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Conservative Leader Stephen Harper leaves a polling station after casting his ballot in the federal election in Calgary, Alta., on Monday, October 19, 2015.

DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The leaderless Conservative Party will have an interim chief before the Trudeau government lays out its agenda in a Throne speech.

Defeated Conservative leader Stephen Harper resigned from the helm of the party Monday although he remains Prime Minister until the handover to Justin Trudeau takes place.

Conser‎vative Party president John Walsh has issued a statement urging the shrunken 99-seat Tory caucus to select an interim leader "as soon as is possible." Mr. Walsh said he will convene a meeting of the party's National Council to set out the rules for choosing a leader.

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Mr. Harper will continue to sit as an MP and has asked that "a process to both select an interim leader and initiate the leadership selection process in our party begin immediately," Mr. Walsh said.

A senior Conservative source said it's unclear how soon an interim leader will be chosen but added the caucus will require one by the time the Liberal government unveils its Speech from the Throne.

After nearly a decade in power, the Conservatives now find themselves back in the political wilds.

The party will shortly be leaderless, with a reduced bench in the Commons lacking many of the seasoned veterans who left politics in recent years including Peter MacKay, John Baird, James Moore and the late Jim Flaherty.

Full coverage of Federal Election 2015

They've got a lot of rebuilding ahead of them.

With major TV networks projecting a majority Liberal government late Monday evening, Mr. Harper has conceded defeat and is making plans for life after politics after nine years and eight months in the Prime Minister's Office.

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The Conservative Party announced Monday evening that Mr. Harper is quitting as leader, with party president John Walsh releasing a statement saying he's been instructed to ask the newly elected Tory caucus to appoint an interim leader and arrange for a leadership race.

The biggest question facing the Tories, of course, is who takes over from Mr. Harper?

There's no simple answer for the Conservative Party, which might as well be called the Harper Party because it is a creation of the Calgary MP who has put his indelible stamp on the political organization he co-founded in 2003. Plus, 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.

Yes, there is Jason Kenney, the 47-year-old Calgary lieutenant of Mr. Harper's. He's 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 over the years.

People close to Mr. Kenney say he's ambivalent about whether he should try to succeed Mr. Harper. Still, he's distinguished himself as one of the Conservative Party's most competent cabinet ministers and people familiar with his thinking say he would consider the job only if he feels no sufficiently competent replacement could be found.

Asked Monday night whether he would run for the Conservative leadership, Mr. Kenney replied: "All those questions are for another day."

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He did however offer frank criticism of the Conservative campaign, 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."

Mr. Kenney refused to lay blame at Mr. Harper's feet alone.

"We have to take collective responsibility for that."

On the Red Tory side of the party, Mr. MacKay – the other co-founder of the Conservative Party, 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 query they took as a sign that the former Nova Scotia politician has not ruled out a comeback.

One challenge for Mr. Kenney and Mr. MacKay, should they consider running, is whether they can disassociate themselves from the Harper era, having served in his cabinet for so long.

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Another name bandied around is Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, who has repeatedly begged off when asked about whether he might seek the job.

The departure of Mr. Harper threatens to reopen the rift in the 12-year-old party between the rock-ribbed Reform Conservatives and the centrist Red Tories who merged in 2003 before going on to win office in 2006. This could play a big role in the coming leadership race as factions struggle for control.

One former Conservative cabinet minister, speaking on background, said the next leader has to be someone who can unite the two sides of the Conservative Party and that, in his mind, means either Mr. Kenney or Mr. Wall.

Could the Tories reach into the past for a new leader? There's talk of former Quebec premier Jean Charest as a candidate. Before he governed Quebec, Mr. Charest helped rebuild the Progressive Conservative Party that eventually joined forces with the Canadian Alliance to form the Harper Conservatives.

And Conservative Party sources say Ontario's Tony Clement and Kellie Leitch, who both served in the Harper cabinet, have been considering leadership runs.

A Liberal majority government, as projected by TV networks Monday night, means the Tories don't need to rush in choosing a new leader because another election is four years away.

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The Conservative Party constitution calls for a leadership selection process to get under way at the "earliest convenient date" following the resignation of its leader. The party had already put a deposit on a Vancouver venue for a May, 2016, convention and Conservative brass will have to decide whether this is too early a date.

The Conservative constitution also calls for an interim leader to take over following the resignation of the party's leader and this person must have no intention of seeking the helm. This would mean some elder statesmen in caucus takes over in the meantime.

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