Skip to comments.Belinda Stronach as Conservative leader? [Clinton girlfriend]
Posted on 01/07/2004 6:34:59 AM PST by Lorenb420
OTTAWA - Belinda Stronach, the multimillionaire CEO of Magna International, is leaning toward making a bid for the leadership of the new federal Conservative party, sources said today.
"If it was five per cent before, it's 75 per cent now," an associate said of Stronach's likelihood of running.
"She's been almost overwhelmed by the number of people calling her."
Stronach, a telegenic 37-year-old with an impeccable business pedigree, would add significant lustre to a leadership race - and a new federal party - that has so far been dogged by high profile names opting out rather than in.
The merged entity, created out of the former Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservative parties, has no policy platform, a split caucus and faces an anticipated spring federal election against new Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin.
Calgary lawyer Jim Prentice, who finished second in last spring's Tory leadership race, is the only declared candidate for the March 19-21 leadership vote, while Alliance leader Stephen Harper, another Albertan, will officially launch his campaign on Monday.
Harper is considered the clear front-runner now that New Brunswick Premier Bernard Lord and former Ontario premier Mike Harris have opted not to run.
Former Ontario health minister Tony Clement, B.C. MP Chuck Strahl and Tory leader Peter MacKay of Nova Scotia are also considering leadership bids.
"There's a universe of serious potential candidates that includes Harper, Prentice, Stronach and Strahl," said Rick Anderson, a longtime Reform party and Alliance strategist. "Three of them I think are going to end up running, but I'm not sure which three."
Stronach, the daughter of Magna auto parts chairman Frank Stronach, has been called the most powerful businesswoman in Canada. She's long been involved in conservative politics at the Ontario and federal levels but has never sought elected office.
Two months ago, Stronach appeared to rule out a leadership bid, although she had played a significant backroom role in getting the new party off the ground last summer.
"It's not easy to sit down and say to yourself, 'Well, what would I do if I was the prime minister of Canada?' - and then subject yourself and your ideas to such public scrutiny," Stronach told a group of university students during a Magna-sponsored ceremony on Parliament Hill on Nov. 20.
But she was emphatic when reporters later asked if she would seek to lead a united right wing party: "That's a definitive no," said Stronach.
Unlike other potential candidates, Stronach would have few concerns about bankrolling a last-minute campaign.
Her Magna pay packet in 2002 - when she added the title of president to her position as chief executive officer of the auto-parts giant - was worth $9.1 million Cdn.
Magna chipped in a total of $165,000 to three candidates in last year's Tory leadership race, including $100,000 to MacKay, the eventual winner.
MacKay raised almost $1 million for that campaign and it is believed a successful run for the crown of the new party will cost at least as much.
Harper has a big organizational head start on most other potential candidates in terms of ground support and financial backing. But the leadership contest rules, which give each federal riding in Canada equal weight in choosing a leader regardless of party membership, level the playing field considerably.
"Belinda's friendship with Bill Clinton is well-documented, but people are asking: Is the Magna First Daughter more than just pals with the former leader of the First World? (Magna is a Canadian auto parts giant.)
"They say the two of them talk regularly on the phone. They say he has come up to our parts to play golf with her. They say they've been to the fabulous Bymark restaurant together.... They say Belinda sorta looks like a young Hillary, and that 'Bill and Belinda' rolls off the tongue almost as easily as 'Bill and Hill.' They say a lot."
I guess she thinks Billy's China campaign money connections will come in handy if she runs.
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