The Conservative Party of Canada will announce its new leader on Sept. 10, a move that opens up the race to candidates other than the presumed front-runner and only declared contender so far, Pierre Poilievre.
Leadership contenders will have until June 3 to sign up new members, the Leadership Election Organizing Committee (LEOC) announced in a release late Wednesday night.
Supporters of Poilievre had pushed for a shorter race that would make it harder for other would-be leadership contenders to gain momentum.
Former Quebec Premier Jean Charest, once the leader of the federal Progressive Conservatives, is also considering a run for the leadership.
“The rules will tell us whether the campaign is viable or not,” Charest told reporters in Ottawa on Wednesday night as he headed into a meet and greet with about 40 members of the Conservative caucus.
Charest said he decided not to run in the last leadership race two years ago because there wasn’t enough time for him to introduce himself to the membership and sign up new supporters.
The location of the leadership convention will be announced at a later date. Anyone entering the race will have to put down a $200,000 entry fee and a $100,000 deposit — the same amount as the leadership race in August 2020.
Candice Bergen has served as the party’s interim leader since Erin O’Toole was ousted last month when a majority of his caucus voted against him in a leadership review.
Other leadership hopefuls considering runs
While Poilievre is the only declared candidate to date, other potential rivals aside from Charest have expressed interest.
Former Conservative cabinet minister, Peter MacKay is also mulling another run.
Sources told Radio-Canada that National Post columnist and political consultant Tasha Kheiriddin is also expected to mount a campaign. So is Patrick Brown, the mayor of Brampton, Ont., and former leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party.
“We really like the longer membership selling period and will be making a decision soon,” a source close to Brown told CBC News late Wednesday.
Conservative MP and former leadership contender Michael Chong said Wednesday he hasn’t ruled out another potential run.
Leslyn Lewis, MP for Haldimand—Norfolk in southwestern Ontario and an ally of the party’s social conservative wing, finished third in the last leadership race. She’s also said to be preparing a team for her leadership bid.
The 21-member LEOC is made up of former MPs, party officials and other party members.
The final details on all the rules, including when and where debates will be held and processes around candidate status, will be released later this week.
Race likely to be contentious
There are already signs the race will be a testy one.
On Wednesday night as Charest was meeting with Conservatives, he was attacked in a tweet by a Conservative caucus member.
MP Shannon Stubbs, who has endorsed Poilievre, wrote that Charest was too much like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on issues including gun control and a carbon tax.
An organizer said Charest would spend Thursday meeting one-on-one with more than a dozen members of Conservative caucus.