Who's next? Conservative speculation about Scheer's replacement breaks into the open

Now that Andrew Scheer has announced he's stepping down as Conservative leader, the race to replace him has unofficially begun.

Leadership talk has been simmering since the election. On Thursday, it boiled over.

Conservative MPs pay their respects to Leader of the Opposition Andrew Scheer following the announcement he will step down as leader of the Conservatives, Thursday, December 12, 2019 in the House of Commons. (Adrian Wyld / Canadian Press)

The race to replace Andrew Scheer is officially on.

Since the Conservative Party's near-miss in the October election, most prospective candidates have held back on revealing their ambitions. Now that Scheer's made the decision to quit, the rumour mill is grinding away louder than before.

An internal party review of the Conservatives' election performance is underway. Many within the party have already pointed to Scheer's leadership as the prime factor in the party's defeat.

Conservative commentator Geoff Norquay said the next leader must have a national vision that resonates with voters in urban areas, women and Canadians concerned about climate change.

After a campaign that saw Scheer struggle with questions about his positions on abortion and same-sex marriage, Norquay told CBC News the next leader must be confident in his or her positions and be happy to march in Pride parades.

Norquay said the next leader also must have a vision for policies on innovation, transitioning away from a carbon-fueled economy, cybersecurity and protecting personal information in the digital age.

Jamie Ellerton, who served as Scheer's media manager on the campaign tour, said the party needs a leader who can connect with Canadians everywhere.

"Conservatives need to go back to the drawing board and look at what Canadians are talking about today, look at the issues that Canadians are concerned about, that keep them up and at night, and look at how Conservative principles and values can solve them today," he said.

Ellerton said the next leader can't be "stuck" in the mindset of 15 years ago, and should believe that support for same-sex marriage is a Conservative value that promotes strong families and communities.

Next steps for leadership

The next step in the leadership contest is for the Conservative Party's National Council to form a leadership election organizing committee, which will decide on the rules, procedures, process and timelines for the contest, said party spokesman Cory Hann.

The Conservatives already have a policy convention scheduled for April in Toronto, but it's not clear if that could also serve as the forum to pick a new leader.

"It'll be up to the Leadership Election Organizing Committee ultimately to determine what a reasonable timeline is," Hann said. "Policy conventions and leadership contests are both a lot of work, but what LEOC decides is what we'll work with."

The last time the Conservatives held a leadership contest — in 2017 — it was a crowded field of 16 candidates. Three of those candidates dropped out before the convention.

Maxime Bernier was considered the front-runner but ended up finishing a close second behind Scheer. Bernier left the party three months later, calling the Conservatives "morally corrupt" and announcing his plan to start up his own political party.

A year after that, he launched the People's Party of Canada. It was shut out in the last election and Bernier lost his own Beauce, Que. seat. (Bernier confirmed today he has no interest in running for the Conservative leadership again.)

Here's who might be in the running this time:

Peter MacKay

Former Conservative cabinet minister Peter MacKay. (CBC News)

Nova Scotia's Peter MacKay is considered a "red Tory," with progressive positions on social policy issues.

MacKay told CBC News he has been receiving many calls to run, but still wants to speak with his family about a potential bid.

During an event at the Canada Institute in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 30, MacKay was asked for his thoughts on how the Conservatives failed to defeat Justin Trudeau's Liberals after the prime minister's major missteps.

"Yeah, to use a good Canadian analogy, it was like having a breakaway on an open net and missing the net," MacKay quipped.

Rona Ambrose

Former interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose. (Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press)

Ambrose served as the Conservative Party's interim leader after Stephen Harper stepped down, and was praised for her work in holding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to account in the House of Commons.

The long-serving MP worked in various cabinet roles under Harper, including environment, health and labour.

After leaving politics in 2017, she served on Trudeau's NAFTA advisory panel and has worked for organizations advancing girl and women's rights.

Erin O'Toole

Conservative MP Erin O'Toole. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

First elected federally in a 2012 byelection, O'Toole finished third in the 2017 leadership race.

He has a high profile on Parliament Hill as the party's foreign affairs critic, scrutinizing Trudeau's performance on the world stage and criticizing the Liberal government's handling of Canada-China relations.

A former military air force navigator, O'Toole served as veterans' affairs minister in Harper's cabinet.

Gérard Deltell

Conservative MP Gérard Deltell. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

Deltell is a former journalist from Quebec City. He served as leader of the Action démocratique du Québec (ADQ) from 2009 until it merged with the Coalition Avenir Québec.

He moved into federal politics in 2015 and is considered a rising star in the Conservative Party.

He currently serves as the Conservative critic for intergovernmental affairs.

Brad Wall

Former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall. (CBC)

Wall served as the premier of Saskatchewan from 2007-2018, holding the position for three terms.

Under his leadership, the province experienced population and economic growth driven by the oil, gas and potash industries.

After leaving politics — and following the required year-long cooling off period for ex-provincial politicians taking positions with companies that might be doing business with the province — Wall was named to several corporation boards.

One of those is the board of a Calgary-based oil and gas company he had tried to attract to Saskatchewan.

On Friday, Wall confirmed he would not be launching a bid, despite many people reaching out encouraging him to do so. On Twitter, he said he is "honoured" that people considered him for the role, but he hopes Ambrose will be a candidate.

Mark Mulroney

Mark Mulroney (LinkedIn)

The son of former Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney now serves as vice-chairman of corporate and investment banking at Scotiabank.

A graduate of Duke University, Mulroney has held several senior positions on Bay Street. He has no political experience, but some Conservatives have been pressing him to join the race.

Many had speculated that his sister, Ontario provincial cabinet minister Caroline Mulroney, might be interested in the leadership, but she ruled that out Thursday.

Rod Phillips

Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Now Ontario's finance minister, Phillips was a lawyer and businessman before entering politics. The Toronto Star reports he's considering a bid, while the Globe and Mail said his office has ruled out a leadership run.

His press secretary tweeted late Thursday that reports of a potential leadership bid are "not true."

He was also the president and CEO of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation and chair of the Postmedia newspaper chain.

Christy Clark

Former B.C. premier Christy Clark. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Clark served as Liberal premier of British Columbia from 2011 to 2017 — the second woman in the province to hold the position.

In B.C. the Liberal Party leans to the right, and under her leadership the province moved toward a diversified economy, expanded markets and debt reduction.

Before entering politics, Clark worked as a radio show host and columnist.

Bernard Lord

Former New Brunswick premier Bernard Lord. (Kate Letterick/CBC)

Lord served as premier of New Brunswick from 1999 to 2006.

After leaving politics, he served as CEO of the Canadian Wireless Telecommunication Association of Canada, a lobby group that represents cellular, wireless and mobile satellite companies.

He now serves as CEO of health company Medavie Inc.

Michelle Rempel Garner

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner. (Mike Symington/CBC)

Alberta MP Michelle Rempel Garner was western diversification minister under Harper. She now serves as the Conservative critic for industry and economic development.

During the last Parliament, she served as immigration critic, scrutinizing Liberal policies on asylum seekers and pressing the government to take in Yazidi victims of genocide.

She has been named a top future leader by several organizations in the past.

Pierre Poilievre

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre. (The Canadian Press)

Ontario MP Pierre Poilievre has been an MP for six terms and is a former minister in Harper's cabinet.

He now serves as his party's finance critic.

Poilievre was a Franco-Albertan originally and was born in Calgary.

With files from Tom Parry

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