British Columbia

'When they don't win, they turn on themselves': Scheer's sudden resignation surprises in B.C.

Andrew Scheer’s sudden resignation as Conservative Party leader came as a surprise to colleagues and political analysts alike on Thursday, leaving some wondering about the future unity of the party.

Andrew Scheer plans to stay on as Conservative Party leader until a new leader is chosen

Andrew Scheer announced Thursday he is stepping down as the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Andrew Scheer's sudden resignation as Conservative Party leader came as a surprise to colleagues and political analysts alike on Thursday, leaving some wondering about the future unity of the party.

His departure as the leader of the Official Opposition in the House of Commons is resonating in British Columbia, where more than a dozen Conservative MPs were elected in the last federal election.

"I'm really surprised. All the signals pointed to him giving it another go," said Bob Zimmer, Conservative MP for Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies.

The two had worked together for many years, with their children sometimes playing together, and Zimmer was among the first MPs to back his leadership bid.

Scheer, first elected to the House of Commons 15 years ago at age 25, had been facing weeks of mounting criticism over his performance in the election, even though his party increased its seats in he House.

Gerald Baier, an associate professor of political science at the University of British Columbia, described Scheer stepping down as "a classic example of the 'Tory Syndrome." 

"The Conservative Party has historically been really tough on its leaders, particularly leaders that don't win elections," Baier said.  "When they don't win, they turn on themselves." 

However, Baier says, he expected Scheer to hang on to his role as leader at least until April when the party was planning to meet and when there would have been the opportunity for a leadership review. 

"We certainly thought that he had passed the initial storms," he said. 

Andrew Scheer informs Parliament that he will be stepping down as Conservative leader, but will stay on until a new leader is chosen. 8:56

'Bigger than personality'

Since the election, there's been a split within the party over Scheer's future as leader, with some criticizing him for not capitalizing enough on a series of Liberal scandals and missteps like the mid-campaign revelation that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had repeatedly dressed in blackface.

Last month, several party operatives and candidates who failed to win seats publicly questioned his leadership and suggested he should step aside.   

Mark Strahl, Conservative MP for Chilliwack-Hope, expressed concern about what Scheer's resignation will mean for the unity of the party in the long term. 

"This is bigger than personality," he said. 

"We don't simply need to replace the leader and assume that would have given us a different result. We have to take a deep look at what we're offering Canadians."

He hopes the party will focus on coming together over common ground, rather than squabbling over differences. 

"There are not enough conservatives in the country for us to start saying that certain types of conservatives have no place in the Conservative Party of Canada," Strahl said. 

"We all have to work together and I think, quite frankly, that is the legacy of Mr. Scheer's leadership." 

Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer is applauded by caucus members as he announces he will step down as Conservative leader. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Scheer told the House of Commons that family demands and a desire to spend more time together influenced his decision to depart. It's a sentiment Todd Doherty, Conservative MP for Cariboo-Prince George, says he understands well. 

"I've been fairly vocal about how the campaign was for myself and my family," he said. 

"It was probably the ugliest six weeks of my political career. This job, just in itself, takes a tremendous toll on our friends and our family and relationships."

Doherty said he admires Scheer for putting his family first. 

Scheer plans to stay on until a new leader is chosen and will continue to represent his Regina-Qu'Appelle constituents.

With files from B.C. Today, Radio West and Betsy Trumpener


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