OTTAWA -- Alberta Premier and longtime federal cabinet minister Jason Kenney says he's encouraging his former colleague John Baird to run to be the next leader of the Conservative party.

In an interview on CTV News Channel from Washington D.C., Kenney said he spoke to Baird "a couple of days ago," and "encouraged him to put his name forward."

"I think Conservatives would benefit from a larger field and John is a principled Conservative with deep experience both at the provincial and federal levels, as well as in the private sector," Kenney said.

He cited Baird's bilingualism, his network, and ability to win as assets to his prospective candidacy.

"I think John, and this is not an endorsement, but I sure hope he puts his name forward because I think it would be good for the country and the party to have someone of his caliber offering their talent and experience for leadership at an important time," Kenney said.

Baird, who resigned from cabinet and did not run for reelection in 2015, has not yet publicly spoke to what's begun to be a trickle of suggestions that he's mulling a bid. has reached out to Baird for comment.

Should he decide to get back into federal politics, Baird would be facing off against two other former Tory cabinet ministers: Erin O'Toole and Peter MacKay. Both men have already started amassing campaign teams, supporters, and volunteer bases in the lead up to the June 27 leadership vote.

Baird was tapped by outgoing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer to conduct a campaign postmortem on the party's unsuccessful federal election campaign.

Other than landing in select hands within the most senior ranks of the party, the findings have not been made public, though CTV News did learn that one line within it stated that a political leader who appears uncomfortable with same-sex marriage is "an electoral liability no party can afford."

Candidates have until Feb. 27 to throw their hats into the race, which has a steeper bar to entry than was the case in the 2017 race to replace Stephen Harper.

In order to qualify, the Conservative Party’s Leadership Election Organizing Committee has decided that candidates will be required to submit a non-refundable registration fee of $200,000 in instalments and will also need to collect 3,000 signatures of endorsement from registered party members. Contestants are being given until March 25 to submit the full fee and signatures.