Conservatives discuss Scheer ouster as pivotal meeting looms

Conservatives discuss Scheer ouster as pivotal meeting looms

OTTAWA–As federal Conservatives prepare for a Wednesday caucus meeting that could trigger a leadership review, some Conservative MPs and party activists are working to oust Andrew Scheer, the Star has learned.

Scheer’s team, which has been tracking the leader’s level of support in caucus, believes he has the numbers to hang on, one senior Conservative source told the Star.

However, one of those working against him believes there is enough anger about Scheer’s leadership that the caucus might adopt a new rule that would allow it to trigger an immediate review. “It’s not around a (leadership) candidate, it’s an anti-Scheer movement,” said the party source. “There’s people from all over the Conservative family.”

Another source said while there’s talk of defenestrating Scheer — including among MPs — nobody is actually yet moving to do so.

Under the Reform Act, MPs must hold a recorded vote in their first caucus meeting after an election on new rules that would give them the power to force a leadership vote.

If Conservative MPs opt to so empower themselves, it would take just 20 per cent of caucus — 25 MPs — to then formally trigger a secret-ballot vote on Scheer’s leadership. Should more than half of caucus vote to oust him, the party would be plunged into its second leadership contest in four years.

The 1 p.m. caucus meeting will be chaired by veteran Tory MP Scott Reid (Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston).

“It could be tight,” said a worried Tory insider who is loyal to the leader.

Scheer has faced intense criticism since the Conservatives lost to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in the Oct. 21 election, in which the party gained seats but lost ground in the crucial provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

According to one of the sources, conversations among those gunning for the Conservative leader began on election night.

That criticism has moved from anonymous comments to, in some cases, open sniping,

One loyalist said Scheer has left himself vulnerable by failing to give his critics “a head on a spike” by blaming advisers or campaign officials.

A Conservative source said Scheer’s team expects a “good” result on the Reform Act vote, meaning the caucus will not give itself the power to force a leadership review.

“The calls have been positive,” the source, granted anonymity to discuss caucus matters, said of efforts to gauge internal support for Scheer.

Scheer’s message to caucus will be “two-pronged,” according to the source, who has direct knowledge of his comments. He will acknowledge that while the Conservatives did “make gains” on Oct. 21, the overall results were not what Scheer and his campaign team expected. He will also reveal the details and rollout of the party’s election post mortem, which will analyze the campaign’s successes and failures.

Second, Scheer will deliver a “strong message on staying focused.”

“It’s a minority parliament. We’ve proven, I think, that Justin Trudeau’s beatable, he’s weak, but we have to stay focused on opposing Trudeau,” the source said.

“We have to stay focused on fundraising, and nominating candidates, and building the organization, and making sure we’re election-ready as soon as we can. We can’t be focused on the internal stuff. We have a job to do.”

Hamish Marshall, Scheer’s longtime friend and campaign manager, will also address caucus and give a preliminary assessment of the campaign. Marshall declined the Star’s interview request on Tuesday.

The Conservatives managed to reduce Trudeau’s Liberals from a majority to a minority, and picked up 23 more seats, but expected gains in Quebec and Ontario — particularly in the GTA — did not materialize.

Some Conservatives insiders were surprised by the Scheer campaign’s decision to boast that it would win the most seats — and potentially even form a majority government — heading into the last weekend of the election campaign.

Get more politics in your inbox

Make sense of what’s happening across the country and around the world with the Star’s This Week in Politics newsletter.

Sign Up Now

“We blew the expectations game. Why were talking about a majority in the final days?” said the loyalist.

A number of Conservative MPs who spoke to the Star on Tuesday were doubtful that the caucus would force a leadership review Wednesday.

There’s a difference between MPs and partisans talking tough between themselves and standing up in front of caucus to attack the leader, those sources said.

Alex Boutilier
Robert Benzie

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

Source link