'Real Conservative' Andrew Scheer enters leadership race
'Those who voted Conservative in 2015 were not wrong': ex-Speaker focusing on issues that unite, not divide
Saskatchewan MP Andrew Scheer has made it official: he's filed his papers and paid his first $25,000 registration fee to run for the leadership of the Conservative Party.
Ten MPs lined up behind him as he appeared in the National Press Theatre to launch his bid, a subset of the 20 MPs and senators he says are endorsing him.
Of those, only one senator is not from Western Canada, but Scheer says his campaign enjoys support from across the country.
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His campaign, he said, would focus on his ability to unite Conservatives across the country around the common goals that help win elections.
"We don't always win when we are united, but we always lose when we are divided," he said.
He said he offered a fresh approach and a new leadership style with an "emphasis on a positive vision." He spoke about his ability to "connect with a broader audience while keeping faith with those who have supported the party over the years."
He also declared himself "a real Conservative" who believes in the free market, low taxes, family values and protecting victims in the criminal justice system.
"I cannot let Justin Trudeau do to my children what his father did to my generation," he said.
"Those who voted Conservative in 2015 were not wrong," he said, but "we have to speak more about what motivates us as Conservatives." That means a focus not on intentions, but results, he said.
To represent the party's "bedrock" but also connect with a new generation of voters "Conservatives have to be more than just Liberals who are good at math," he said.
20 endorsements announced
The former Speaker of the House of Commons stepped down earlier this month from his role as opposition House leader in order to get ready for his leadership bid.
His campaign released this list of MPs and senators who are endorsing his candidacy:
- Alberta MP Ziad Aboultaif
- Alberta MP John Barlow
- Saskatchewan Senator Denise Batters
- Saskatchewan MP Kelly Block
- Alberta MP Jim Eglinski
- Manitoba MP Ted Falk
- Alberta MP Garnett Genuis
- Alberta MP Matt Jeneroux
- Saskatchewan MP Tom Lukiwski
- Alberta MP Kelly McCauley
- Saskatchewan MP Gerry Ritz
- Alberta MP Kevin Sorenson
- B.C. Mark Strahl
- Alberta MP Shannon Stubbs
- Saskatchewan Senator David Tkachuk
- Alberta MP Arnold Viersen
- Saskatchewan MP Cathay Wagantall
- B.C. MP Mark Warawa
- Newfoundland and Labrador Senator David Wells
- B.C. MP Bob Zimmer
Scheer, 37, is one of the few candidates in the race who is functionally bilingual. He was born in Ottawa but moved to Saskatchewan to be with his wife, Jill, with whom he has five children. He has represented a Saskatchewan riding since 2004.
He began his remarks Wednesday in French.
Asked about his second-language skills, he paid tribute to his former French immersion teacher at Ottawa's Immaculata High School for making him stick with it.
It's essential for the next leader to be able to communicate with Quebecers, he said.
However, he has not yet received endorsements from any Quebec MPs or senators. Scheer said it's still early in the race.
Middle-class Quebec voters have much in common with Conservatives, he said, such as valuing decentralized government and low taxes.
Won't 'reopen the debate'
Reporters asked about his support for causes dear to social conservatives, such as the anti-abortion movement.
Scheer said the focus of his candidacy is the unity of the party and the caucus, which remains divided on some of these matters.
"It's not up to me to reopen the debate on these issues."
He would, however, protect the right of his caucus colleagues to speak about what's important to them. With a grin, he mentioned a "wise" ruling of his in the last Parliament — when he was Speaker — about the right of MPs to make statements on any subject they wish.
Scheer was also asked about two recent controversies in the leadership race.
On fellow competitor Kellie Leitch's controversial suggestion to screen immigrants for "anti-Canadian values," Scheer said he didn't think such screening would be practical.
He said the party needs to maintain its image as a "positive party that accepts and celebrates the contributions that new Canadians have made to this country."
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Scheer was also asked about allegations that emerged Wednesday about the new Conservative deputy House leader Chris Warkentin preventing Brad Trost — who also intends to make a leadership bid — from making a statement in the House of Commons calling on Guy Giorno, Stephen Harper's former chief of staff, to repay taxpayers for relocation expenses incurred in 2008.
Trost and Giorno are having a public feud over whether political staff should receive such benefits. Trost complained of being muzzled by someone who was backing another leadership candidate.
"Chris is a friend," Scheer said, but Warkentin is not on his list of public endorsements.
The contenders, so far
Candidate who has declared, registered and paid the full fee: Michael Chong.
Candidates who have declared and registered: Maxime Bernier; Tony Clement; Kellie Leitch; Deepak Obhrai; Andrew Scheer.
Expected to declare soon: Chris Alexander; Steven Blaney.
Others who have mused about running but not declared: Kevin O'Leary; Erin O'Toole; Rick Peterson; Lisa Raitt.