On May 27, 2017, the Conservative Party of Canada will be electing a new leader. Currently, Rona Ambrose serves as the party’s interim leader, after being selected by the Conservative Caucus in November 2015. Ambrose has held several cabinet positions in her political career, including Environment, Labour, Public Works, and Status of Women, just to name a few.
On May 27, party members will choose a permanent successor to former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who led the Conservative Party from 2004 until his defeat at the 2015 federal election on October 9, 2015.
A total of 14 candidates are vying for this coveted position. This diverse list ranges from experienced career politicians, to a high-profile and outspoken business and television personality. Click on each name to learn more about them, and be taken to their official campaign pages:
- Chris Alexander
- Maxime Bernier
- Steven Blaney
- Michael Chong
- Kellie Leitch
- Pierre Lemieux
- Deepak Obhrai
- Kevin O’Leary
- Erin O’Toole
- Rick Peterson
- Lisa Raitt
- Andrew Saxton
- Andrew Scheer
- Brad Trost
Based on recent polls, the following candidates are considered to be front runners in the race:
1. Kevin O’Leary
Kevin O’Leary, a late entry into the race, is a clear front runner for PC leadership. He is certainly the most well-known candidate, having appeared on the popular television programs, Shark Tank and Dragon’s Den. O’Leary is a veteran entrepreneur and experienced businessman, who has authored several books and travels the world looking for growth and investment opportunities on behalf of investors.
O’Leary is not without controversy, however. Widely-viewed as a similar candidate to US President Donald Trump due to his big personality, pro-business ideals and reality TV appearances, he’s famous for a particular style of politics that have seen massive success south of the border. In addition to his lack of political experience, O’Leary is not fluent in French, both of which have been widely criticized. Recently, he pulled out of a bilingual debate in Edmonton, opting instead to host his own event, an “intimate fireside discussion” at a nearby hotel, during the same time.
2. Maxime Bernier
A trained lawyer, Maxime Bernier was called to the Quebec Bar in 1990. Throughout his career, he also worked for several financial and banking institutions, and become Executive Vice-President of the Montreal Economic Institute in 2005. He entered politics in 2006, when he was elected Member of Parliament in the riding of Beauce, Quebec. He was appointed to cabinet on February 6, 2006 as Minister of Industry, and has also served as Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism.
Bernier leads all 14 candidates in fundraising, which clearly shows his support throughout the party with 3,853 donations. He is considered the libertarian of his race, calling for an end to supply management and rollback of several regulations, which has certainly earned him some criticism.
3. Kellie Leitch
A pediatric orthopedic surgeon by trade, Kellie Leitch has been an activist in the Conservative Party since the age of the 14. She entered politics in 2011 when she was elected as the Member of Parliament for Simcoe-Grey in Ontario, and she has since served as the Minister of Labour and Minister for the Status of Women.
Leitch has also been compared to Donald Trump due to her shock-value campaigns and rhetoric concerning “elites.” She has been heavily criticized within her own party for her health care and immigration policies, including her movement to have immigrants screened for anti-Canadian values. Leitch is, however, second only to Maxime Bernier in fundraising, and continues to be a popular, organized and much-talked about candidate.
The latest debate took place on February 28 in Edmonton with 13 out of the 14 candidates in attendance. They squared off in their appeals to families, values and the oil patch. Across the street, Kevin O’Leary hosted a 90-minute question-and-answer session, and reiterated his desire to run on a business-oriented framework.
With such a lengthy list of diverse and outspoken candidates, the outcome of the Conservative leadership race is currently impossible to predict. The next debate is scheduled for late April 2017.