FILE – Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer. (The Canadian Press)

FILE – Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer. (The Canadian Press)

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

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

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.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

united conservative party

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

Just Posted

RCMP are looking for “an unknown man who wrapped his arms around” a female youth in Clayton Feb. 26. (Black Press file photo)
Youth assaulted by unknown man in Cloverdale

Mounties looking for ‘tall and thin’ Caucasian man in his 40’s with short dark brown hair

(File photo)
Township to hold COVID-safe baseball spring break baseball camps

Aldergrove minor baseball and North Langley Trappers run two week camps

The Langley School District has issued COVID-19 notifications for H.D. Stafford Middle and Blacklock Fine Arts Elementary schools. (Langley Schools)
The Langley School District has issued COVID-19 notifications for H.D. Stafford Middle and Blacklock Fine Arts Elementary schools. (Langley Schools)
Langley schools issued COVID-19 alerts, third this week for H.D. Stafford

As of Friday there are four local schools on the exposure list

Nesting season is marked after South Surrey preserve pair welcome first egg on Feb. 24, 2021. (Hancock Wildlife Foundation)
VIDEO: South Surrey bald eagle preserve welcomes first egg, marks nesting season

Second egg is expected Saturday afternoon and the babies will hatch in April

A model of the planned Salishan Place centre was displayed at a Fort public information session in 2018. (Langley Advance Times files)
$711,000 tourism grant goes to Langley arts and culture centre

Salishan Place by the River is a planned community hub with many amenities and uses

Dr. Bonnie Henry leaves the podium after talking about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
COVID: 589 new cases in B.C., and 7 new deaths

No new outbreaks being reported Feb. 26

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

Passengers aboard Komagata Maru in Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet, 1914 - Library and Archives Canada image
Abbotsford council is asked to rename street in memory of Komagata Maru victims

Most of 376 the passengers aboard ship were denied entry into Canada in 1914

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

The Canada Revenue Agency says there were 32 tax fraud convictions across the country between April 2019 and March 2020. (Pixabay)
Vancouver man sentenced to 29 months, fined $645K for tax evasion, forgery

Michael Sholz reportedly forged documents to support ineligible tax credits linked to homeownership

Framed photos of Travis Selje and other items fill the top of a dresser in his bedroom. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
Crown says defence case epilepsy caused fatal Surrey crash fails on balance of probabilities

‘She very clearly had some form of control over that vehicle,’ Crown argues

Most Read