21 very seriously and I think Patrick is going to be the guy to push on that and he’ll be a great leader," he said in March.
He also said he felt Brown had appeal in the Greater Toronto Area, where Conservatives are trying to grow their support.
Seeback and Muys did not immediately respond to requests for further comment on their decision to switch camps.
Several candidates have claimed to be the only ones who can unite the party once the race is over and heal divisions that have festered since the last election.
But the race could get uglier before that happens, now that the deadline to sell memberships has passed and candidates look to shake their opponents' support before the vote in September.
Baber released a statement Tuesday pressuring the party to release a preliminary list of voters as soon as possible so the candidates can begin their efforts to persuade supporters to their side over the next several months.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 7, 2022.