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Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc takes part in a press conference in Ottawa on Sept. 28, 2022.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Behind the scenes, the plot thickens in regards to the future leadership of the Liberal Party. We need only to consider what Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc, a very close friend of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, is up to.

A former Liberal cabinet minister met with Mr. LeBlanc recently and they discussed plans, I’m told, for Mr. LeBlanc to run to succeed Mr. Trudeau as party leader and become prime minister, should he step down.

Mr. LeBlanc was eager. Over whisky and cigars – the New Brunswicker has always enjoyed a good stogie – the former minister agreed to be part of a ginger group to lay the groundwork for a campaign.

Along with several other prominent Liberals, Mr. LeBlanc has been rumoured to be considering a run. It’s clear now he’s serious. And it’s doubtful he would be making such plans if he didn’t think there was a decent chance the PM’s job might soon become open.

Few know Mr. Trudeau better than Mr. LeBlanc, who was first elected in 2000. They’ve been pals since boyhood when Mr. LeBlanc’s father, Roméo LeBlanc, was in Pierre Trudeau’s cabinet, and he sometimes babysat Justin, four years younger.

At the meeting, which also included Kevin Fram, a long-time LeBlanc supporter, the cabinet minister wanted assurance from Mr. LeBlanc that he was prepared to put in the arduous work involved in a leadership campaign. He got that commitment.

They talked of a problem Mr. LeBlanc would have: the shrapnel he’s been hit with for being so tightly associated with the Prime Minister and his policies. The cabinet minister advised him to prepare his own vision for the country and give party members a clear idea of why he wants to become prime minister.

Mr. Trudeau insists he will run again and many Liberals I talked to believe him. The PM hopes the many policy measures he has rolled out recently in tandem with Tuesday’s budget will help improve his dismal standing in opinion polls. But if his numbers don’t improve substantially in the next few months, the pressure for him to leave will sharpen.

He’s been party leader since 2013, when the Liberals weren’t even the Official Opposition. He rescued the party from oblivion. By letting his ego get the best of him and staying on, he risks returning it to oblivion.

Mr. LeBlanc is one of Mr. Trudeau’s most experienced and competent ministers. He’s witty, doesn’t take himself too seriously, and has a kitchen-table touch. The Maritimes are hardly a big political base, but as a francophone, he would have appeal in Quebec.

While there are many potential contenders, there is no front-runner in a possible race to replace the Prime Minister. Besides Mr. LeBlanc, other possible entrants are former central banker Mark Carney, Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne, Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly, Housing Minister Sean Fraser, Treasury Board boss Anita Anand and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Each has strengths, but none are without handicaps. Mr. Champagne and Ms. Joly hail from Quebec; four of the last five party leaders – Mr. Trudeau, Stéphane Dion, Paul Martin and Jean Chrétien – have been from Quebec or, as in Mr. Martin’s case, represented Quebec ridings. Does the party want yet another Quebec leader?

Many Liberals feel the party has to turn the page from the Trudeau era and its wokeish leftish tilt. Mark Carney, a business Liberal, a man of international stature, is the one who fits that bill. But he has turned down opportunities to run for the party. No one has become Liberal Leader without ever having held elected political office.

It is high time that the Liberal Party had a woman as leader. Ms. Freeland’s barrier is that being Deputy PM, she’d be seen to offer little change. Ms. Anand, who is not a strong retail politician, has an independent mind and intellectual depth. But in 21st-century politics, being the smartest person in the room can be more of a hindrance than a help.

Housing Minister Sean Fraser, meanwhile, is young, telegenic, oratorically persuasive and is quickly learning French. He has that rare political gift of gravitational pull. But he’d be on the defensive for his time spent in the immigration portfolio, where he presided over a big increase of newcomers that has exacerbated the housing crisis he is now trying to rectify.

The lack of an heir apparent to Mr. Trudeau enhances Mr. LeBlanc’s chances in what promises to be – if Mr. Trudeau makes way for one – a rousing leadership race.

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