I hear from sources that, contrary to my earlier speculation, after the Tory caucus "nominates" an interim leader, the party executive will ratify and officially choose the leader later tonight. I'll look forward to seeing who they pick. However, we won't have an announcement until after 9 p.m. tonight, which means I'll have to watch ATV Evening News or wait for the papers tomorrow.
However, in the more important question of the permanent job, the feeling seems to be unanimous among those I've spoken too that the Tory caucus is weak and that if they are to have any chance of winning the 2010 election, they need to find a leader from outside.
Scott, The Sorry Centrist, mentions a number of out-of-caucus possibilities, and it is a pretty definitive list:
Betts, a professor at the University of New Brunswick, was the runner up in the 1997 leadership and served as finance minister from 1999 to 2001. Many jokes floated around that Betts was really running the government and in part to get away from this, Lord shuffled him to business in 2001. After that Betts heart never seemed to be in it and he actually applied for a vice president position at UNB which he did not get while serving in the cabinet. He was defeated in 2003 by Rick Brewer in Southwest Miramichi, though I don't think Norm minded too much. He's 52.
Bios: government - UNB
D'Astous is chair of the New Brunswick Insurance Board and to be honest I had never heard of him before Scott mentioned him.
UPDATE: I am told that he is an important backroom Tory from the Moncton area who was an early and key backer of the Lord leadership campaign in 1997. He went on to head up PC Party fundraising. It seems unlikely he has ever had any interest in the front room of electoral politics and has apparently had some health problems in recent years.
Bio: quasi bio from his appointment
Dubé is a master of the one-term. He was elected in 1997 to the House of Commons for Madawaska-Restigouche as a PC MP before being defeated in 2000. He was then elected to the New Brunswick Legislature from Campbellton in a 2001 by-election before being defeated in 2003. He was considered cabinet potential but he didn't make it in in the fall 2001 shuffle and his defeat in 2003 prevented him from joining. I am not sure what he is doing now. He is the son of Fernand Dubé who was a prominent member of the Hatfield government. He's 44.
Green was MLA for Fredericton South from 1998 to his defeat in the recent election. He was a senior cabinet minister and one of the most compotent in the Lord government. However, he lacks charisma and bilingualism. These factors with his lack of a seat would make a leadership run difficult in my view. He is currently employed in the Opposition Office, as he was before being elected in 1998, serving as a senior advisor reporting to chief of staff Rodney Weston. He has also always reminded me of the dopy guy Paul on Spin City. He's 41.
Keenan was a candidate in the 1995 election in the left-leaning riding of Saint John Champlain and finished third with 26% of the vote behind Liberal Roly MacIntyre (38%) and a New Democrat (32%). She went on to become party president and was a common spokesperson for the party and also a frequent commentator. She has continued in this role since she left the presidency. She was a candidate for the nomination in the last federal election in Saint John but was defeated by John Wallace. She seems uninterested in running as she has been promoting the candidacy of Margaret-Ann Blaney and Trevor Holder, moreover, I understand she is more interested in trying to run federally again.
Bio: (none found)
This is a young star who by rights should have made it into the cabinet in Bernard Lord's 2001 cabinet shuffle but in typical Lord fashion, the premier didn't want to rock the boat and only brought in one new person.
McGraw was narrowly defeated in 2003 and tried again in 2006 but failed. Interestingly, he was once a prominent Young Liberal and was youth chair of Bernard Richard's 1998 leadership campaign, defecting to and successfully running for the Tories in 1999 due to dissatisfaction with Camille Théraiult's leadership.
He spent early 2006 in Ottawa aiding Greg Thompson with his responsibilities as political minister for New Brunswick. Quite frankly, if he had won his seat back in 2006, I would think he would be a shoo-in for leader. He's 35.
Merrithew is the daughter of former Saint John Tory star Gerald Merrithew and was a long-time love interest of current Foreign Minister Peter Mackay. They seem to have split up shortly after the 2003 federal PC leadership.
She had not been too prominent in political circles in her own right until early 2006, when she was named deputy chief of staff to then Premier Lord to get the message out. Evidentally she was not that successful as the Tories lost the 2006 election.
She was recently named to the up-and-coming Liberal PR firm of Derek Rielde and Doug Tyler (communications director and campaign manager respectively for the 2003 and 2006 Liberal campaigns) starting in January, presumably to paint it as multi-partisan. Seems to be poor timing for someone seeking the leadership, so I presume she is not in. She's 34.
UPDATE: I am told that Merrithew is fluently bilingual. If she were to run, I think the Liberals might not have a lock on 2010 any longer..
Richardson was the Alliance candidate in Tobique-Mactaquac in 2000 and finished a close third with 30% of the vote. Winner Liberal Andy Savoy got 33% and incumbent Tory Gilles Bernier got 32%.
He served as chief Atlantic organizer for the Alliance but quit the party shortly after Harper became leader in 2002 and had announced his plans to seek the PC nomination in Tobique-Mactaquac as a unity candidate - arguing the Alliance should not nominate a candidate and endorse him - before the parties announced their own plans to merge. After the merger, the new Conservative party disallowed his candidacy. He is brother to former Fredericton city councillor and unsucessful 2004 mayoral candidate Joel Richardson.
Bio: (none found)
Taylor was a founding member of CoR and an MLA from 1991 to 1995. He wrote CoR's 1991 election platform and won the leadership in 1992 before being pushed out by supporters of Danny Cameron. He was expelled from the CoR caucus in 1994 and did not seek re-election in 1995.
He became a columnist and was not active in politics until his 2003 appointment to the Commission on Legislative Democracy. He cited this experience as a reason for his return to policits in 2006 as Tory candidate in his old riding of Southwest Miramichi.
He is a blogger and commented over at Scott's that his candidacy was "one too many" for the list. That said, I think he would enjoy Scott's support and I believe would be a very interesting candidate if he could be drafted. He's 47.
Bio: 2006 campaign site
Venugopal was the PC candidate in Fredericton in 2000, losing by a narrow margin to Andy Scott. He tried to face Scott again in 2006, but lost the nomination by 3 votes to Pat Lynch. He seems to be becoming the favourite of bloggers based on the Scott's comments section and Spinks' endorsement. He has not shown any interest in provincial politics to date as far as I know.
Bio: (none found) - however, there is a good interview of him from his 2000 campaign
Names Scott missed which I think should be added to the list:
Weston was nicknamed "Hot Rod" by the press in 2001 and 2002 after he became the only backbencher promoted to cabinet in Bernard Lord's first term and added additional responsibilities to what appeared to be the beginning of a promising ministerial career. This ended when Weston was defeated, as a great surprise, by former MLA and now government house leader Stuart Jamieson, in 2003.
Weston went on to serve as Lord's chief of staff for the whole of his second term - the longest occupent of that post - and is currently the chief of staff in the opposition office. He's 42.