Stephen Harper steps down from Conservative Fund board as potential candidates gear up

Former Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper speaks at the 2017 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington, Sunday, March 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Former prime minister Stephen Harper has resigned from the board of the Conservative Fund as speculation ramps up about whether he will throw support behind any particular candidate in the party’s leadership race.

Global News has confirmed the news first reported earlier on Wednesday by Maclean’s that Harper was quitting the Fund, which is responsible for the party’s fundraising. While that original report said he was stepping down with the goal of opposing former Quebec Liberal premier Jean Charest, who sources tell Global News will be throwing his name into the leadership race, another source suggested the move was not specifically motivated by the possibility of his run.

“Yes, Mr. Harper has left his position on the Conservative Fund. The Fund thanks former prime minister Harper for his tireless work on the board, and wishes him well. His contributions, support and wise counsel to the Board over the past many years has been appreciated,” said Cory Hann, spokesperson for the Conservative Party.

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The departure comes as the Fund and the party grapple with how to move forward after revelations that donor money was being used to help Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer cover the costs of sending four of his children to private school.

Sources told Global News last month that was done without the knowledge or approval of senior members of the Fund.

Bitter infighting ensued over who should bear responsibility for that.

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Scheer, who lost the election to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, vowed for almost two months to hold onto the leadership.

But in mid-December, he announced he would step down once the party picks a successor.

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The rules for that leadership race were unveiled on Monday with the deadline for candidates to qualify set for March 25.

The leadership convention will take place on June 27.

Peter MacKay, the former Conservative cabinet minister and former leader of the federal Progressive Conservatives, announced Wednesday he will run to replace Scheer. He is the most high-profile name so far to enter the race.

Sources tell Global News former Conservative interim leader has not ruled out running despite a report in French-language media on Wednesday that she had decided against doing so. Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre will also be organizing this weekend in Montreal to test support, a source tells Global News.

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