British Columbia may be host of this week's federal Conservative Party convention – the first since the Tories' defeat in last year's federal election – but the province appears to be on the sidelines of the buzz about future leaders.
As hundreds of people gathered at the Vancouver Convention Centre, there was talk about leadership prospects from Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario and Alberta.
Jason Kenney, Peter MacKay and Lisa Raitt were among those asked whether they would get in. Michael Chong, Kellie Leitch and Maxime Bernier are already in.
But no B.C. player is mentioned.
No one is in the race or talking about getting in.
It is an odd situation for Canada's third-largest province, which yielded the first female prime minister – Progressive Conservative Kim Campbell – and nurtured the Reform and Alliance movement. British Columbia also provided many key cabinet ministers for prime minister Stephen Harper's government. (One of those, James Moore, has indicated he will not seek the leadership.) In the last federal election, the Conservatives won 10 of 42 seats in the province.
Federal Conservatives interviewed on Friday are mindful of the situation, but sanguine. They expect some British Columbian will eventually enter the race, which ends with a leadership convention in May, 2017.
Stockwell Day, who was a member of Mr. Harper's cabinet, said he would like to see a B.C. candidate, and is encouraging any prospects to think about it. "There may be pleasant surprises in the months ahead, but nothing is confirmed," he said, declining to name names.
Mr. Day said he found support in British Columbia when he was leader of the Canadian Alliance, and expects it would be there for a Conservative leadership candidate from this province.
He made it clear he will not attempt a political comeback, quipping that such a possibility would require the services of a "very expensive divorce lawyer."
Dianne Watts, who was a master of ceremonies for the convention's opening, which included a tribute to Mr. Harper, might be seen as a contender. Ms. Watts was elected MP for South Surrey-White Rock last year, arriving in federal politics with leadership skills honed during almost a decade as mayor of Surrey, B.C.'s second-largest city, after Vancouver.
However, she said on Friday that she will not run, but knows of a few British Columbians "kicking the tires" on a leadership bid, but possibly waiting until closer to the deadline for entering to reveal their plans.
"You never know what's going to happen."
With or without a candidate, she said, the B.C. Conservative caucus counts.
"We make sure that B.C's interests are brought forward to Ottawa," she said.
"I think we're well represented even if we don't have anybody in the leadership race at this point."
Abbotsford MP Ed Fast, formerly the international trade minister, had considered a leadership bid. "I felt that it was important that British Columbia have a voice in the leadership contest," he said after a policy session.
But the 61-year-old lawyer said he has ruled out a bid. "At the minimum, it's going to be a good 11- or 12-year [commitment], if not longer. I have four grandsons – two on the way – and I don't want to miss them," he said.
Also, he said, it is time for a leader from a new generation who can articulate a Conservative approach that reflects a 21st-century reality. He said the province's voice would add some depth to policy discussions. He said he expects other candidates, including some from B.C., will enter the race.
John Weston, who represented West Vancouver until he was defeated last fall, said the upside of a leadership vote that is a year away is that it provides time for prospects – including those from British Columbia – to consider their options.
"I predict that there are British Columbians thinking of putting their hats in the ring and they will consider it. They have many months to go. I believe we may end up with some great candidates from British Columbia," he said.