Politics

Scheer's leadership safe for now after Conservative caucus vote

Conservatives caucus members attending a post election meeting in Ottawa have voted against a provision in the Reform Act that would give them the ability to oust Andrew Scheer as leader of the party. 

Caucus vote means Scheer won't face a leadership challenge before April's party convention

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer met with Conservative caucus members for almost seven hours Wednesday. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Conservative caucus members attending a post-election meeting in Ottawa on Wednesday voted against deploying a provision in federal law that would have allowed them to begin the process of ousting Andrew Scheer as party leader.

The Reform Act, introduced by Conservative MP Michael Chong and passed into law in 2015, also gives caucus members the power to elect a new caucus chair, expel and readmit caucus members and elect an interim leader.

The vote — which wasn't close, according to a source — means Scheer is unlikely to face a challenge to his leadership before the party's convention in April.

Scheer met with his caucus colleagues today to listen to their concerns about the federal election and explain why he thinks his party failed to win.

"We had a frank discussion about the last election campaign. While we won more seats, won the most votes and elected the largest Official Opposition in Canadian history, much more was expected," Scheer said after emerging from nearly seven hours of closed-doors talks with his caucus.

"Nobody is more disappointed in the results than me and nobody is more eager to get it right the next time," he added.

Scheer said that, as leader of the Official Opposition, he'll push for measures in the coming Parliament to maintain national unity, restore "ethics and accountability" to government and help the struggling energy sector.

Communication, not policies

Scheer said that his discussion with caucus revealed not that his party had the wrong policies going into the election but that the Conservatives needed to do a better job communicating the merits of those policies. 

He said one such message that did not get out during the election is that his party believes "every single Canadian has inherent value and that Conservatives always fight for the fundamental freedoms of all Canadians regardless of their race, religion or sexual orientation."

Scheer said that despite his party being criticized for not having a robust enough plan to fight climate change, he would continue to oppose putting a price on carbon for as long as he remains leader. 

"I have never known a problem that is solved by a new tax," Scheer said.

Watch: Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer speaks after meeting with caucus to discuss election loss:

Scheer said that his party's environmental plan was "great" and that the issue during the election was how his party communicated it.

"What I heard today is that we need to do a better job of communicating that plan to Canadians …That we show Canadians how Canada can actually have a great impact on lowering emissions with our plan," he said.

Scheer brushed away questions about the strength of his leadership, saying that his party improved its standings in the last election while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lost votes and seats. 

"It wasn't sufficient this time around but we know that we will be in a very good place to finish the job next election."

Baird returns

During the meeting, it was decided that former foreign affairs minister John Baird would conduct an external post-mortem of the Conservative campaign, according to sources who spoke to CBC News and Radio Canada. That choice, according to a Conservative source, helped boost caucus confidence in the process.

Mark Strahl, who was re-elected in the B.C. riding of Chilliwack Hope, told CBC News Network's Power & Politics that the campaign performance of Scheer and the people around him are also under review.

Strahl said Conservative campaign manager Hamish Marshall no longer has any formal role with the party now that the election is over.

On the way into that meeting earlier Wednesday, several Conservative MPs said that while they support Scheer's leadership, they were looking forward to conveying their own concerns and were keen to hear what the senior party leadership thinks went wrong with the campaign to defeat Trudeau.

Concerns about Scheer

Ron Liepert, the winning Conservative candidate in Calgary Signal-Hill, said he was pleased with the overall election result although he has concerns about what he heard from voters while knocking on doors.

"During the campaign, at the doors, a lot of my constituents expressed concern about the leader. They continue to express concern in communication with my office," Liepert said. "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."

Candice Bergen, re-elected in the Manitoba riding of Portage-Lisgar, put the election loss down to poor communication of the Conservative message.

"I truly believe it's about how we communicate," she said. "The more we talk about what we believe, why we support combating climate change, how we support strong healthy relationships in this country, whether they are same sex relationships or heterosexual relationships, I think as we talk about that Canadians will see more and more and that's really what the issue is."

LGBTQ2 rights an issue: Rempel

Michelle Rempel, re-elected in Calgary Nose Hill, said she wanted to hear the senior leadership explain what went wrong during the campaign and what the plan is going forward.

Asked what she thinks the party needs to do going forward, she suggested addressing inequality of opportunity for people from the LGBTQ2 community, such as federal rules imposing a waiting period on gay men looking to donate blood.

"I think that the rights of the LGBTQ2 plus community are the rights of every Canadian, and we should be celebrating and championing those rights because that's who we are as a country," said Rempel.

Lisa Raitt, who lost her seat in the Ontario riding of Milton, said that she wanted to participate in a thorough examination of the election loss before attributing the result to any one policy or decision.

"I think it's important for us to take a look at the entire election," Raitt said. "There were a number of issues that came up, some of the ways that they were addressed may not have been the optimum way."

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