Who will be the next leader of the Conservative party?

Who will be the next leader of the Conservative party?

Canada's Conservative Party has settled on a stay-the-course candidate to be its next leader, electing Andrew Scheer to be Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's chief rival in a surprise multi-ballot victory.

The nail-biting process of winnowing the 13-candidate field went the full distance before Scheer, 38, was declared the victor with just 50.95 per cent of the available points, barely besting longtime front-runner Maxime Bernier, who posted 49.05 per cent after leading all 12 of the previous ballots.

The race between 13 candidates is too close to call but the victor faces an uphill battle to re-unite the right-of-center party that held power for almost a decade under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper before the center-left Liberals won a shock majority in 2015.

Scheer must now try to heal a rift between the socially conservative wing he represents and others who prefer a more centrist approach.

The perceived front-runner for the Conservative leadership is making a list and checking it twice.

Bernier had led throughout the previous 12 ballots, but finished a close second with 49.05 per cent. But her message didn't seem to connect: after nine rounds of voting, her share of votes increased to a final 7.95 per cent before she was dropped from the list.

Under a preferential balloting system, if no candidate receives more than 50 per cent of the vote, the last-place contender is eliminated and his or her supporters' second choices are counted.

The victor should also take heed of the advice Harper gave caucus when she replaced him, she added. He was forced to give up his foreign affairs portfolio in 2008 after he left classified documents at the home of his former girlfriend, who was alleged to have connections to the Hells Angels.

The victor on Saturday will be tasked with bringing the party together after a race that saw traditional Conservatives, including many veterans of the Harper administration, pitted against candidates with more divisive views like O'Leary and Kellie Leitch. O'Leary took 1.07 per cent of the vote in the first round, putting him ahead of three candidates who had not dropped out.

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Just over 259,000 people bought party memberships in order to be eligible to vote in the race. But the leadership convention's ranked ballot system made polls hard to read ahead of the vote, and left the possibility of a last-minute upset.

The party did see its membership skyrocket in the run-up to the vote.

Speaking in front of a room packed to the 2,000 party members gathered in Toronto for the convention on Saturday, interim party leader Rona Ambrose blasted the Liberal government as "arrogant, entitled and out of touch", and repeated a call for party members to unite after the at-times acrimonious campaign.

That rally, late in the 2015 campaign, was organized by the outspoken Ford brothers; Rob, the controversial mayor of the city and his brother Doug, who used their considerable electoral clout to muster supporters for the final Ontario campaign spot of 2015.

For their part, the Liberals also spent Friday attacking the Tories and trying to paint the party as little different than it was under Harper, saying the policies being put forward during the race were extreme. I want to remember each and every person who stood by me in this leadership race.

The ranks of the party are as large as they've ever been, thanks in large measure to the high-profile, hard-fought leadership race, and the party's fundraising might appears to have renewed power, he added.

"One of the things that has motivated me so much in this campaign is the very strong belief that I can not allow Justin Trudeau to do the same thing to my five children that his father did to my generation", he said. "This is your last chance to get your name on that list". The votes are counted by riding, with each of the country's 338 ridings given the value of 100 points in the final tabulation.

Deepak Obhrai, Andrew Saxton, Rick Peterson, Kevin O'Leary, Chris Alexander, Steven Blaney and Lisa Raitt were some of the earliest casualties as early-ballot results were announced, while Kellie Leitch, Pierre Lemieux and Michael Chong fell off in subsequent rounds.

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