Former immigration minister Chris Alexander kicked off his official campaign for the Conservative party leadership today with a jab at rival Steven Blaney's attempt to exploit the niqab as a wedge issue.

Alexander, Canada's former ambassador to Afghanistan, is the ninth official leadership candidate to join the race to replace Stephen Harper. While he favours requiring new Canadians to uncover their faces when taking the oath at citizenship ceremonies, Alexander told iPolitics he does not support Blaney's proposal to ban the niqab in the public service, or to use the notwithstanding clause if his anti-niqab bill is opposed by the Supreme Court.

"No. I do not support bans of particular articles of clothing, or using the notwithstanding clause for such unprecedented purposes," he said in an email this week.

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