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John Baird's announcement puts an end to days of speculation that he might enter the race.

ZAKARIA ABDELKAFI/Getty Images

Former Conservative cabinet minister John Baird says he’s not running to lead the federal Conservative party.

“I sincerely appreciate all the emails, phone calls and offers of time and energy,” he tweeted Thursday evening. “When I left politics after 20 years of elected office, I committed myself to an equally rewarding career in the private sector. I am incredibly happy with my post-political life and enjoy my work.”

So, he wrote, “I want to provide some clarity that I will not be standing for leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.”

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His announcement puts an end to days of speculation that he might enter the race, talk that began late last month after both current MP Pierre Poilievre and former interim party leader Rona Ambrose decided not to run.

Mr. Baird had been poised to run Mr. Poilievre’s campaign, but Mr. Poilievre dropped out last month, saying his heart wasn’t in it.

The absence of what some in the party feel is a “true blue” voice in the contest – a role some saw as belonging to either Mr. Poilievre or Ms. Ambrose – put pressure on Mr. Baird to join.

His decision not to will likely be a relief for the only other two candidates officially registered to run so far: his former cabinet colleagues Peter MacKay and Erin O’Toole.

Both men are pegged as being closer to the progressive wing of the party, although Mr. O’Toole in particular has taken a more right-wing tone since launching his campaign earlier this month.

“I look forward to an exciting leadership race, and I will continue to remain a proud Conservative activist and enthusiastically support the policies and principles of our party,” he wrote.

Potential leadership candidates have until Feb. 27 to enter the race, and Conservatives are to choose their new leader June 27.

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