Two mysterious websites have popped up to encourage federal cabinet ministers John Baird and Lisa Raitt to run for the Ontario PC leadership that will be vacated July 2 by Tim Hudak.
Both sites are registered anonymously. One exhorts Ontario Progressive Conservatives to encourage Baird, the foreign affairs minister, to run for the party's leadership. The other asks PC supporters to tell the federal transport minister why they want her to run.
The "Draft Lisa for Leader" site is far more developed than the single "Draft Baird" page devoted to the foreign affairs minister. The site dedicated to Raitt offers a number of reasons why the organizers think she'd make a good provincial PC leader, a variety of photos and links to articles that reflect positively on her performance in Parliament. A button on the website also promises "Commemo-Raitt swag and gear" is "coming soon."
The link instructing supporters to "tell Lisa why you want her to run" directs messages to its own email address, rather than to Raitt's email address.
"We need a leader like Lisa who has proven the ability to bring people together to work towards a shared vision, and more, effectively communicate that vision in a clear and concise manner," says the site, which says it springs from a "grassroots movement."
A spokeswoman for Raitt declined an interview request, but offered a statement by email.
"The minister continues to focus on her job and kids at this time. The minister congratulates Premier [Kathleen] Wynne on her election and looks forward to working with her and her government on issues important to Ontario and Canada," Jana Régimbal said.
The Ontario PCs were stung on June 12 when the much-embattled provincial Liberals won a majority of seats in the legislature. Some PC members of provincial Parliament blamed Hudak for the seats they lost despite expectations the PCs would wrest control of the legislature from the Liberals.
The Draft Baird webpage notes the party needs "a leader who can win."
The party, it says, needs "a leader who will once again make Ontario the economic engine of our great country. John Baird is a proven, principled, and passionate conservative. He's the leader our party needs — the premier Ontario will need in four years. For the good of our province, help us draft John Baird."
Adam Hodge, a spokesman for Baird, would say only that "right now he’s focused on his duties as an MP for Ottawa West-Nepean and as minister of foreign affairs."
If he were to win the PC leadership, it would be a return trip to the Ontario legislature for Baird. The 45-year-old has been an MP since 2006, but first represented Ottawa as an MPP from 1995 to 2005. Before that, Baird was an assistant to Perrin Beatty, a federal Conservative cabinet minister.
Raitt, 46, was elected as the MP for Ontario's Halton riding in 2008 and has served as minister of natural resources and minister of labour. She handled hot files in both portfolios, including a number of high-profile labour disputes.
Before she was an MP, Raitt was a lawyer and president and CEO of the Toronto Port Authority, where she'd previously served as general counsel and harbourmaster.
Conservative MPs Patrick Brown and Rick Dykstra are also said to be considering runs for the leadership, and Treasury Board President Tony Clement, who ran for leadership of the Ontario party in 2002, has not ruled out a bid this time.
Ontario MPP Lisa McLeod, who represents Baird's former provincial riding of Nepean-Carleton, is also said to be considering a run. She recently wrote an op-ed comparing what the party needs in a new leader to her own skills and experience.