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

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

"We are looking seriously at the spread and determining what our next steps should be," says Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, as the daily number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb.
427 new COVID cases is highest in Alberta ever

Central zone has 126 active cases of COVID-19

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Temporary COVID-19 testing sites coming to Wetaskiwin and Ponoka

The Wetaskiwin location will open Oct. 23, 2020 and the Ponoka location will open Oct. 29.

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
City and County of Wetaskiwin reporting active cases

Both the City of Wetaskiwin and County of Wetaskiwin have active cases.

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the Covid-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday March 20, 2020. nbsp;Alberta is reporting it's highest daily number of COVID-19 cases, with 364 new infections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta confirmed 323 COVID-19 cases Tuesday

Central zone active cases at 145

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

This photo provided by Air Force Reserve shows a sky view of Hurricane Epsilon taken by Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter team over the Atlantic Ocean taken Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.   Epsilon’s maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly as it prepares to sideswipe Bermuda on a path over the Atlantic Ocean.  The National Hurricane Center says it should come close enough Thursday, Oct. 22, evening to merit a tropical storm warning for the island.  (Air Force Reserve via AP)
Hurricane Epsilon expected to remain offshore but will push waves at Atlantic Canada

Epsilon is not expected to have any real impact on land

A voter places her absentee ballot in the ballot box, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Robert F. Bukaty
American voters living in Canada increasingly being counted in presidential race

The largest number of Canadian-based American voters cast their ballots in New York and California

A composite image of three photographs shows BC NDP Leader John Horgan, left, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Sept. 25, 2020; BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau, centre, in Victoria on Sept. 24, 2020; and BC Liberal Party Leader Andrew Wilkinson Pitt Meadows, B.C., on Sept. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck, Chad Hipolito
British Columbia votes in snap election called during COVID-19 pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan called the snap election one year before the fixed voting date

Nunavut's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, on Tuesday June 30, 2020. The annual report from Nunavut's representative for children and youth says "complacency and a lack of accountability" in the territory's public service means basic information about young people needing services isn’t tracked. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Nunavut’s young people ‘should be expecting more’ from government services: advocate

‘The majority of information we requested is not tracked or was not provided by departments’

Ryen Williams, 11, with a lost miniature horse at JJ Collett Oct. 23. Photo by Don Williams
UPDATE: Owners found

Father and son found him while out for a walk at JJ Collett

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

Conservative member of Parliament Michelle Rempel Garner, left to right, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen arrive to hold a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No-confidence showdown over sweeping Tory motion on government handling of pandemic

The Conservative motion is to be put to a vote Monday and has the support of both the Bloc Québécois and NDP

Most Read