Erin O’Toole tells Tories he’ll join Conservative leadership race

Conservative MP Erin O’Toole has told high-profile Conservatives he intends to run to replace Andrew Scheer as party leader, CBC News has learned.

O’Toole attended a private Christmas party in Toronto last night and told several people in attendance that he plans to join the race.

Several Ontario provincial cabinet ministers were at the event.

O’Toole, who was first elected federally in a 2012 byelection, finished third in the 2017 Conservative leadership race.

He has a high profile on Parliament Hill as the party’s foreign affairs critic, scrutinizing Trudeau’s performance on the world stage and criticizing the Liberal government’s handling of Canada-China relations.

A former military air force navigator, O’Toole served as veterans’ affairs minister in Stephen Harper’s cabinet.

First out of the gate?

O’Toole could become the first to declare in what could turn out to be a big field of candidates vying for the party’s leadership. In 2017, 16 people put their names forward; three ultimately withdrew.

The other potential contenders being talked about in party circles include former Conservative cabinet minister Peter MacKay, former interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose and Quebec Conservative MP Gérard Deltell.

The next step in the leadership contest is for the Conservative Party’s National Council to form a leadership election organizing committee, which will decide on the rules, procedures, process and timelines for the contest.

After weeks of beating back criticism over his election performance, Scheer announced Thursday he will step down as leader once a successor is chosen.