Politics

Conservatives to pick their new leader on June 27

The Conservative Party will select its new leader on June 27 in Toronto, according to the head of the leadership organizing committee.

The rules for the race still need to be settled before candidates officially declare

Conservative MPs pay their respects to Leader of the Opposition Andrew Scheer following his resignation announcement December 12, 2019 in the House of Commons. The party will pick a new leader this year. (Adrian Wyld / Canadian Press)

The Conservative Party will select its new leader on June 27 in Toronto, says the head of the party's leadership organizing committee.

Dan Nowlan told CBC News Network's Power & Politics today the committee chose that date based on feedback from party members. He said the overwhelming membership consensus favours a quick, efficient and transparent race to replace Andrew Scheer — and he's committed to delivering that.

With a minority Liberal government in office that could fall at any point, "we have an obligation as the opposition party to be ready as quickly as we can," Nowlan said.

With the date set, the next step for the committee is to nail down the rules for the leadership race. Party sources tell CBC News candidates will have to pay a fee of $300,000 and gather 3,000 signatures of support to enter the race.

For the 2017 Conservative leadership race, the fee was $100,000 and candidates were required to gather only 300 signatures. Half of that money was refundable if candidates followed all the rules of the contest.

Scheer resigned as Conservative leader in December after mounting criticism from former party insiders. He will stay on as leader until a new one is chosen.

Controversy followed Scheer

After the fall election, Scheer pointed to what he called the party's "strong" results and insisted he would stay on as leader. But the calls for him to step down grew louder — especially after news emerged that Scheer had used party funds to pay for a portion of his children's school tuition. The party's executive director, Dustin van Vugt, said it was part of a "standard offer" made to Scheer when he relocated his family from Regina to Ottawa.

Scheer's office told CBC News that the Conservative Party was paying the difference between the cost of private school tuition for Scheer's kids in Saskatchewan and the higher cost of tuition in Ottawa, along with some other expenses. That cost was described as "minimal" but amounted to thousands of dollars.

Controversy dogged Scheer throughout the election campaign. His views on same-sex marriage and abortion were questioned, as were his stated credentials as an insurance broker and his dual Canada-U.S. citizenship. (Ironically, Toronto's 2020 Pride festival will coincide with the leadership convention.)

Even his former deputy party leader conceded Scheer had failed to win over the party following the loss.

"The theme is the same regardless of whether you are an economic conservative, a social conservative or a libertarian, and this is it: that he wasn't strong enough," Lisa Raitt, who lost her Milton seat, said at a Toronto event. 

Unity or division

Nowlan acknowledged there are still some "hard feelings" within the party lingering from the election but insisted Conservatives will show a united front to Canadians in the next election.

The Conservatives increased their seat count in October's election and won the popular vote, but ultimately could not defeat the Liberals.

Scheer announced his resignation less than a month ago, but the speculation about his replacement has been running hot. Many believe Conservative stars like former interim leader Rona Ambrose and former cabinet minister Peter MacKay could end up running. MP Erin O'Toole also reportedly told his colleagues he intends to run. Finance critic Pierre Poilievre's name is also being thrown around, along with that of former Quebec premier Jean Charest.

A postmortem report on the Conservative Party's election performance, compiled by former federal Conservative minister John Baird, is expected soon.

The Conservative Party recently postponed its national policy convention to gear up for the leadership race. Initially planned for April, the Toronto meeting has been cancelled in favour of one in Quebec City in mid-November.

Scheer was declared Conservative leader in May 2017 after a crowded race concluded with his narrow win over Maxime Bernier, who now leads the People's Party of Canada.

With files from Catherine Cullen and Hannah Thibedeau

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