OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper caused confusion on Tuesday, making no mention of his future plans as he addressed supporters after a crushing election defeat even though his party said he would step down as party leader.
Shortly after Harper called Liberal leader Justin Trudeau to concede defeat in Monday’s vote, his Conservative Party issued a statement saying he had asked the party to elect a new interim leader.
But when Harper spoke to a rally in his home riding in Calgary, he made no mention of quitting as leader.
Confused reporters wondered whether the party statement was a hoax, and it took Conservative officials several minutes to confirm it was genuine.
Harper has no plans to address the media on Tuesday, an aide said. The outgoing prime minister most likely will return to Ottawa soon to prepare for a formal handover of power to Trudeau in a few weeks.
Harper will continue to sit as a member of Parliament (MP), party president John Walsh said in a second statement issued later Tuesday.
Walsh said he asked the newly elected caucus of Conservative MPs to choose an interim leader as soon as possible, as a process to pick a longer-term leader is established.
Conservatives close to the just-completed campaign expect a wide open race for leader. Two of the party’s most prominent legislators, outgoing cabinet ministers Jason Kenney and Michelle Rempel, deflected questions on Monday about whether they would seek the top job.
Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Rod Nickel in Calgary; Editing by Alan Crosby and Jeffrey Benkoe