OTTAWA — The gears of the Conservative leadership race are starting to move, with a key rules committee now in place and preparing to set a date and parameters for the vote.
Twenty Canadians, including longtime MP Diane Finley and seven members of the party's national council, will sit on the Leadership Election Organization Committee. They are supposed to hold their first meeting by phone within the next week.
With that body created, the lobbying by potential candidates to attempt to shape the rules will begin in earnest.
Conservative MP Jason Kenney arrives for a caucus meeting. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/CP)
It is widely believed inside Conservative circles that MPs Lisa Raitt, Kellie Leitch and Tony Clement are poised to run. Perceived front-runner Jason Kenney has been more coy in recent weeks, and there are many party members who would like to see Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall announce his candidacy.
Party president John Walsh said a weekend meeting in Ottawa of the party's governing body was upbeat, and featured a discussion with interim leader Rona Ambrose. Ambrose has said there is a consensus within the caucus not to rush the leadership race, and to hold it sometime in 2017.
"We accomplished a significant amount of work on behalf of the members and we as national councillors are delighted that the (committee) will now begin the vital work of setting the rules and the date of the party's leadership race," Walsh said.
"While it is ultimately up to the (committee) to decide, I expect that body will be able to communicate the rules and the date to the membership soon in the new year."
The members of the committee drawn from outside the party apparatus have not yet been named publicly. Walsh said they include people with experience in corporate governance and who worked on the previous leadership race. All are under strict orders to be neutral during the race.
The party also formally confirmed it would move forward with a policy convention this May in Vancouver. Ambrose has suggested the event will be a potential showcase for leadership candidates.
Conservative party members will be asked over the next several months for their feedback on the federal election campaign. There are different theories inside the ranks about what went wrong, with some blaming campaign manager Jenni Byrne for poor organization, and others saying the public's distaste for leader Stephen Harper was the crux of the problem.
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