Kitchener-Waterloo

Wellington-Halton Hills MP Michael Chong announces Conservative leadership bid

MP Michael Chong said the federal Conservative Party is the one "for people's hopes and aspirations," as he announced his intention to run for leadership of the party.

Federal Conservatives ‘the party for people’s hopes and aspirations,’ Chong says

Conservative MP Michael Chong announces he will run for the leadership of the party during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday May 16, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Wellington-Halton Hills MP Michael Chong has officially entered the race to become the next leader of the federal Conservative Party, ending weeks of speculation and rumour. 

Economic reform, democratic reform and the environment will be top issues as part of his campaign, the blue tie-wearing Chong said as he made the announcement Monday morning in Ottawa. 

The party also needs to rebuild its membership, he said.

"We need to reach out to new Canadians and re-earn their trust. I think we need to reach out to younger voters," Chong said, adding they also need to connect with voters in urban centres like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

"It's time to attract new people to our party by putting forward new and ambitious policies based on Conservative principles," he said.

Chong was asked if being from Ontario will be an issue in his leadership bid.

"I don't think what region of the country you come from matters," he said. "What matters is what ideas, principles and policies you put forward."

MPs would vote their conscience

The Conservatives are seeking a new leader after former prime minister Stephen Harper stepped down following the party's loss in the general election in October, 2015.

Chong, who quit a cabinet post in 2006 on a motion to recognized Quebecois as a nation, was asked about Harper. Chong said he was "proud" to have served under Harper, but agreed the two men had different principles.

He said Harper helped Canada through the economic recession in 2009 with smart policies.

"A leader needs to know what they stand for," he said.

Chong disagreed with Harper on the issues of same-sex marriage and euthanasia. In 2006, Chong was one of 13 Conservative MPs who opposed a motion to re-open the debate over the definition of marriage. The bill would have forced the government "to introduce legislation to restore the traditional definition of marriage without affecting civil unions ... while respecting existing same-sex marriages."

When it comes to the assisted dying legislation being brought forward by the Liberals, Chong said the bill isn't perfect, but "is better than no law at all."

"Many people in my party actually feel the bill goes too far and others feel it doesn't go far enough," he said, adding under his leadership, party members would be allowed to vote their conscience.

Leader to be chosen May 2017

Chong was joined by his family– his wife Carrie and their three sons, William, Alistair and Cameron – as he announced his leadership bid.

"It's time to tell our story of why the Conservatives are the party for people's hopes and aspirations," he said. 

He said the story of his parents immigrating to Canada "is a Canadian story, but it's also a Conservative story – a story of hard work, perseverance, a story of counting your pennies and investing in your children's future."

Conservative MP Michael Chong walks with his wife Carrie and sons Cameron (left), Alistair and William (right) to a news conference to announce he will run for the leadership of the party during a news conference in Ottawa, on Monday. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Two other candidates have entered the leadership race: Ontario MP Kellie Leitch and Quebec MP Maxime Bernier.

There are other names being bandied about as possible candidates, including outspoken business leader Kevin O'Leary, former MP and cabinet minister Peter MacKay, current party interim leader Rona Ambrose, who has indicated she does not plan to run, and Calgary MP Jason Kenney.

Those entering the race now are in it for the long haul, as the next leader will be chosen on May 27, 2017.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly said MP Chong supported a motion to reopen the debate over same-sex marriage. In fact, he opposed the motion.
    May 16, 2016 1:17 PM ET

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