Nova Scotia

Could Peter MacKay's Conservative criticisms mean he wants to replace Scheer?

If former Conservative cabinet minister Peter MacKay is planning a bid for the leadership of the federal Conservatives, he's throwing out the tried and true political rule book to do it, according to political science professor Tom Urbaniak. 

'Clearly it shows that Andrew Scheer's position is not absolute and it's not necessarily safe'

Former Conservative cabinet minister Peter MacKay has come out strongly criticizing the Conservative Party's performance in the recent election. (Canadian Press)

If former Conservative cabinet minister Peter MacKay is planning a bid for the leadership of the federal Conservatives, he's throwing out the tried and true political rule book to do it, according to political science professor Tom Urbaniak. 

Earlier in the week, MacKay openly criticized his party's performance in the recent election, comparing it to a hockey player failing to score "on an open net."

Even after numerous public missteps by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and voters across the country being divided on the Liberals' carbon tax and pipeline plans, the Conservatives still couldn't get a majority.

Urbaniak said it's unusual for someone vying for party leadership to make those kinds of critical statements so publicly.

"Heir apparents tend to keep a low profile and allow surrogates or people who are closely identified with them to make those kinds of statements, all while insisting their own loyalty to the leader until that leader has announced that he or she is leaving or has been effectively forced out," he said.

"So the fact that Peter MacKay stepped onto the limb himself so early was maybe a little bit awkward and unanticipated." 

Tom Urbaniak is a political science professor at Cape Breton University. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

MacKay has not said if wants the leadership job. 

The day after he made his comments criticizing the Conservatives, MacKay took to Twitter stating he repeatedly said he supports Scheer and worked very hard to help him in the campaign. 

In the same tweet, MacKay denied he is organizing a bid for leadership of the Conservatives. 

But multiple sources have told CBC News that, behind the scenes, people around MacKay have formed a team that is organizing and fundraising for a possible leadership bid if Scheer quits or is pushed out.

Sources say MacKay will only consider running if Scheer is no longer in the picture.

Despite all that, MacKay's comments about the party are still serious business, according to Urbaniak. 

"Clearly it shows that Andrew Scheer's position is not absolute and it's not necessarily safe," he said. 

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

MacKay is an attractive option for Conservatives who are more moderate, according to Urbaniak.

"There is an appetite for moderate conservatism and many analysts have emerged since the election to say that they fear the Conservatives have reached their ceiling in terms of the support that they can obtain using existing strategies, and that they need to perhaps run closer to the centre."     

The Conservatives will hold a convention and leadership review in April.

However, Scheer could lose his place as leader before then. Under the Reform Act passed into law in 2015, MPs can trigger a leadership review and vote to oust their leader.  

With files from Tom Murphy

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