Scheer says he won't step down as leader after Conservative loss
TORONTO - Andrew Scheer says he’s going to lead a strong Official Opposition, vowing to help unite a divided country, and to be ready to win the next election after a Liberal minority falls.
Scheer did not dwell on questions about whether he would step down, instead offering a quick denial and focusing on gains in both votes and seat count for the Conservatives in Monday’s election.
“The Conservative movement remains exceptionally strong and motivated,” Scheer said during a press conference in Regina Tuesday, pointing out that the party’s vote count and seat count increased in many parts of the country, while Liberal support fell.
His party grew its caucus by 22 MPs, earning 121 seats, and led all parties in popular vote, capturing 6.2 million ballots or about 34.4 per cent of the vote. The Liberals secured 5.9 million votes, about 33.1 per cent of the total, and will hold 157 seats in a minority government. The Liberal caucus will have 27 fewer people.
Scheer blamed Trudeau for a country “more divided than ever” and said the Liberals have to change course to address western alienation and get the energy sector back on its feet. Trudeau’s party failed to secure any seats in Alberta and former cabinet minister Ralph Goodale – the lone Liberal in Saskatchewan – lost his seat.
“The separatist Bloc Quebecois is back on the rise and Alberta and Saskatchewan have completely rejected Trudeau’s policies,” said Scheer.
“I believe in Canada and I believe that this country can work for all Canadians and all provinces. So my message to the people of Alberta and Saskatchewan is we hear you loud and clear. We will fight for you.”
Scheer did not directly answer a reporter’s question about whether he would systematically oppose everything the Liberals try to do in a minority government, instead saying it’s Trudeau’s responsibility to work with other parties.
Several times he repeated his assertion that the Conservatives will be ready to win an election when the next government fails.
Scheer’s social conservatism, along with questions about his ability to connect to voters, has led to open speculation both inside and outside Conservative ranks about whether the party would be better off with a new leader. A leadership race could be triggered at the next party convention, if more than 50 per cent of delegates vote to go that route.
Scheer has said in the past that Trudeau should step down if he failed to capture a majority. But with questions swirling about how he failed to take down a scandal-plagued Trudeau and how he didn’t gain seats in the crucial Greater Toronto Area, Scheer says he’s staying on.
He says he’s already getting ready for the next fight.
“We are in great shape for the next election. This is just the first step.”