Next Conservative leader will get a party ready to win, says Scheer

Next Conservative leader will get a party ready to win, says Scheer

Next Conservative leader will get a party ready to win, says Scheer

OTTAWA — Outgoing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer chuckled Friday when asked if he wishes he had done anything differently during his time at the party’s helm.

“Well, clearly,” he said.

Scheer was all but forced out as leader in December, after weeks of criticism of his personal role in the party’s failure to unseat the Liberals in the 2019 election.

He said then he was no longer willing to make the personal sacrifices needed for the job and stepped aside. It’s not a decision he regrets, he told The Canadian Press in an interview Friday.

“It was the right decision, and staying on as interim leader has provided the caucus with much needed stability during the leadership race without crowding out the space for those candidates,” he said.

“I’ve been tremendously focused on doing all the preparatory work so the next leader has a well-oiled machine on the party side and a cohesive caucus that is firing on all cylinders.”

The political landscape has shifted since Scheer stepped back, as the COVID-19 pandemic has upended Canadian life.

Nearly every piece of potential federal legislation or action is on hold, and for a time, Parliament was as well.

That briefly relegated Opposition MPs to the same place most Canadians were in: sitting back and watching the Liberals’ back-to-back news conferences each day.

Scheer said getting the government to return to some measure of parliamentary accountability — though he wants more — was a victory, as has been the fact his MPs have forced changes to COVID-19-related emergency aid.

“We’re starting to sense that more and more Canadians are really asking tough questions about the government’s handling of this crisis,” he said.

“I am extremely confident that the next leader is going to be able to highlight those deficiencies in Mr. Trudeau’s response in the pandemic as well as explain how a Conservative government will get us through the consequences of the pandemic better.”

Before COVID-19, a replacement for Scheer was to be named June 21.

But the party punted that date, and for a time paused the race. What it didn’t change was the deadline hitting at midnight Friday for anyone wanting to vote for the new leader to have registered as a member.

The vote will take place over the summer by mail, with all ballots required to be returned by Aug. 21, and a winner announced shortly after.

There are four people running: current MPs Erin O’Toole and Derek Sloan, former MP and cabinet minister Peter MacKay and Toronto lawyer Leslyn Lewis.

Lewis and Sloan both emerged from, and are counting on, the same wing of the party: social conservatives.

That cohort was partially responsible for handing Scheer his win in 2017. The ranked ballot the party uses saw supporters of the main social conservative candidate Brad Trost pivot to Scheer instead of the more libertarian-minded Maxime Bernier.

But in turn, it was Scheer’s socially conservative views that would be his political undoing.

Before last fall’s election, it took him days before he’d share his personal position against abortion, and his promise not to reopen the debate on it if he were prime minister never took hold.

Meanwhile, his inability during the campaign and after to clearly articulate support for LGBTQ rights, including his refusal to march in a gay-pride parade, were among the reasons people said he needed to go.

By contrast, Lewis and Sloan have been clear they intend to put forward policy to curtail access to abortion. Sloan and Lewis have also said they won’t march in gay-pride parades, though Lewis has taken a more nuanced position on LGBTQ rights overall.

Scheer acknowledges his own views were a factor in his party’s defeat.

He said what he’d tried to do in both the leadership race and the general election was make it clear he saw no value or need to bring forward policies that would divide not only his own caucus but potentially the country.

The next leader needs to be able to keep potential divisions at bay, he said.

“You don’t gain more by subtraction,” he said.

“For our party is it essential that every type of conservative feels that they have a home in their party, that they are welcome in our party, and that the next leader continue to try to find that common ground and keep everyone focused and united,” he said.

There is a potential wild card: longtime Ontario conservative activist Jim Karahalios was in court Friday arguing that his disqualification from the federal leadership race ought to be overturned.

A few weeks before the cutoff for candidates to register in the contest, his campaign sent out an email accusing O’Toole’s campaign chair of promoting the implementation of Islamic religious law, known as Shariah, in Canada.

Walied Soliman, a prominent Toronto lawyer, has worked on the legalities of finance arrangements that satisfy Islamic restrictions on charging interest.

Accusing someone of supporting Shariah law is often taken to be an anti-Muslim slur. Complaints against Karahalios were filed with the party, starting a process that led to his dismissal.

A decision in the case is expected soon.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 15, 2020.

The Canadian Press

canadian politics

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The external wall of the Bentley Post Office was destroyed when a semi drove into the building, resulting is an estimated $50,000 in damages. (Photo Submitted)
Sylvan Lake RCMP lay charges in post office destruction

One suspect is in custody the second suspect has a warrant for his arrest

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the province still hopes to bring the hospitalization number down before relaxing restrictions. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
14 new deaths, 366 new COVID-19 cases in Alberta

Province nearing 100K COVID-19 vaccine doses administered

The first pages of the book, by Kristy Walker.
Sylvan Lake author pens first children’s book about COVID-19

“The Coronavirus Isn’t Scary” by Kristy Walker teaches children to take care of themselves

Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, MLA Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, Devin Dreeshen. (Photo Submitted)
Ag Minister announces 20% off crop insurance for Alberta farmers

Dreeshen says this will support job creators and boosting rural economy during a difficult time

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

Mom’s Diner owner Wesley Langlois has joined a growing number of Alberta restaurants that are allowing sit-in dining despite public health restrictions. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Red Deer diner joins sit-down dining protest

Mom’s Diner has joined a growing list of Alberta restaurants flouting health restrictions

Young hockey players were out on Bentley Tuesday for a march to a support a return to sports. (Photo courtesy of Bobby McKinlay)
(Kraft Dinner/Twitter)
Kraft Dinner launches candy-flavoured mac and cheese just in time for Valentine’s Day

Sweet and cheesy treat will be here just in time for the cheesiest holiday of the year

In this undated image made from a video taken by the Duke of Sussex and posted on @SaveChildrenUK by the Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, shows the Duchess of Sussex reading the book “Duck! Rabbit!” to their son Archie who celebrates his first birthday on Wednesday May 6, 2020. The Canadian Paediatric Society is reminding families that the process of raising a reader starts from birth. (Duke of Sussex/@SaveChildrenUK)
Canadian Paediatric Society says raising a reader starts from birth

CPS says literacy is one of the strongest predictors of lifelong health outcomes

Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Minister Carla Qualtrough responds to a question during a news conference Thursday August 20, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Easing rules for parental benefits created inequities among parents, documents say

Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough’s office says the government will make any necessary changes

People walk along a pedestrianized zone of Sainte-Catherine street in Montreal, Monday, May 18, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. Newly released statistics point to a major drop in police-recorded crime during the first eight months of the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Crime down in first 8 months of pandemic, but mental health calls rise: StatCan

The agency says violent crimes such as assault dropped significantly

(Photo submitted)
Central Alberta researchers recognized for studies in agricultural sciences

Jessica Sperber of Ponoka and David MacTaggart of Lacombe awarded prestigious scholarship

FILE – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers his opening remarks at a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Tuesday, January 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine CEO ‘very, very clear’ that Canada’s contracts will be honoured: Trudeau

Trudeau says he spoke to Moderna CEO on the morning of Jan. 26

Most Read