OTTAWA – A social media campaign is underway to convince longtime Conservative MP Lisa Raitt to run for the federal party leadership, the latest grassroots effort by the party’s membership to shape the ever-evolving race to replace Stephen Harper.
While the “Draft Lisa Raitt” campaign calls itself a coalition of students, business people and public servants who want to show Raitt she has broad public support, they won’t actually say who they are.
“We don’t need fame or personal media profiles — we just need good government. Lisa can deliver that,” the group said in launching a website and social media hashtag campaign to encourage the former cabinet minister to run.
The domain name DraftRaitt.ca was registered last fall, two days after the Conservatives lost the election.
When asked why the group chose Monday to launch the campaign formally, they said it was as good a day as any.
Raitt did not respond to a request for comment Monday, although she told a newspaper in her riding of Milton, Ont., that while she appreciates the interest, her job now is to be an MP.
During last month’s Conservative party convention, Raitt said she was still considering whether to formally join the race.
At that convention, grassroots members tried to exert more influence over the leadership race by attempting to change the voting rules, but those efforts were defeated.
There was also a “Draft Rona” movement spearheaded by a group of Conservative MPs who had hoped to change the rule that prohibits interim leader Rona Ambrose from seeking the job on a permanent basis. That failed as well.
Raitt was first elected as a Conservative MP in 2008. She served in several cabinet positions in the previous Conservative government.
Ambrose chose Raitt for the high-profile role of finance critic in the Tory shadow cabinet, and referred to her as a “good friend” during a speech Saturday at the Parliamentary Press Gallery dinner.
In that same speech, Ambrose took jabs at the three candidates who’ve already entered the race: Kellie Leitch, Michael Chong and Maxime Bernier.
Bernier continues his campaign Tuesday with an expected outline of his policy on telecom deregulation.
Other Conservative MPs considering a bid are Tony Clement, Andrew Scheer and Jason Kenney. Steven Blaney recently told Quebec television network TVA he is also contemplating a run, as are former Tory MP Peter MacKay and TV personality and businessman Kevin O’Leary.
While candidates have until the end of February to sign up for the race, the party is hoping not to wait that long.
Talks are underway to set the first leadership debate for as early as the end of August.
The Tories are scheduled to elect their next leader in May 2017.