TORONTO -- The Conservative party is giving candidates until the end of February to throw their hats into the leadership race.

The party released a schedule and list of rules on Saturday, including a hard deadline of Feb. 27 for leadership hopefuls to declare their candidacy.

“This is going to be an exciting and competitive contest that shows Canadians how Conservatives are ready to do the hard-work that comes with being a government in waiting,” said Lisa Raitt, co-chair of the leadership election organizing committee, in a statement.

Candidates will be required to submit a non-refundable registration fee of $200,000 in instalments up until the end of March. They will also need to collect 3,000 signatures of endorsement from party members.

The leadership race formally opens on Monday.

The Conservatives will elect their next leader on June 27 in Toronto. That date coincides with the Toronto Pride Festival, a coincidence that organizers say was not done on purpose.

Outgoing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer announced in December that he was stepping down as leader. Under Scheer, the Conservatives won 121 seats in the 2019 federal election and knocked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, with 157 seats, down to a minority government.

Scheer has been criticized in the past for not participating in Pride parades and for his lack of clarity on where he stands on issues such as same-sex marriage. Questions also emerged after the election about party funds that were used to help cover the costs of private Catholic school for Scheer’s children.

As for who will replace Scheer, several names have been floated. CTV News has confirmed Conservative MPs Pierre Poilievre and Erin O’Toole both plan to enter the race, and unelected Conservative organizer Bryan Brulotte has already launched his own leadership campaign.

Former Conservative minister Peter MacKay has said he is “very seriously considering” a run, and former Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose is also rumoured to be seriously pondering a run.

Scheer won the last Conservative leadership race in May 2017, narrowly beating Maxime Bernier by 1 per cent of the vote.

With files from CTV’s Rachel Gilmore in Ottawa