Politics·Analysis

Conservative leadership: Is Lisa Raitt waiting on Peter MacKay?

Lisa Raitt will head to her home province of Nova Scotia next week for the Conservative caucus retreat with her mind made up about a leadership bid - but with her lips sealed.

Ontario MP could be counting on her Atlantic roots to provide a base for leadership bid

Lisa Raitt wouldn't reveal anything about her intentions despite repeated questioning at a news conference in Ottawa on Friday. But she did concede that Conservatives would know soon whether she will be seeking the party leadership. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Lisa Raitt will head to her home province of Nova Scotia next week for the Conservative caucus retreat with her mind made up about a leadership bid — but with her lips sealed.

"I plan on going to caucus without having said anything on the topic," Raitt said.

Raitt wouldn't reveal anything about her intentions despite repeated questioning at a news conference in Ottawa on Friday. But she did concede that Conservatives would know soon whether she will be seeking the party leadership.

"The debates are approaching. Everyone needs to know who is involved and who is not involved. And I'm cognizant of people wanting to get on with their lives," she said. "So I will put them out of their misery fairly quickly."

That timeline — and the final decision — could be affected by what Raitt hears at the caucus next week about whether or not she can build a base of support in Atlantic Canada.

Raitt represents the Ontario riding of Milton in the House of Commons, but she is originally from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. She highlighted that when discussing the value of having the caucus retreat on her home turf.

"Atlantic Canadians can get to know us and I get to show off a great part of the country to my colleagues," she said.

Waiting for MacKay

But there is a potential obstacle to Raitt capitalizing on her East Coast roots in a leadership race and that is the yet-to-be determined leadership ambitions of Peter MacKay.

The former Conservative cabinet minister didn't run in the last election, but has said he is considering a run for the party's top job.

"Obviously a decision has to be taken soon because I don't want to freeze people out or influence their decisions," MacKay told The Canadian Press earlier this month.

"I suspect that that's already happening, to some degree, so I'm very aware that a decision has to be taken soon and I'm seriously getting close to making that decision," he said.

If he does run, MacKay would almost certainly have a stranglehold on Atlantic Canada support, cutting into a potential growth area for Raitt and MP Erin O'Toole, who also has East Coast connections and is contemplating a leadership bid.

15 possible candidates 

As many as 15 names have been attached to the Conservative leadership race. To this point, Maxime Bernier, Michael Chong, Tony Clement, Kellie Leitch, Pierre Lemieux, Deepak Obhrai, and Brad Trost have either formally registered as candidates or declared their leadership ambitions.

Raitt, MacKay and O'Toole are in a second category of possible candidates which includes Andrew Scheer, Candice Bergen, Dan Lindsay, Rick Peterson and Adrienne Snow, as well as businessman and television personality Kevin O'Leary.

About the Author

David Cochrane is a senior reporter in CBC's Parliamentary bureau. He previously wrote for CBC Newfoundland and Labrador.

With files from Canadian Press