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Conservative leadership race to kick off Monday as party sets rules

The race for leadership of the federal Conservatives begins officially on Monday.

The party released the rules for the contest late Saturday, and candidates have just over two months to pull together $300,000 and get 3,000 signatures in order to have their names on the ballot.

“This is going to be an exciting and competitive contest that shows Canadians how Conservatives are ready to do the hard work that comes with being a government in waiting,” said Lisa Raitt, a former MP who is the co-chair of the leadership organizing committee, in a statement released Saturday night.

Both the financial requirements and the need to have 3,000 signatures must be met in stages.

By Feb. 27, candidates will have to pay $25,000 and have the signatures of 1,000 members from 30 different ridings in seven different provinces or territories. After that, they’ll have until March 25 to fulfil the remaining financial and other obligations. The fee itself is in two parts — a non-refundable $200,000, and a $100,000 deposit candidates will get back if they follow all the rules.

The leadership race had begun unofficially in mid-December, when current leader Andrew Scheer announced he’d quit as soon as his replacement was chosen.

He linked his decision to the increasing pressures the role was placing on his family, but it came after weeks of intense criticism of the Conservatives’ performance in the 2019 election campaign, and his own performance in particular.

There are also lingering questions about how he was spending party money given to him to help with the costs of being leader, including whether he should or shouldn’t have been allocated funds toward tuition for his children’s private school. Scheer has yet to publicly address that issue.

Those likely to enter the contest include current MPs Pierre Poilievre and Erin O’Toole, former cabinet minister Peter MacKay and former Quebec premier Jean Charest.

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