Is Jason Kenney preparing for a leadership race?

·Politics Reporter

It's widely believed that Employment and Multicultural Minister Jason Kenney has leadership aspirations.

New information about his fundraising prowess lends credence to that theory.

According to recent reports — by CBC and Postmedia News — Kenney has been aggressively fundraising within ethnic communities in southern Ontario.

Since 2007, Kenney has raised a whopping $145,000 for his Calgary Southeast riding from the Greater Toronto Area. $45,000 of that came in just one month — in September 2012 — from two ethnic outreach events.

While there's nothing wrong with what Kenney is doing, it's a little peculiar that he would fundraise in Ontario when Calgary Southeast is already such a bastion of conservationism.

It makes sense, however, — as the CBC and Postmedia reports imply — that Kenney is hoping to convert Ontario contributors into leadership supporters at some point down the road.

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Other hints about Kenney's intentions came during the fall-out of the Senate expense scandal.

For most of the spring and summer, Kenney stayed on the sidelines of the charged debate.

And then, earlier this month, he contradicted Stephen Harper and came in defence of Nigel Wright — a long-time Tory power broker — calling him an "extraordinarily capable man with high ethical principles."

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There are other names being bandied about to replace Harper: Industry Minister James Moore, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, Justice Minister Peter MacKay and former cabinet minister Jim Prentice to name a few.

But if Kenney chooses to run, he will be tough to beat.

From 2009 to 2011, Kenney criss-crossed the country with the sole purpose of wooing visible minority voters over to the Tory tent. Conveniently, he did a great job wooing the demographic for himself.

As recently explained by the Toronto Star, Kenney is political 'rock star' within ethnic communities.

The Star shadowed Kenney in February when someone from the Chinese community told them that Kenney was "the Justin Bieber of Canadian politics."

"During a jam-packed itinerary stretching across the GTA on a recent Saturday, Kenney was mobbed by excited shoppers at the Pacific Mall in Markham, grabbed on Toronto streets by supporters for impromptu photos, cheered by hundreds at a Tibetan New Year celebration and showered with confetti at a gala dinner.

The significance of Kenney's 'fame' within in the ethnic communities is that it sets him up for the leadership run. He has a significant leg-up — because of his ethnic support — against all other potential leadership rivals.

Nobody is suggesting that Stephen Harper is leaving politics any time soon.

But when he does, Kenney has the inside track.

He's certainly working hard for it.

(Photo courtesy of Citizenship and Immigration Canada)

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