Andrew Scheer‘s resignation announcement on Thursday propelled the party into a leadership contest.
While Scheer will remain leader for the next few months, the party is looking for his replacement — and there are a few names already circulating.
Here’s what could be in store for the Tories.
What happens next?
Scheer will now ask the national council of the Conservative Party of Canada to begin a leadership contest.
That means those who want to become the party’s leader — and potentially prime minister — will begin putting their names forward.
The party was already headed for a leadership review in April 2020. It is unclear whether the leadership contest may be held at that time, instead.
A top priority for the national council will be to choose the members of the leadership election organizing committee for this particular contest. They are the ones who will decide the rules and procedures for the leadership race, including when it will start and how long it will take to finish.
The committee will also decide how long someone has to be a member of the Conservative party before they can cast a ballot.
They will also set the expense limits for each leadership candidate. The last time around, each contestant was allowed to spend up to $5 million.
Possible leadership contenders
Lydia Miljan, an associate professor of political science at the University of Windsor, told Global News there has been speculation about possible replacements for Scheer for some time.
“A lot of the people whose names are being bandied about are people who’ve already said they’re not interested in the job,” Miljan noted. “But, you know, those things could change.”
Many of those names include former Tory ministers who served under former prime minister Stephen Harper. Miljan gave the example of Rona Ambrose, who was interim leader of the party, but then announced she would leave politics.
Another example is Peter MacKay, who served in several high-ranking positions in the Harper government. MacKay criticized Scheer’s federal election performance in October, saying the leader missed an open-net shot.
“To use a good Canadian analogy, it was like having a breakaway on an open net and missing the net,” he said at the time.
While the comments led to speculation MacKay could challenge Scheer for leadership, the former minister denied the rumours, saying on Twitter at the time that he supports Scheer.
John Baird, another former Harper minister, may also be a potential option, Miljan said. Baird was recently asked by the Tories to conduct a review of the party’s election performance to see where things went wrong.
On Thursday, Baird said his review is not yet done, but thanked Scheer for his service.
“I hope it will inform our party’s next campaign and provide advice to whomever the (Conservative Party) membership select as leader,” he wrote on Twitter.
Overall, Miljan said it’s difficult to predict where “good leadership material” will come from — it could be sitting members of Parliament, previous ones or an outsider that garners attention.
Hours after the announcement, names such as Ambrose, MacKay and former MP Lisa Raitt were trending on Twitter in Canada.
READ MORE: Read Andrew Scheer’s full resignation speech
Darrell Bricker, the CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs, agreed that those names are potential options, but noted that the Conservative Party doesn’t have a truly “high-profile” name like Justin Trudeau to take over the race.
“I expect that there’s an opportunity there for somebody to come from the pack who’s well-organized and puts together a convincing campaign, and particularly one that starts early where he or she might have a real advantage,” he said.
Bricker also noted that there is a lot of potential for the next leader of the party to become prime minister.
“That should attract the best that they have,” he said.
How regional politics play in
Miljan said there may even be some provincial leaders, such as Jason Kenney or Doug Ford, wishing they had the opportunity to run.
For their part, they have not expressed any such desire.
Ford released a statement Thursday praising Scheer’s time as Tory leader, while Kenney also tweeted his well wishes.
Miljan also noted there isn’t much history in Canada of premiers going on to become prime ministers.
“It’s very different from the American system, where routinely governors or a deputy governor of a state runs for president,” she said.
However, Miljan said the Tories will likely put some thought into where in Canada the new leader comes from.
“They really have very strong support in western Canada — there’s no need to also have a leader from western Canada,” she said. “The real challenge will be to find somebody from eastern Canada, or somebody from an urban area, either Ontario or Quebec, to build the party there.”
What this means for federal politics
Bricker agreed, saying the Tories need to pick a leader who can compete in Ontario.
“If the Conservatives can make a decent choice in terms of who their next leader will be, somebody who can compete in the province of Ontario in particular, that’s a real problem for the Liberals,” he said.
Bricker noted that the biggest challenge the Conservatives had in this year’s election was Scheer’s “inability” to connect to the public.
“If the Conservatives make a wise choice, that puts them in a pretty competitive position with the Liberal Party going into the next election.”
Miljan added Scheer’s resignation will keep Liberals on their toes.
“I think the Liberals would have preferred going into another election with Andrew Scheer as their main opponent because they’d already been victorious against him,” she said. “This puts a lot of uncertainty for the Liberals. They’re going to be put on guard.”
— With files from The Canadian Press