POLITICS

Interim Conservative Leadership Race: 5 Things To Know About The Job

10/26/2015 04:46 EDT | Updated 10/26/2015 04:59 EDT

As federal Conservatives say goodbye to the only leader they've ever known, a handful of outgoing cabinet ministers have already offered to lead the party through the fog.

While the selection of an interim Conservative leader is an internal party manner, the job comes with some unique perks and opportunities.

So far, Diane Finley, Rob Nicholson, and Erin O'Toole have all said they want the gig. Michelle Rempel is also, reportedly, considering a bid.

Finley, an MP since 2004 and outgoing minister of public works, was first to make her intentions known. On Friday, she launched her bid by promising a "collaborative" Opposition Leader's Office. In an interview with CBC News, Finley, 58, conceded a "softer image" for the party might not hurt.

Finley was re-elected in the Ontario riding of Haldimand-Norfolk by more than 4,000 votes.

Nicholson, 63, announced on the weekend that he's interested in the job. Nicholson was a Progressive Conservative MP from 1984 to 1993 and served in prime minister Kim Campbell's cabinet. He returned to federal politics in 2004 and was given some plum portfolios in Stephen Harper's cabinet, including justice, defence and foreign affairs.

He won the riding of Niagara Falls by 5,000 votes.

"I've had a number of caucus colleagues call me over the last couple of days asking me to consider it," Nicholson told The Niagara Falls Review.

On Monday, O'Toole entered the race. Though first elected in 2012, he was named minister of veterans affairs in January, replacing Julian Fantino. A former Air Force captain, O'Toole, 42, worked to repair the government's relationship with Canada's vets.

Last Monday, he was re-elected in the Ontario riding of Durham by more than 6,000 votes. Fantino lost in Vaughan-Woodbridge by more than 2,200 votes.

"I really think we have to show that we're serious about rebuilding right from Day 1 and I think the interim can be part of that," he told The Canadian Press.

While the race to find Harper's full-time successor may be sexier, the contest to find an interim leader is still significant — and not just to Tories. After all, whoever wins will be Canada's next Opposition leader.

Here are five key things to know about the job…

It comes with an $80,000 pay bump

The interim leader of the Official Opposition earns $80,100 on top of the base MP salary of $167,400. That annual salary of $247,500 is the same as members of cabinet and almost $20,000 more than junior ministers of state.

stephen harper

Stephen Harper holds up a pile of money at an event on the campaign trail. (Photo: Jonathan Hayward/CP)

Outgoing Opposition leader Thomas Mulcair now stands to earn $224,200 if he stays on as leader of the third place New Democratic Party.

But Opposition leader is not the only role that will give a top Tory the chance to earn more cash in the next Parliament. The Opposition House leader, responsible for managing the team's business in the House of Commons, also makes $41,500 on top of the MP salary.

It comes with a residence (and it might be better than the prime minister's)

The interim Tory leader will be entitled to take up lodging at Stornoway, the official residence of the leader of the Opposition since 1950. The 34-room mansion, located in Ottawa's tony Rockcliffe Park, was built in 1913. The residence also has its own chef.

stornoway

Stornoway (Photo: National Capital Commission)

The prime minister's official residence at 24 Sussex Dr. is in dire need of renovations. A 2008 report from the auditor general pegged the costs at $10 million to fix various issues, including plumbing, air conditioning, cracked windows, and an outdated electrical system. CBC reports the home also contains asbestos and lacks fire sprinklers.

The last extensive renovation to the PM's residence, built between 1866 and 1868, was more than 50 years ago.

Prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau has already announced he will move his family into Rideau Cottage, a 19th century home on the grounds of Rideau Hall, for the time being.

It comes with a full-time driver

The interim Tory leader will be carted around in a limosine and receive an annual car allowance of $2,000, just the same as members of cabinet. Other party leaders do not receive the same privilege.

stephen harper

Stephen Harper waits for his car to depart in a motorcade in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/CP)

It comes with a chance to make history

Whoever becomes full-time Tory leader is looking at four (or more) years of hard work to get the party back in position to form government. The interim leader, however, is immediately afforded the chance to be part of history by holding down the fort in a caretaker capacity for several months or a year.

In 2000, Reform MP Deborah Grey became the first female leader of the Opposition in Canadian history when she stepped into the interim role from March until September. Then-Opposition leader Preston Manning resigned at the time to run for the leadership of the new Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance.

deborah grey

Deborah Grey smiles in her office as official leader of the Opposition. (Photo: Tom Hanson/CP)

The NDP's Nycole Turmel became the second female Opposition leader in 2011 when she took over for Jack Layton, who took a leave of absence in the summer to battle cancer and died shortly after. Turmel held the reins until Mulcair won a leadership contest in 2012.

If Rempel, 35, runs for the job and wins, she will be the youngest Opposition leader in Canadian history.

History would likewise be made if a person of colour were to land the job.

It comes with a catch

While the job has its perks, the Conservative Party constitution guarantees that whoever becomes interim leader stays leader for the interim.

"A person appointed as Interim Leader may not be nor become a candidate in the leadership selection process," it reads.

While this may seem obvious, federal Liberals wrestled with this very issue in the past. Bob Rae, who stepped into the role of interim Liberal leader shortly after the party's disastrous 2011 election, impressed many with his performance.

bob rae

Bob Rae speaks in Toronto in 2014. (Photo: Nathan Denette/CP)

Though Rae promised not to run for the permanent leadership when he accepted the post, reports at the time that he was considering launching a bid sparked backlash. He ultimately decided not to enter the race.

"I… have naturally been thinking about this question and been wrestling with it," Rae told The Toronto Star. "I've reached the conclusion that the way in which I can serve the party best is by not running for the permanent leadership."

While Nicholson and Finley have not been mentioned as potential contenders to replace Harper, Rempel and O'Toole are considered by some to be the future of the party.

Tories will select their interim leader on Nov. 5, just one day after Trudeau unveils his cabinet.

With files from The Canadian Press

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