OTTAWA—Andrew Scheer’s announcement that he intends to step down as leader of the Conservatives sets in motion a critical leadership contest.
Here’s a look at some names being discussed as contenders:
Peter MacKay: Former leader of the Progressive Conservative party, MacKay co-founded the modern united party when he led with Stephen Harper a move to merge the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives, to form the Conservative Party of Canada. It put the conservative movement on the path back to power.
The former Nova Scotia MP held the foreign affairs, justice and defence portfolios in the previous Conservative government. He left politics in 2015 for private law practice, but has kept up a high profile in political circles and helped campaign in the most recent election. MacKay tried to quell talk of his leadership ambitions after that vote, saying on social media, “Reports of me organizing are false.” MacKay supporters believe he would appeal to red Tories and be seen to put a moderate face on the party, key to its election success in Ontario and Quebec. Chances he’s in are high.
Erin O’Toole: The MP for Durham told reporters just last week, while voicing support for Scheer, that he was not organizing his own leadership campaign. Does that change now that Scheer has formally announced plans to step down?
O’Toole has taken on greater profile in the party and now serves as its foreign affairs critic. He represents a riding in the GTA where the party needs to make gains. His background as a navigator in the air force, and former minister of veterans affairs, makes him popular among Conservatives. He came third in the 2017 Conservative leadership race that saw him lose to Scheer and second-place finisher Maxime Bernier. Chances he’s in are high.
Rona Ambrose: Ambrose, a veteran cabinet minister in Stephen Harper’s government, has been out of politics for more than two years, but can’t escape speculation of her return to Ottawa. Even before Scheer’s Thursday announcement, there were questions whether Ambrose, who served as the party’s interim leader after Stephen Harper stepped down, would be open to lead it again.
When two Conservatives went public last month with criticisms of Scheer’s position on LGBTQ issues, Ambrose voiced her support. “It’s time to move forward together and show ALL families we have their backs,” she said on Twitter.
She now serves as a corporate director on several boards and is a fellow with the Wilson Centre Canada Institute in Washington. She has told friends privately she is not keen to return to politics, and, through a spokesperson Thursday, Ambrose declined to comment. However she may not be able to resist efforts to persuade her to step into the race. Chances are fair she will run.
Michelle Rempel Garner: The Calgary Nosehill MP has kept her head low since the Scheer-led party suffered a defeat in the election, but won her own riding handily. A former minister of state for Western Economic Diversification in the Harper government, Rempel is a policy wonk, a fiscal conservative, and has long urged her party to embrace LGBTQ communities. She supports a women’s right to choose and has often championed the cause of women in politics. However life has shifted for her. She got married last spring to a now-retired U.S. army veteran, with Harper presiding at her wedding. Chances she’s in are medium to high.
Pierre Poilievre: The Ottawa-area MP is the party’s finance critic, quick on his feet with a scathing wit and a fierce partisan streak. A longtime Conservative staffer, Poilievre once worked for Stockwell Day, and later ran and was elected in 2004. In Harper’s government he held two portfolios: minister of state for democratic reform and minister of employment and social development. In opposition, Poilievre is the party’s point man on financial issues as he presses the Liberal government to balance the books. The bilingual MP would find support among fiscal conservatives. Chances he’s in are high.
Jason Kenney: Kenney is another veteran from the cabinet benches of the Harper government. He left federal politics in 2016, months after Trudeau won a majority government, opting to go to Alberta to unite the divided conservative movement which was then split between the Progressive Conservative and Wild Rose parties. He then mounted a challenge for provincial government. His United Conservative Party won the April election and Kenney became premier. Though Kenney would have his fans in the Conservative party, he’s made clear that he’s not moving, telling the Calgary Herald he has “absolutely no intention” of running for the leadership. Chances he’s in are slim.
Brad Wall: The former Saskatchewan premier was long believed to be a possible contender for the federal leadership job, but he does not speak French. He is seen as a long-shot, but his credentials would appeal to Conservatives in Western Canada, who see him as an articulate champion of western issues and of the oil and gas sector. However he has also been increasingly supportive of western separatist sentiment, especially since the federal election saw the Liberals shut out of the Prairie provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta. Chances he’s in are slim.
Gerard Deltell: The fluently bilingual Quebec City area MP is a former broadcast journalist and past leader of the Action Democratique in Quebec, and later House leader for the Coalition Avenir Quebec caucus at the national assembly. Deltell ran federally in 2015 under the Stephen Harper banner, and has been an effective communicator for the party since Harper quit. He supported O’Toole in the last leadership race, and has fielded questions about his own leadership ambitions, but denies he has any interest in the role. Chances he’s in are slim.
Michael Fortier: The investment banker raised eyebrows when Harper appointed him to the Senate and put him in cabinet in 2006. Harper said the unusual move ensured a cabinet minister to represent Montreal. He held the Public Works and International Trade portfolios.
Fortier was no stranger to politics at that point, having chaired Harper’s leadership campaign, organized the party’s election and run himself unsuccessfully for leadership of the Progressive Conservative party and as MP in previous elections. He resigned from the Senate in 2008 to run in that year’s election but lost.
Currently vice-chair of RBC Capital Markets in Montreal, Fortier is a father of six, fluently bilingual, a fiscal conservative, but socially progressive. He is seen by many conservatives as someone who could potentially win in Quebec and Ontario and bring the party to power. Chances he is in are medium to high.
Rod Phillips: A self-made multi-millionaire, who was chief of staff to former Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman and went to run the Postmedia newspaper chain, he is the centrist former head of Civic Action. He has Ontario credentials, vital for a Conservative party that needs to win big in the province, but low name recognition in other parts of the country would be an impediment to a leadership bid. A spokesperson for Phillips denied talk he was interested in running. Chances are slim he’s in.
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Mark Mulroney: Mulroney is the eldest son of former prime minister Brian Mulroney, and brother to Ontario cabinet minister Caroline Mulroney, who took herself out of the running on Thursday. Mark Mulroney is an investment banker and vice chairman of Scotiabank in Toronto in the capital markets division. Fluently bilingual, he is a father of four with a fifth child due soon. A political junkie, he has no history inside the party however, and may be a dark horse, but Mulroney has been fielding calls from senior figures inside and outside the party urging him to consider running. Chances he’s in are slim to medium.
Bernard Lord: Lord was premier of New Brunswick between 1999 and 2006. He’s now CEO of Medavie, the health company, past president and CEO of the Canadian Wireless Telecommunication Association of Canada and past chair of Ontario Power Generation. Lord resisted efforts to get him to run in past leadership contests, most recently taking a pass on the race won by Scheer, so chances seem slim he will run this time.
Lisa Raitt: A high-profile Ontario Conservative, Raitt is seen as a moderate. But Raitt, who served as Scheer’s deputy leader, lost her Milton seat in the election. She says she has embarked on a new life in the private sector and is not interested in returning to run in the leadership race. “It’s just not the right time.” But Raitt is excited about the prospects the leadership contest is a chance for the party to shape itself. Chances are zero that she will run.
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