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Who will be crowned King of the Atlantic next election?

With an election call possible as early as next week, Conservative MPs Stockwell Day, Chuck Strahl and John Cummins made the calculation that they just couldn't run again.

That was the news from the West Coast.

On the East Coast, meanwhile, three high-profile former politicians are also weighing their options. Unlike the B.C. trio, however, they are wrestling with a return to elected politics.

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One of them would have to give up a Senate seat; two would be giving up lucrative positions in the private sector. But the pressure is on – and the stakes are high, as one of them could emerge as the King of the Atlantic.

A political veteran with a shot in his hometown

Paul Zed, 54, is a veteran Liberal from New Brunswick who has run six times for federal office and won as many times as he has lost. In 2008, he lost by 427 votes to Tory Rodney Weston as Liberals stayed home, partly a result of the Dion carbon tax policy.

He is being pressed by leader Michael Ignatieff to run in Saint John and would be a good catch for the party, given his experience and his connections , especially on Bay Street where he is chairman of the president's advisory board for Cisco Systems. He is also the legal counsel of a New Brunswick law firm.

Polls indicate he has a good shot at winning in his hometown.

Although relations were slightly strained for a time, he is again a close friend of Mr. Ignatieff. After losing the 2008 election, he served briefly as the leader's chief of staff.

The calculation: Give up his business and (take a pay cut) – again – to run when the Liberals may well end up in opposition. He's served as an MP for nearly nine years. So he's done that.

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Or the Liberals could form a government in which Mr. Zed would likely play a big role in cabinet – running the Atlantic, although he would have competition from New Brunswick MP Dominic LeBlanc, who is emerging as a Liberal star.

Minority government, no matter which party, means Mr. Zed could be running again in 18 months, with all the risks accompanying that.

"I'm torn," Mr. Zed says. "I really am torn. I have seen the federal government capacity in our region significantly diminished by the Harper government and I don't like it."

A former premier who keeps his options open

Bernard Lord, 45, is the former Progressive Conservative premier of New Brunswick. But he has a lot of federal cachet. Attractive, bilingual and born in Quebec, Mr. Lord is usually on top of the rumour list of those who would take over from Stephen Harper. He turned down an offer by Mr. Harper to be in the Senate.

He works in Ottawa as the president of the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association and commutes back to his home in Moncton – he didn't give that up as he is always keeping his options open.

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He and the Tories are confident he could take the Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe riding away from Liberal Brian Murphy.

The calculation: He is in his prime earning years with two children who are near university age. He has been in the private sector only since 2006. Before that, he had been in provincial politics for a decade.

Does he wait several more years to see how the federal scene evolves, make some more money, and then get his kids settled at university?

Or does he give up his private life – after all, in three years some other Tory could be safely ensconced in that riding – and gamble the Harper Tories win another government. With his well-rounded experience, it is likely he could unseat Nova Scotia minister Peter MacKay as the Harper Atlantic King.

For now, Mr. Lord is non-committal. "I have nothing new to say but if it ever changes I'll let you know," he told The Globe.

A senator who sees an opportunity for the Tories

Fabian Manning, 46, lost his riding of Avalon in Newfoundland and Labrador in 2008. A rookie Conservative MP who was first elected in 2006, he fell victim to former premier Danny Williams's anti-Harper campaign. Mr. Harper put him in the Senate in 2009.

While he lost by more than 3,000 votes to Liberal Scott Andrews, Mr. Williams is now gone and electoral life is looking up for Tories in the province. He is receiving calls from supporters to run.

The calculation: Give up a job for life – at least for the next 30 years – where the perks include a good pension, travel and prestige. Or roll the dice on winning back his seat and the Harper Tories forming government again.

Although, he says he has a "great respect for the Senate, much more than I had before I arrived … the people who make decisions are elected members in the long run."

The lure of elected politics is strong: "I enjoy elected politics. I enjoy politics period. That's my problem," he says. "I grew up in a family that was very political … we had salt beef and cabbage for dinner and politics for dessert."

For now, he says, "I'll keep my powder dry."

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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