Skip to main content

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and family land in Ottawa on Tuesday.

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

The leaderless Conservatives are expected to pick a caretaker chief within a matter of weeks to guide them until they find someone to fill Stephen Harper's shoes.

Mr. Harper resigned from the helm of the party Monday, although he remains Prime Minister until a handover to Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau takes place.

Conservative Party president John Walsh on Tuesday urged the party's parliamentary caucus to elect an interim leader "as soon as is possible." The decision falls to both the 99 Tory MPs elected Monday as well as the more than 45 Conservative senators.

Story continues below advertisement

Full coverage of Federal Election 2015

Party sources said a temporary leader would ideally speak both French and English and have no ambitions for the permanent leadership. Names circulating include two veteran Ontario MPs: Haldimand-Norfolk's Diane Finley and Rob Nicholson of Niagara Falls.

Mr. Harper's off-air resignation as party leader Monday night left Canadians puzzled. He didn't mention his departure on stage during his concession speech and it was left to Mr. Walsh to release a press statement announcing the departure.

Conservative sources say Mr. Harper was trying to avoid leaving the throngs of party faithful on a depressing note. They said he had taken note of how quitting on stage had backfired on defeated Alberta premier Jim Prentice in May when the Progressive Conservative leader announced he was both quitting as leader and resigning his seat on election night.

"What Jim Prentice did is a bit of a cautionary tale. He came out and said he was resigning as leader that night, and resigning his seat. And that was very poorly received by everyone, including his staff. That registered with [Mr. Harper]."

On Tuesday, the Conservative Party announced Mr. Harper intends to "continue to sit as a member of Parliament" though it did not say whether he would serve out his full term.

As for the bigger leadership race, the list of possible candidates is already growing.

Story continues below advertisement

Sources say both Milton MP Lisa Raitt, who served most recently as transport minister in the Harper government, and Parry Sound-Muskoka's Tony Clement, who had held the post of Treasury Board president, are considering whether to run.

It will not be an easy choice for the Conservative Party.

For one, there's no heir apparent chomping at the bit to take over like, for instance, Paul Martin in 2003 when Liberal Jean Chrétien quit power.

Jason Kenney, Mr. Harper's 47-year-old Calgary lieutenant, has built a strong support base among immigrant groups across this country as the Conservative ethnic outreach czar. He's more socially conservative than Mr. Harper but has proven himself to be media savvy and adept at winning allies.

Mr. Kenney is already deferring questions about his future, telling reporters Monday night that, "All those questions are for another day."

Still, he offered frank criticism of the Conservative campaign after the defeat, saying the Tories got the tone wrong in how they talked to Canadians. "I think our obvious weakness has been in tone, in the way we've often communicated our messages. I think we need a conservatism that is sunnier and more optimistic than we have sometimes conveyed."

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Kenney refused to lay blame at Mr. Harper's feet alone. "We have to take collective responsibility for that."

Mr. Harper's departure threatens to reopen the rift in the 12-year-old party between the rock-ribbed Reformers and the centrist Red Tories who merged in 2003 before going on to win office in 2006. The next leader would have to keep these sides united.

The man long considered the torch bearer for the Red Tories, Peter MacKay, is still a potential candidate despite his much publicized retirement from politics this year.

An Atlantic Canadian Conservative candidate told The Globe and Mail that he and other Tory candidates received a request from Mr. MacKay for their phone numbers – a sign to them that the former Nova Scotia politician has not ruled out a comeback.

Other names bandied around include former Quebec premier Jean Charest and Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, who said Tuesday he won't be seeking the job.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies