Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Desire for Fresh Approach Undercurrent in Interim Conservative Leadership Race

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Desire for Fresh Approach Undercurrent in Interim Conservative Leadership Race

Article excerpt

Tory interim leadership: fresh start a factor

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OTTAWA - Adopting a positive tone, severing ties with the old Stephen Harper team, bilingualism -- they're all undercurrents in the race to pick an interim Conservative leader this week.

There are currently eight MPs running for the position, with a vote expected to take place during Thursday's caucus meeting. Each candidate will have three minutes to address the group -- an important opportunity with about a third of the caucus brand new.

That gathering is expected to include heated discussions about what happened during the election campaign, what the party needs to do now, and whether senators should be allowed to vote for interim leader.

Behind the scenes, candidates are being criticized and praised by their supporters for different reasons -- being too closely associated with Harper's team, or the former leader's tone, for instance.

One of the barbs being used against former cabinet minister Erin O'Toole, for example, is that he has too close a relationship with campaign manager Jenni Byrne, and that the team built up around Harper might run the Opposition leader's office.

Byrne has been blamed by some as having bungled the campaign organizationally, while others view the loss as more about the campaign's message and tone, carried by a leader disliked by the public.

Byrne told The Canadian Press on Tuesday that she is not playing any role in the interim leadership and is planning a move away from the capital.

"Following the conclusion of my contract with the Conservative Party of Canada it has been my long-time plan to move on to opportunities outside of Ottawa," Byrne said in a statement.

"As such, I will play no role in the interim leadership of the (party) and by extension a future (Opposition leader's office)."

A Conservative MP, speaking on condition of anonymity, called it nonsense to fear that Harper's former acolytes will be moving in to control the show again.

"They're all leaving," said the MP. "They put in their time. They're exhausted."

Caucus members are also talking about the need for a change in image for the party leadership -- whether it's a generational change, a gender change or just an overall fresh approach to the job. …

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