Charest, Kenney, Ford: Names fly as Conservatives plan leadership race

Charest, Raitt, Ford, Kenney...Mulroney?

TORONTO — Charest, Raitt, Ford, Kenney…Mulroney?

The names of potential leadership contenders began swirling around Conservative circles within hours of Stephen Harper’s defeat to Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, including that of another man who grew up at 24 Sussex — Mark Mulroney.

Mulroney, son of former prime minister Brian Mulroney, is the head of equity capital markets at National Bank. Brother Ben is a well-known broadcaster with the CTV network.

His name might be sheer speculation, but in these early days before the race crystallizes, party members will have fun blueskying the contenders.

The structure of the race itself hasn’t taken shape yet. A conference call of the party’s governing body will take place Tuesday night to appoint a committee tasked with organizing the leadership contest.

Ontario MP and former cabinet minister Lisa Raitt isn’t ruling out a run, but said there’s analytical work to be done before anyone heads down that road.

“We need to understand what happened before we understand where we’re going in the future,” said Raitt, who is advocating for a meeting of all current and unseated caucus members.

“Until you know what the problems were, you can’t put yourself forward being the solution.”

Early Tuesday, a group promoting former Toronto city councillor Doug Ford put out a press release supporting his potential candidacy. Ford delivered a 10-minute speech at a Harper rally just a few days ago.

“I can’t answer that now,” Ford told Toronto Sun reporter Don Peat on Tuesday when asked about the unfolding race.

He was seen having lunch recently with another possible contender, MP and former cabinet minister Kellie Leitch. Leitch has been said to be kicking the tires for a possible run.

Of all the names, MP Jason Kenney’s is the one most mentioned, and the one believed to be the best organized and placed for a run. Party insiders say Kenney has been quietly putting together a base of support for many years, particularly through his contact with ethnic communities across the country.

He is also likely to have the strongest support within the caucus itself, having lent his campaigning and fundraising assistance to so many of the MPs and candidates.

MP Michael Chong, a politician who earned a reputation for defending the voice of individual MPs and calling for civility in the Commons, is another person who comes up in conversation.

But the fact that the Liberals won such a decisive majority might dissuade some from considering a run, since the next Conservative leader would be in opposition for an indefinite amount of time.

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