Conservative leadership race won't distract party in a minority government: Scheer

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says the ongoing leadership race to replace him won't distract his party from holding the Liberals to account as Parliament returns on Monday.

Scheer addressed his caucus during a strategy session on Friday as MPs and senators return to Ottawa after the holiday break.

"The Trudeau government might think our leadership race will give them a free ride, they're wrong," Scheer told his caucus room, capping off a week that saw multiple high-profile potential candidates announce they won't run.

At least three sitting Conservative MPs are launching leadership campaigns, and former MP Peter MacKay is picking up support from many others.

"Minority governments can end abruptly and unexpectedly," said Scheer, who will stay on as leader until the members choose a new boss on June 27.  "Canada needs a Conservative government so there will be no free ride for the Trudeau government this session."

Former Quebec premier Jean Charest, former interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose and current MP Pierre Poilievre — all potential front runners — decided they won't launch bids this week.

MacKay will formally unveil his campaign on Saturday, while current MP Erin O'Toole is also expected to launch his in the coming days.

Ontario MP Michael Chong said he will decide next week if he will join the leadership race after sitting down with his family and Alberta MP Michelle Rempel Garner said she doesn't know what she is going to do yet.

Adrian Wyld / Canadian Press