Skip to main content

Auto parts magnate Frank Stronach thinks it would be a great idea if his daughter Belinda ran for the leadership of the Conservative Party.

"I said: 'Look Belinda, you're a privileged lady. I think it's the greatest honour if you could serve your country,'." Mr. Stronach, who founded the auto parts company that his daughter now heads, said yesterday.

If she throws her hat into the ring, as she is expected to do later this week or perhaps early next week, Belinda Stronach will be following in the political and business footsteps of her father, who was a Liberal candidate in a Toronto-area riding in the 1988 federal election.

But she's different, Mr. Stronach said in a telephone interview yesterday from Baltimore.

"I maybe was a bit more aggressive. I shot a little more out of the hip. She is very thoughtful."

Ms. Stronach could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Mr. Stronach would not confirm that his daughter will be a candidate, but described her as "seriously thinking about it."

He said he and Ms. Stronach discussed the issue of leadership and concluded that the country needs more than one strong party.

"Surely for the good of the country, you prefer to have three strong parties," he said.

Sources said yesterday that Ms. Stronach met with advisers to discuss her potential run.

Supporters of former Ontario health minister Tony Clement also held conference calls to discuss his candidacy for leadership of the party, which was created by a merger of the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives. MP Chuck Strahl will speak about his intentions at a meeting in Cambridge tonight.

Leadership front-runner Stephen Harper, Leader of the Alliance, faced internal criticism yesterday for not stepping down as Opposition Leader while campaigning for the job.

The criticism was over a letter that Mr. Harper's campaign team sent out to people who are members of the Alliance wing of the Conservative Party last month, seeking funds for his run.

"The fact that he is mailing these out as caucus leader and official Leader of the Opposition opens himself up - if not for real criticism - then for the perception of a problem," said Jason Hatcher, a spokesperson for candidate Jim Prentice.

Mr. Hatcher said Mr. Harper should consider giving up the Opposition Leader job now if he wants to avoid a negative perception.

One critic noted that Mr. Harper continues to issue news releases as Leader of the Official Opposition while campaigning, an advantage that other candidates don't have.

Mr. Harper will officially announce his candidacy on Monday, although he confirmed last month that he would run.

Derek Lucas, a former national councillor for the Canadian Alliance and a supporter of Mr. Strahl, said the move looks cynical to grassroots members, who are wondering whether Mr. Harper might be using his parliamentary staff to help in his campaign.

"There is a lot of concern about this," he said.

"On the surface, it looks like everyone is playing by the book, but we've got this mail out from Stephen Harper and he hasn't even declared his candidacy yet."

Jim Armour, a spokesperson for Mr. Harper, said that anyone working for the Harper campaign is not being paid through the public purse.

Some have taken leaves of absence, he said, adding that he saw nothing unfair about Mr. Harper campaigning for the leadership while remaining in his post.

Mr. Lucas noted that former Reform leader Preston Manning did not stay on as leader when the Reform Party morphed into the Canadian Alliance in 2000, leaving the job of interim leader to Deborah Grey.

The new party should have merged its two parliamentary caucuses right off the bat and appointed an interim leader, rather than have Mr. Harper and Peter MacKay continue to represent separate entities.

Mr. Hatcher also questioned why a party committee is considering restricting corporate donations to the campaign.

However, sources said last night that the committee is only considering "guidelines" for a cap on corporate giving that would be fair to all candidates.

Some party members were concerned that a ban or severe restriction on corporate donations would benefit Mr. Harper because the Alliance has traditionally received proportionately more money from grassroots members than from corporate Canada.

Interact with The Globe