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Tony Clement drops out of federal Conservative leadership race

Tony Clement arrives at the national Conservative summer caucus retreat in Halifax on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016. Former Ontario and federal cabinet minister Tony Clement has dropped out of the federal Conservative leadership race. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
October 12, 2016 - 3:03 PM

OTTAWA - Conservative MP Tony Clement is ending his bid for the leadership of his party, saying that he fell short of fundraising targets he set when he started his campaign.

"Everything else was on track, but that was definitely not on track," Clement said in an interview Wednesday.

"To the extent that that put my family's finances in peril — I had never signed up for that," said Clement, who earlier in the day had announced his decision in a video posted to Twitter and Facebook.

The Ontario MP and former cabinet minister would not share the fundraising goal he had in mind — and the amount he was able to raise is not yet publicly available through Elections Canada — but he said campaign finances were probably about two months behind where he would have wanted them to be at this point.

Clement also attributed some of his challenges to the way the party decided to have all donations to leadership candidates directed through the Conservative party of Canada, which then takes a 10-per-cent administrative fee before transferring the money to the individual campaigns.

"I think there is a certain amount of donor fatigue and it was tough to raise money when basically the party saw us as the fundraising machine," Clement said.

He suggested his erstwhile rivals would encounter similar struggles.

"I'm the first out. I ain't going to be the last out. I'm telling you now," said Clement.

In his video message, Clement said he decided to enter the race to replace former prime minister Stephen Harper based on his longtime experience with the party and a desire to help move it forward.

"We ran a campaign based on my ability to be someone who had the experience, as well as the innovative ideas, to do the job of opposition leader and ultimately prime minister," Clement said in his video.

Clement said he wished the other candidates the "best of success" and that he would do whatever he can to support interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose and his caucus colleagues throughout the rest of the leadership race and looks forward to playing some other role.

"I'll find another way to both help my party and also our country," he said.

This was the second time Clement sought to become leader of the Conservative party of Canada.

He placed third in the 2004 leadership race, behind Harper and Belinda Stronach, after the Progressive Conservatives merged with the Canadian Alliance.

Clement, who served in the Progressive Conservative government of former Ontario premier Mike Harris, also lost to Ernie Eves in the 2002 provincial leadership contest.

The remaining six candidates in the Conservative leadership race are MPs Maxime Bernier, Andrew Scheer, Kellie Leitch, Michael Chong, Deepak Obhrai and Brad Trost.

Others, including MPs Erin O'Toole and Lisa Raitt and former MP Chris Alexander are also expected to join the race.

The first leadership debate is to take place Nov. 10 in Saskatoon.

Conservatives will elect their new leader next May 27.

— With files from Lee Berthiaume

— Follow @smithjoanna on Twitter

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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