Conservative MPs will not force vote on Scheer’s future | CTV News
OTTAWA – Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has dodged what could have become his first post-election leadership test inside today’s Conservative caucus meeting.
Sources tell CTV News that the Conservative caucus has chosen against forcing a vote that would have triggered a leadership review.
This is a breaking news update, previous version follows:
The first post-election Conservative caucus meeting is underway on Parliament Hill, with Leader Andrew Scheer speaking directly to Tory MPs and senators who have the ability to oust him by the meeting’s end.
On their way in, returning and newly-elected Conservative MPs expressed their support for Scheer and spoke against seizing the option to trigger a leadership review and vote within their caucus without input from the party’s grassroots, though it remains to be seen what transpires behind closed doors. The meeting is expected to last hours.
Several caucus members spoke about the intention to have a “full airing” of the 2019 Conservative campaign to hear “what worked well for members and what didn’t work so well,” said Conservative MP Michael Barrett. MPs said that Scheer has already taken steps to make improvements and listen to his team.
“During the campaign at the doors a lot of my constituents expressed concerns about the leader. They continue to express concern in communication with my office and so I’m glad to see that he’s said he’s going to go do a listening tour across the country and we’ll see what happens,” said Conservative MP Ron Liepert.
The Conservative caucus is expected to offer varied perspectives on what the party needs to do to boost its electability and deliver a strong presence as the Official Opposition in the new Liberal minority parliament.
“I think we’re going to have a very frank and candid discussion inside that room about what happened in the campaign,” said defeated Conservative MP and deputy leader Lisa Raitt. “There were a number of issues that came up, some of the ways in which they were addressed may not have been the optimal way,” she said.
Conservative House Leader Candice Bergen said she thinks their issue was largely one of communication, but that’s something that can be improved under Scheer’s leadership. She spoke against the idea of caucus deciding Scheer’s fate today.
“I believe the grassroots members should decide on the future of a leader,” Bergen said.
“We went in wanting to win, expecting to win, and we’re not satisfied with the silver medal, so every time that happens you take a look at the entire operation to look at where you can get better,” said Conservative whip Mark Strahl.
According to The Canadian Press, Scheer held a casual gathering with MPs at Stornoway, his official residence on Tuesday night in advance of today’s high-stakes sit-down.
Scheer did not speak with reporters on his way to today’s meeting, taking a route into the caucus room that bypassed where reporters and cameras were convened.
Caucus to vote on Reform Act
In today’s meeting the caucus will be voting to determine whether it wants to enable the caucus’ ability to remove an MP or caucus chair, remove a party leader, or elect an interim leader.
The option to trigger a leadership ouster and these other powers was made possible thanks to Conservative MP Michael Chong’s contentious legislative initiative in 2015, aimed at empowering caucuses.
Called the Reform Act, it requires these votes to occur at the very first caucus meeting for each party. The Conservatives voted against enacting the two leadership-related measures at the start of the last parliament.
It would take just 20 per cent of the caucus to sign on in agreement of a leadership review. The actual secret ballot vote requires a majority to vote to replace the leader.
Conservative insiders CTV News has spoken with are skeptical that the caucus, who were largely just elected under Scheer’s banner, will take this route but it’s something Scheer’s team is keeping an eye on.
“I’m sure that the leader of the Conservatives would rather have been having this meeting under different circumstances,” Conservative commentator and former staffer Andrew Brander said on CTV News Channel Wednesday morning. “I think there’s a lot of serious questions that he’s going to be held to account for today.”
Because of the election loss, a leadership review is already going to occur at a delegated party convention in Toronto in April.
Scheer’s leadership questioned
While the party elected 121 MPs to the House of Commons, in the weeks that have passed since election day Scheer has faced outspoken criticism from within his party on various aspects of the campaign since election day.
From questioning the data-driven internal decision-making lead by his campaign manager Hamish Marshall, to Scheer’s position on what the majority of Canadians view as settled social issues like same-sex marriage and abortion, the knives appear to be out for the leader who narrowly took the helm of the party in 2017.
Marshall was on Parliament Hill today but did not stop to take media questions upon his arrival.
Last week, Scheer spent a few days huddled with senior members of caucus to plot their Official Opposition strategy for the new parliament and assess the lay of the land heading into today’s meeting.
Strahl was one of the senior members in the meeting. He told reporters on Wednesday that Scheer “absolutely” has the confidence of caucus but that he doesn’t think Scheer has to change who he is in order to win.
Stephen Harper’s former director of communications said on CTV’s Question Period that Scheer’s position on same-sex marriage “could be fatal” to his future as leader because not supporting same-sex marriage is “viewed increasingly as bigotry.”
On her way to Wednesday’s meeting, Conservative MP Michelle Rempel said she thinks the party can, and should do more to be a voice for the LGBTQ community, beyond they “symbolism” she said that the Liberals have offered. Asked whether she thinks that’s possible under Scheer’s leadership, she said she is looking to find that out.
Last week, one-time Conservative cabinet minister and rumoured potential leadership contender Peter MacKay compared Scheer’s 2019 election loss to a scandal-plagued Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “having a breakaway on an open net and missing the net,” and said that Scheer’s socially conservative personal views hurt their chances to pick up key votes.
He then sought to clarify that he meant his comments on Scheer’s campaign “shortcomings” to be constructive and any rumours of him organizing a leadership challenge are “false.”
On election night, Scheer highlighted that the Liberals lost support in all regions, while the Conservatives were sending a bigger team to Ottawa that would position themselves as a government-in-waiting should Trudeau’s minority fail.
“More Canadians wanted us to win this election than any other party,” Scheer said. The next day he framed the loss as the “first step” towards ousting Trudeau. “We’re going to re-double our efforts for next time,” he said.
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