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Lewis, Brown and Charest to announce Conservative leadership runs this week: sources
March 10, 2022

It's going to be a pivotal week in the Conservative leadership race. Sources close to former Quebec premier Jean Charest, Ontario MP Leslyn Lewis and former MP and Brampton, Ont., Mayor Patrick Brown predict all three will formally announce their leadership bids.

Lewis made the leap first. On Tuesday she tweeted out a video announcing her bid and saying she wants to run a campaign based on hope, unity and compassion.

She'll try to reignite the enthusiasm she garnered in the 2019 leadership race -- when she emerged from political obscurity to run a widely praised campaign focused on national and party unity and her social conservative values, including an opposition to abortion.

She's since gotten attention for her comments questioning vaccine policies, including the practice of vaccinating children against COVID-19.

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Charest is the heavyweight in the bunch, with more than three decades of political experience both provincially and federally.

He'll run on the slogan "Built to Win" and formally launch his campaign on Thursday evening at a brewery in Calgary. The Alberta launch is meant to deflect claims that, as a former Quebec premier, Charest won't play well in the West.

"Jean's whole career has been built for this day. His whole focus, our whole focus, is going to be on winning not just the leadership but the country," said one source on Charest's soon-to-be-launched campaign.

All sources spoke to CBC News on condition of anonymity because the candidates had not officially declared their participation in the race.

Criticism of Charest
Charest is already facing heavy criticism over his record from supporters of the only person to formally enter the race -- Pierre Poilievre.

Quebec Sen. Leo Housakos tweeted that Charest "turned his back to the Conservative Party of Canada and joined the Liberals. Renewed his membership only when the position of leader opened up."

Charest was the leader of the Quebec Liberal Party while he was premier. His supporters have described it as a coalition of political views. There was no direct equivalent of the federal Conservatives in Quebec at the time, though both the Action démocratique du Québec (ADQ) and later the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) were seen as operating to the right of Charest.

He was also a federal minister in Brian Mulroney's cabinet and leader of the federal Progressive Conservatives.

Charest's supporters acknowledge that Poilievre remains the front-runner in this race. They say they believe that Charest can build enough momentum among Conservative supporters -- particularly those who consider themselves more moderate -- to overcome Poilievre.

On Monday night, Charest received an endorsement from one would-be competitor. National Post columnist Tasha Kheiriddin had been considering a run; she told CBC's Power & Politics that she would be throwing her support behind Charest instead.

Other potential bids
One more political contender with a hefty political résumé is preparing to jump in this week.

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown is expected to announce his run, according to one member of his anticipated campaign team.

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Brown is a former federal Conservative MP and was once leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives. He resigned from that party's leadership in 2018 after a CTV News story reported on allegations of sexual misconduct. Brown denied the allegations and has since launched a multi-million-dollar defamation suit against the network.

Brown is well-known for his ability to recruit new members. With Brown, Poilievre and Charest running, the race is expected to be a hard-fought battle between strong political operations vying for Conservative members' support.

Other names could still enter the race. MP Scott Aitchison has told Global News he's exploring a bid, and former leadership contender and MP Michael Chong also has said he may run.

The Conservatives will choose their new leader on Sept. 10.

Anyone entering the race will have to put down a $200,000 entry fee and a $100,000 deposit -- the same fees required for the leadership race in August 2020.

Leadership contenders will have until June 3 to sign up new members.