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Harper to make concerted appeal for Quebec mayor to run as Tory

Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Monday, January 18, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

FRED CHARTRAND/The Canadian Press

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is bringing his top Quebec ministers to a riding that will be in the Conservative Party's sights in the next election, hoping to persuade a popular mayor to run for his team.

Mr. Harper is expected to make a law-and-order announcement during his trip on Thursday to Victoriaville, located between Montreal and Quebec City. Victoriaville Mayor Alain Rayes will be present for the announcement and Conservative sources said he is being heavily courted to run for the party in the riding of Richmond-Arthabaska.

"People on the ground feel that if he runs, he will win," a senior Conservative official said.

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Mr. Rayes, who is in his second mandate as mayor, refused to comment before the meeting. The riding is in the hands of independent MP André Bellavance, who left the Bloc Québécois last year and will not run again.

Mr. Rayes once noted he ran for the right-wing Action Démocratique du Québec at the provincial level, and was open to a foray into the federal stage.

"In politics, you learn never to close any doors," he told local media last year. "One needs to always be vigilant about future opportunities."

Mr. Harper will be accompanied during his visit by his Quebec lieutenant, Denis Lebel, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney and Conservative Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, known as a strong advocate of victims' rights. Mr. Harper's announcement is expected to fulfill a promise for tougher sentencing made in the most recent Speech from the Throne, sources said.

Although the Conservatives have long struggled in Quebec, they recently received some positive numbers in the province. The latest Léger poll found that nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) of respondents approved of the federal government's anti-terrorism strategy.

Meanwhile, in Montreal, former mayoral candidate Mélanie Joly is contemplating a run for the Liberals in the riding of Ahuntsic-Cartierville. She promised after her second-place finish in the 2013 election to stay in municipal politics, but left her party last year. She is now reconsidering a promise made at the time to stay out of politics.

"I have to admit that pressure has been building and has never been as strong, and thus, for the first time in a long time, I am thinking about it," she said in an e-mail on Wednesday.

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Ms. Joly would be running against Maria Mourani, a former Bloc MP who recently agreed to run for the NDP in the next election.

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