Politics

Baird 'seriously considering' Conservative leadership bid: Kenney

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says he believes his former cabinet colleague John Baird is "seriously considering" a run for the Conservative leadership.

Alberta premier says there needs to be a broader field of candidates in federal race

Former foreign affairs minister John Baird retired from politics in 2015. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says he believes his former cabinet colleague John Baird is "seriously considering" a run for the Conservative leadership.

"If somebody like John Baird steps forward, I think that would help to enliven the race," said Kenney following a panel discussion in Washington, D.C., Friday.

"I believe he's seriously considering it."

Kenney, who served alongside Baird in Stephen Harper's cabinet, said he's discussed the race with Baird but wouldn't discuss a private conversation.

The premier said the leadership race needs a broader field of candidates.

"I think he'd be a very compelling candidate," said Kenney. "John is very experienced, he's a principled Conservative, he is bilingual."

Who's running for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada. (CBC News)

His comments come amid a behind-the-scenes push to convince Baird to re-enter the political arena. Baird reportedly was working on Pierre Poilievre's campaign team until Poilievre dropped out of the race.

Another former cabinet minister, Peter MacKay, is the perceived front-runner, although his campaign had a rocky start after he was forced to address a tweet issued by his leadership team — from his verified account — poking fun at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's yoga habit.

He told CBC News he was "not happy" with the tweet and wanted to strike a more civil tone. His public relations team also abruptly ended an interview with CTV News when a reporter asked about the yoga dig.

Ontario Conservative MPs Erin O'Toole and Marilyn Gladu are also in the running. Rookie MP Derek Sloan and Alberta businessman Rick Peterson also have announced their intentions to run.

Baird retired from politics in early 2015 and took on a number of jobs in the private sector, including an advisory role with Barrick Gold Corp.

The former foreign affairs minister was tapped to write a lessons-learned report following the Conservative loss in the Oct. 21 federal election under Andrew Scheer. While that report has not been publicly released, sources say it blamed inexperienced staffers and a decision to centralize control over the campaign in the hands of campaign manager Hamish Marshall for the disappointing finish.

With files from Hannah Thibedeau

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