"This is what happens when you don't show up at Manning for the cocktail reception the night before."
That's how Tanya Granic Allen explained the small crowd gathered around her booth at the Manning Networking Conference in Ottawa Friday. She had signed up for the conference to promote her group, Parents As First Educators, but now the social conservative activist is attempting to become a candidate in the Ontario PC leadership race.
"This week I saw there was no voice, there was nobody being clear on these issues, so I said I will be that strong voice, for the conservatives, the grassroots conservatives who have been shut out of this party. And that includes conservatives who oppose the Kathleen Wynne sex ed agenda, that includes freedom of speech advocates, pro-lifers and other social conservatives," she said.
The problem is the party has imposed a $100,000 fee to enter, plus a potentially refundable $25,000 deposit contingent on abiding by the race rules.
"I have a lot of supporters who have been very generous, I'm not a big corporate girl but I have a lot of people who are donating monies — and I think we're on our way," she said.
The high financial bar has the effect of keeping out of the race potential candidates who aren't personally wealthy or lack some establishment backing.
"Well, I'm not an establishment figure, I'm a mom of four, I run a stakeholder group — we're a successful not-for-profit — but yeah, I'm a new voice in this race, I don't come from within. I'm a conservative member for sure, but I don't come from the establishment, but I don't care," she said.
She has the backing of the Campaign Life Coalition, the Catholic Civil Rights League and others, she said, adding she's only been at it for 24 hours.
In raising money for the leadership fee, she's not yet bound by campaign finance rules but also can't promise a tax credit, the latter of which makes things a little harder, she said. If she can't raise enough money, she'll have to see whether people get their donations back or they go to her cause, she said.
"I think people need to put their money where their mouth is and if these issues are important to them they need to donate and help me be that voice," she said.