Maxime Bernier to officially enter Conservative leadership race

Maxime Bernier has confirmed he'll run for the Conservative leadership.
Maxime Bernier has confirmed he'll run for the Conservative leadership. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Quebec MP Maxime Bernier has confirmed he will enter the race to permanently replace Stephen Harper as leader of the Conservative Party.

Bernier’s office said the outspoken MP, who once found himself in hot water for leaving sensitive government documents at the home of his then-girlfriend, will be filing his candidate papers sometime later this week in Ottawa.

Ontario’s Kellie Leitch may not be far behind. Global News was able to confirm on Tuesday that she will also file her own papers within a week.

Neither Leitch nor Bernier have made any secret of their leadership ambitions in recent months, with Bernier setting up a website and printing T-shirts ahead of a Conservative conference in February.

Leitch has been criss-crossing the country, collecting signatures, volunteers and money to help back her bid.

The starting gun sounded on the Conservative leadership race last month, but the rapidly approaching party convention is really getting candidates moving.

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Others reportedly contemplating a run include MPs Andrew Scheer, Jason Kenney, Lisa Raitt, Tony Clement and Michael Chong. Business mogul Kevin O’Leary has also floated the notion of running.

After winning his third majority in Saskatchewan this week, Premier Brad Wall might seem like a wild-card possibility, and there are perpetual rumours that he’s been brushing up on his French to facilitate a jump to federal politics. But according to former Conservative strategist Tim Powers, that’s pretty unlikely.

“Right now, if you’re Brad Wall, you’ve built a wall around Saskatchewan, you’re the only Conservative (leader) in the country, you have a lot of notoriety and influence — never mind the power of being the premier,” said Powers, who is now vice-chairman of Summa Strategies. “Why do you want to give that up to be the Opposition leader against a prime minister with stratospheric poll numbers?”

Many of the possible leadership contenders have their eye on the convention and are weighing the odds of formally registering to run now or waiting to gauge support there.

A recent survey conducted by Abacus Data showed that former Conservative minister Peter MacKay has the advantage of popular support among Conservative voters, followed by O’Leary.

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Only card-carrying members of the party can actually cast a ballot in May 2017 to select the winner, however. The party is currently being led on an interim basis by Rona Ambrose.

With files from the Canadian Press.


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