'Non-Negotiable' That Next Federal Tory Leader Is Bilingual, Says Jason Kenney

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Former Conservative immigration minister Jason Kenney says he has yet to make up his mind about whom, if anyone, he will support in the federal Tory leadership race, but if he does lend his assistance, the candidate will need to be bilingual.

"I think it's non-negotiable that the leader of a national party should be able to communicate in both of our official languages," Kenney said after sitting on the democratic reform committee's summer session.

So far, five candidates have made formal declarations for the leadership: Tony Clement, Deepak Obhrai, Maxime Bernier, Michael Chong and Kellie Leitch.

jason kenney
Jason Kenney announces he will be seeking the leadership of Alberta's Progressive Conservative party in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, July 6, 2016. (Photo: Jeff McIntosh/CP)

Milton MP Lisa Raitt said she is leaning toward a run, and there are the undeclared possibilities of former Tory defence minister Peter MacKay, former Speaker of the House Andrew Scheer and ex-Dragon's Den star Kevin O'Leary.

The declared candidates all have some French, but would struggle to define themselves as fluent. Scheer fits into that description as well and Raitt is open about her struggles to learn French. Bernier is a francophone who has worked to ensure his English has improved over the last decade.

O'Leary does not speak French but has argued that he is fluent in the language of jobs and the economy. On that mark he might at least score a limited point with Kenney.

"I'd like to see somebody who is a conviction conservative, who really believes in the power of free enterprise and markets to lift people up and let them recognize their potential," Kenney said. "So I'm looking for somebody who really believes in our convictions as conservatives."

He also said that while there are only four declared candidates at the moment, it's still 10 months away from the leadership contest and he expects the field of declared candidates to be complete by the fall.

Kenney announced on July 6 that he would seek the leadership of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party with a mandate to unite with the Wildrose Party.

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