POLITICS

Michelle Rempel, Kellie Leitch, Lisa Raitt Discussed As Possible Harper Successors

10/22/2015 12:12 EDT | Updated 10/22/2015 12:12 EDT

In the wake of the Conservative Party's defeat, three high-profile female cabinet ministers are being discussed as possible successors to Stephen Harper.

The first, Dr. Kellie Leitch — a pediatric surgeon, outgoing minister of labour and minister for the status of women — is reportedly set to launch a campaign to lead the Conservative Party of Canada.

The second, Michelle Rempel — a fast-rising Tory star and outgoing minister of state for Western economic diversification – is opening up about the challenges of mounting a run.

The third, Lisa Raitt — a much-respected outgoing minister of transport — is keeping her cards close to the vest.

kellie leitch

Kellie Leitch answers a question during Question Period. (Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

According to Rebel Media, Leitch, who was re-elected Monday in the Ontairo riding of Simcoe-Grey by more than 5,000 votes, will make her intentions clear as early as Friday.

Considered a red Tory, Leitch gave a moving tribute in the House of Commons last year to former finance minister Jim Flaherty, who she described as a political mentor. Leitch lived in the same building as Flaherty in Ottawa and tried to save his life after he suffered a heart attack.

During an all-candidates' debate late last month, the 45-year-old Leitch announced that she was "pro-life" and said her experiences as a doctor shaped that position.

"I spent a significant part of my professional career taking care of disabled kids — children that have reached amazing potentials because they were born," she said.

Leitch also announced the Tories' pledge to create an RCMP tip line to combat so-called "barbaric cultural practices," including forced marriage, polygamy, or female genital mutilation.

She accused Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair of being "more worried about political correctness than tackling these difficult issues that impact women."

michelle rempel

Michelle Rempel arrives for the swearing in of the federal cabinet at Rideau Hall (Photo: Patrick Doyle/CP)

Rempel, 35, made a name for herself on the federal scene in short order. First elected in 2011 in the Tory stronghold of Calgary North Centre, Rempel was easily re-elected Monday in the new riding of Calgary Nose Hill by more than 18,000 votes.

A former parliamentary secretary to the minister of environment, Rempel became the youngest female cabinet minister in Canadian history when she was named to Harper's inner circle in 2013.

She has spoken out numerous times about the sexism women face in political life, often on social media.

It was fitting, then, that Rempel took to Twitter Wednesday to offer her thoughts about potentially running for the leadership.

"I am competent, proven, and ready," she wrote. " Here's the question – are you ready for someone like me?"

lisa raitt

Lisa Raitt speaks to reporters in Ottawa. (Photo: CP)

And what of Raitt? The veteran MP's name has been included in just about every story about potential candidates for the top Tory job — and for good reason. Another red Tory, Raitt was also floated as a possible contender for the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership.

First elected in 2008, she served as minister of natural resources and labour before landing the coveted transport portolio two years ago. Despite the Liberal surge that saw a number of cabinet ministers ousted, she was re-elected in the Ontario riding of Milton by more than 2,400 votes.

On CBC's Power & Politics Wednesday, Raitt made reference to how a "red wave" met a "blue wall" in her riding.

She said she wanted to see what the gender split was among voters, pointing to a "striking" division between how men and women voted in the 2014 provincial election.

"We're really losing in terms of the 18 to 49-year-old women," she said of the federal party.

When asked if the election was a referendum on Harper, Raitt said only the Tory leader is a "man of honour" who made the right decision for himself by giving up the reins.

"Do you want that job?" Barton asked.

"We don't even know what happened in the campaign," she replied. "I really do think we have strong policies for the country that help it. And 'how do I get that message out better' should be the question we should be asking as Conservatives. And where do we need to go from here?

"Until you know that gap, you really don't know who is going to fill that gap the best."

Watch her full interview with Rosemary Barton:

Raitt has spoken in the past about the challenges faced by women in politics, particularly comments they often face about the way they look.

"The toughest part about being a woman in politics… it's not about my policy, it's not about how I feel, it's about my appearance," she said in January.

"That's the part I find the most difficult: people commenting on weight gain, people commenting on what your hair looks like, people commenting on all kinds of things. That's the part that bothers me the most. And I know men get it too, but I think women get it to a greater extent."

Tories took the first steps towards a leadership race by setting up a committee this week that will set the rules of the upcoming contest.

With a file from The Canadian Press

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