Former Conservative cabinet minister John Baird says he will not enter the race to succeed Andrew Scheer as leader of the Conservative Party.
Baird tweeted earlier this evening that, while he is “incredibly grateful for all the support that Conservatives from across this great country have offered in the past few weeks,” he’s “incredibly happy” with his “post-political life.”
I am incredibly grateful for all the support that Conservatives from across this great country have offered in the past few weeks. Still, I want to provide some clarity that I will not be standing for Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. 1/3
I sincerely appreciate all the emails, phone calls, & offers of time and energy. When I left politics after 20 years of elected office, I committed myself to an equally rewarding career in the private sector. I am incredibly happy with my post-political life & enjoy my work. 2/3
I look forward to an exciting leadership race, and I will continue to remain a proud Conservative activist and enthusiastically support the policies and principles of our Party. Je vous remercie du fond du coeur! 3/3
“I look forward to an exciting leadership race, and I will continue to remain a proud Conservative activist and enthusiastically support the policies and principles of our party,” the former foreign affairs minister added.
Right now, the Conservative leadership race has one presumed frontrunner — former cabinet minister Peter MacKay — and two declared challengers from the current Conservative caucus: Marilyn Gladu and Erin O’Toole. As of earlier this week, Gladu was still working to meet the party’s entrance requirements. Toronto lawyer Leslyn Lewis confirmed her leadership bid this week.
Baird was reportedly under heavy pressure to run. In an opinion piece published by CBC earlier today, Kory Teneycke, former communications director to prime minister Stephen Harper, argued that the race to date has been “boring” and needs a major player like Baird to force other candidates to bring up their game.
“As in any arena, strong competition breeds strong competitors,” Teneycke wrote. “A field of strong candidates fight more forcefully for their ideas. Their weaknesses get tested.”
Baird’s not the first prominent Conservative to dash the hopes of supporters during this leadership race. After weeks of will-she-won’t-she speculation, former Conservative Party interim leader Rona Ambrose also confirmed late last month that she would not be a candidate.
MP Pierre Poilievre was widely expected to launch his own run in late January. His decision to opt out, which he attributed to a wish to spend time with his young family, surprised many of his supporters.
“My heart is not fully engaged in this leadership race,” Poilievre wrote in a Facebook post. “Without being all-in, I cannot be in at all. So I have decided not to seek the leadership of the party at this time.”
Baird was tapped to write a lessons-learned report following the Conservative loss in the Oct. 21 federal election under Andrew Scheer. While that report has not been released publicly, sources say it blamed inexperienced staffers and a decision to centralize control over the campaign in the hands of campaign manager Hamish Marshall for the disappointing finish.
The bar to enter the race is set quite high. The Conservatives have set the entrance fee at $200,000, along with a refundable compliance deposit of $100,000. That non-refundable portion is substantially higher than the $50,000 required in the last leadership race in 2017.
The other possible contenders who were still trying to meet the party’s entry requirements earlier this week include:
- Richard Decarie, a former talk show host and political aide under former Conservative leader Stephen Harper while in opposition.
- Vincenzo Guzzo, a movie-theatre mogul from Quebec who also stars in the reality-TV program “Dragons’ Den.”
- Rudy Husny, a longtime Quebec operative for the Conservative Party who also worked in the international trade portfolio for the Conservatives while in government.
- Jim Karahalios, an Ontario lawyer who led a fight in that province to get the carbon tax out of former PC party leader Patrick Brown’s platform.
- Rick Peterson, an Alberta businessman and a candidate in 2017 leadership campaign.
- Aron Seal, a former director of policy for two Conservative cabinet ministers.
- Bobby Singh, an entrepreneur and Conservative candidate in 2019 election in riding of Scarborough-Rouge Park.
- Derek Sloan, a Conservative MP for the Ontario riding of Hastings-Lennox and Addington.