Calgary MP Deepak Obhrai joins Conservative leadership race

Longtime Calgary MP Deepak Obhrai is joining the race for the leadership of the federal Conservatives.

Veteran parliamentarian recently warned his party against becoming 'elitist, white-only club'

Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai stands in the House of Commons during question period in Ottawa in May 2014. First elected as a Reform Party member in 1997, he now represents the riding of Calgary Forest Lawn. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

Longtime Calgary MP Deepak Obhrai is joining the race for the leadership of the federal Conservatives.

Obhrai, who represents the Calgary Forest Lawn riding and was first elected in 1997 as a member of the Reform Party, said he wants the Conservative Party of Canada to become more inclusive of people from all walks of life.

"​We are a party that is for all Canadians — no matter where they come from or whether they're disabled, visible minorities, or young, women," he told CBC News. "They should have an equal voice in this party."

Longtime MP Deepak Obhrai, who was first elected in 1997 and represents the riding of Calgary Forest Lawn, is joining the race for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada. 7:12

In April, Obhrai broke ranks with the Conservative establishment over proposed changes to the party's rules, including boosting the annual fee for individual members to $25 — the highest among all federal parties — and the registration fee for party leadership contenders to $100,000.

The change would prevent hundreds of thousands of Canadians from joining the Conservatives and turn the party into an "elitist, white-only club," Obhrai said at the time.

"Established conservatives with established families who have very strong conservative principles will remain as members and are willing to cough up the big money," he said.

"Ultimately, that will turn into, what I will say, a white people's club."

Other Conservative MPs, including former defence minister and current Alberta PC leadership contender, Jason Kenney also later voiced concern over the membership fee.

The party's national council ultimately backed down and reduced the one-year membership fee to $15.​

Obhrai said Canadians were won over by the tone of Justin Trudeau's message — if not its content — in the 2015 election campaign, and the Conservatives need to take heed of the success that approach brought the Liberals.

"I mean, there's no promise given by Mr. Trudeau, but at least he gave us a message of hope, while we in that matter failed," Obhrai said.

"So, therefore, it is very important we need to be out there to say we represent the future."

The other announced candidates for the Conservative leadership, so far, are Ontario MPs Tony Clement, Kellie Leitch and Michael Chong, and Quebec MP Maxime Bernier.

with files from Diane Yanko

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