Tony Clement launches campaign to become next Conservative federal leader

Conservative MP Tony Clement launched his campaign Tuesday evening to become the next leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, becoming the fourth Tory to enter the race.

Former Conservative cabinet minister says he will use social media to engage all Canadians

Former Conservative cabinet minister Tony Clement launched his bid for the party leadership today in Mississauga, Ont. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press.)

Conservative MP Tony Clement launched his campaign Tuesday evening to become the next leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. 

Clement made the announcement surrounded by supporters in Mississauga, Ont., promising he is the "leader, who represents the experience, and the innovation, who can win back the trust of Canadians in suburban and urban communities alike across the land."

Clement said he was "tested, and ready today, to earn back the confidence of families, of millennials, of moms and dads, of urban and rural Canadians, and of small business leaders, and seniors who want government to be an empowering force for good."

Clement is something of a social media maven who has been critical of the party's campaign in the last election.

Drawing attention to his well-known Twitter presence, Clement said he would use social media more effectively to reach out to all Canadians and engage them. He joked that the first draft of his campaign launch speech was only 140 characters long — the maximum length of a tweet. 

A former minister in Stephen Harper's cabinet, Clement spoke at length about his roots as an immigrant from the United Kingdom who was brought up on strong family values. 

"Values that I was brought up with from those early immigrant days in Hamilton in a small upstairs apartment. Values that are strongly embraced across my beautiful riding," Clement said. 

Clement also cited his experience as the former minister of health for the Ontario Progressive Conservative government of Mike Harris. 

"For greater prosperity and more opportunity, I am your leader. For a better quality of life from health to the environment I am your leader. For security of our people and the defence of values, I am your leader. 

Clement has a large presence on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, where he shares videos and pictures with his thousands of followers, often profiling his personal life and his fondness for rock music.

The longtime politician joins three other Conservative leadership hopefuls, all of whom are his fellow House caucus colleagues. 

Maxime Bernier, Michael Chong and Kellie Leitch launched their campaigns earlier this year after the Tory leadership process formally began. Milton MP Lisa Raitt is another possible contender. Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose has vowed not to run despite being the subject of a "Draft Rona" campaign by some committed supporters.

2nd run at the leadership

This is Clement's second run at the party's leadership. In 2004 he placed third against Harper and auto parts mogul Belinda Stronach.

The Parry Sound-Muskoka MP has altered his appearance in recent months ahead of his foray into the political spotlight, purchasing new glasses and trimming his hair.

Clement debuts a new 'do on Instagram. (Instagram )

He took a dig at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau while at the barbershop Tuesday, referring to a Conservative attack ad launched last summer that branded the then Liberal leader as inept but physically attractive.

Clement said he would outline his vision for the party during his campaign launch event in Mississauga, Ont., but he has already said the party needs to have more coherent environmental policies in the wake of the Paris climate change accord. He has also signalled he would scrap subsidies for CBC/Radio-Canada.

Bernier has sought to brand himself as the libertarian candidate by taking provocative policy positions: vowing to scrap Canada's telecom regulator, dismantle supply management and end "corporate welfare" subsidies to private businesses.

The other candidates have yet to release any formal policy planks.

Clement's political career began at University of Toronto where he was president of the campus Progressive Conservatives.

He later worked as a staffer to former Ontario premier Mike Harris where he helped to draft the so-called Common Sense Revolution, a series of policies pitched as a way to shrink the size of the provincial government and lower taxes after Bob Rae's time as NDP premier.

The U.K.-born Clement was then elected to Queen's Park in 1995. He held a number of cabinet portfolios under Harris before the ruling PCs were voted out of office in 2003.

He ran for leadership of the Ontario PCs but was ultimately bested by Ernie Eves.

The federal Conservative Party will elect its new leader on May 27, 2017.

The Conservative Party stalwart explains his choice to run for party leadership. 9:27