Scheer praises party gains after Tories fall short of majority
Despite their pledge to put more money in the pockets of Canadians and their repeated attempts to cast doubt on the character of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, the Conservatives fell short of their goal to unseat their incumbent rivals on Monday night.
It wasn’t long after the polls closed across the country before it became clear the Tories weren’t going to achieve the “strong majority” government Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer assured supporters they’d achieve just the day before.
While the Tory leader held onto his own seat in the Saskatchewan riding of Regina—Qu'Appelle, his party didn’t make the breakthroughs they had hoped for in other parts of the country. It did, however, manage to gain at least 20 seats and hold the Liberals to a minority government.
As of Tuesday morning, Scheer’s Conservatives were elected in 121 ridings, compared with the Liberals’ 157.
In the early hours of Tuesday morning, Scheer took to the stage in his home riding to address a crowded room of supporters.
“Our party is strong. It is united and we are on the march ladies and gentlemen. We ran an excellent campaign from top to bottom. For that, we should all be proud,” he declared.
While the Conservative leader told the crowd he had called Trudeau to congratulate him on winning more seats, he also took aim at the Liberals’ loss of seats.
“Tonight, Conservatives have put Justin Trudeau on notice and Mr. Trudeau, when your government falls, Conservatives will be ready and we will win,” he said to the sound of applause.
Scheer also boasted that his party was leading in popular support when he walked on the stage.
“More Canadians wanted us to win this election than any other party,” he said.
The night started off promising for the Conservatives as they managed to put a dent in the Liberal’s stronghold in Atlantic Canada by winning back a number of traditionally Tory ridings, including seats in New Brunswick’s Fundy Royal and New Brunswick Southwest.
However, the Conservatives’ four seats weren’t exactly what they were hoping for and several star candidates, particularly in Nova Scotia, didn’t live up to expectations.
More crucially, Scheer’s party failed to make the inroads they were hoping for in Quebec where they only were elected in 10 ridings, including those already held by prominent Conservatives Steven Blaney, Gerard Deltell, and Alain Rayes. The Conservatives held 11 seats in the province at the dissolution of parliament.
The Bloc Quebecois was largely to blame for the Tories’ poor showing after they enjoyed an unexpected surge during the campaign, biting into both the Conservatives and Liberals’ support.
Bloc Leader Yves Francois-Blanchet’s party managed to secure 32 seats thanks to a well-run campaign that focused less on separation and more on Quebec nationalism. Blanchet too aided his party’s fortunes with strong showings in the French and English debates.
Scheer, himself, appeared to struggle to win over Quebecers during the campaign thanks to his socially conservative views and fluency in the French language. He also seemed to have difficulty bringing them over to the idea of a national energy corridor that his party would build through the province.
One notable victory for the Tories in Quebec, however, was the defeat of People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier in his home riding of Beauce. Conservative Richard Lehoux snagged the seat Bernier had represented for 13 years.
While Quebec was an important battlefield, the Conservatives also eyed Ontario, and more specifically the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) as an important key to their success. The party hoped to appeal to suburban voters’ pocketbooks with promises to remove the GST from home energy bills and implement tax credits for children’s arts and fitness programs. Scheer visited the vote-rich province 37 times throughout the course of the campaign, more times than any other province.
Despite these pledges, the Liberals’ swept downtown Toronto and most its surrounding ridings on Monday evening. The defeat may partly be attributed to Trudeau’s sustained campaign to link Scheer with Ontario’s unpopular Premier Doug Ford.
The Conservatives suffered a big loss with the defeat of longtime politicians and the party’s deputy leader Lisa Raitt in the Toronto-area riding of Milton. The Liberals targeted the high-profile Tory by running four-time Olympic medallist and star Liberal candidate Adam van Koeverden in the riding.
“The reality is, guys, it’s not the result that we wanted tonight, was it? Unfortunately. But I can tell you this, I am so lucky for having had the trust of Miltonians for the past 11 years and I’m so proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish together,” she told a crowd of supporters in Milton on Monday evening.
In Manitoba, the Conservatives were able to hold on to their rural strongholds and win a few extra seats in Winnipeg for a total of seven of the province’s 14 seats.
As expected, the Conservatives dominated in the Prairies, where they picked up all 14 seats in Saskatchewan, including that of high-profile Liberal MP and cabinet minister Ralph Goodale. He lost his re-election bid in the riding of Regina-Wascana, which he held for 26 years.
In Alberta, the Conservatives almost managed another complete sweep save for one riding in Edmonton the NDP claimed. Besides the Edmonton Strathcona riding, the Tories won all 33 of the other races.
As for B.C., another contentious battleground, the Conservatives were elected or leading in 17 of the province’s 42 contests. It was a noteworthy increase from the eight seats the party held at dissolution. B.C. received its fair share of attention from the Conservative leader who campaigned in the province on 12 occasions, including the final weekend of the campaign where he spent time in Liberal-held ridings in the Lower Mainland.
During his speech, Scheer tried to end his campaign on a positive note after what has been described as one of the most divisive elections in modern Canadian history.
From the outset, Scheer attempted to portray the election as a referendum on Trudeau’s ethical record following the SNC-Lavalin affair and revelations the Liberal leader wore brown and blackface on several occasions in the past.
However, the Tory leader was also unable to avoid a few controversies of his own.
At the beginning of the campaign, Scheer came under fire after the Liberals resurfaced a 2005 video in which he said same-sex couples cannot have the “inherent feature” of marriage because they “cannot commit to natural procreation of children.”
“How many legs would a dog have if you counted the tail as a leg?” he said at the time.
Scheer didn’t apologize for those comments, but said the matter of same-sex marriage has been settled and he has moved on from it. Despite this, he was continuously dogged by questions regarding his stance on abortion and same-sex marriage and whether he would reopen the debate on these subjects if he were to win. A devout Catholic, Scheer said he remains pro-life and said his views on same-sex marriage have “evolved,” but he hasn’t clarified what exactly that means.
The Tory leader also faced criticism when he was the only federal leader who refused to attend one of the nationwide climate rallies taking place across Canada on Sept. 27, preferring to make an infrastructure announcement at a campaign stop in B.C. instead.
Later on in the campaign, Scheer was also forced to explain his resume amid allegations he falsely worked as an insurance broker without a licence before his political career began. He said he worked in an insurance office for six or seven months and left it before the licencing process was finalized.
Perhaps the most sensationalized scandal to rock Scheer’s campaign, however, was the revelation that he holds dual Canadian-American citizenship.
During the third week of the campaign, the Conservative leader was inundated with questions about his American citizenship, particularly because he raised concerns in the past about the dual Canadian-French citizenship held by former governor general Michaelle Jean. Scheer responded that he started the process to renounce his U.S. citizenship in August before the election began and he never mentioned it before because he was “never asked.”