Tory caucus embraces Scheer as new leader
Conservative MPs who weathered months of friendly political fire from fellow leadership rivals trained their sights back on the Liberal benches Monday as they rallied around newly elected leader Andrew Scheer on Parliament Hill.
Scheer began his tenure as Opposition leader surrounded by cheering caucus members who gathered to hear their new boss rally his troops — a speech in which he wasted no time depicting the governing party as out-of-touch elites.
His call to arms urged his fellow MPs to look past their leadership scars and form a united front against the Trudeau Liberals, invoking the name of former prime minister John Diefenbaker to hammer home his point.
“Dief the Chief ” was accused in 1967 of being preoccupied with the interests of “hardworking Canadians,” said Scheer, a Saskatchewan MP best known for his non-partisan tenure as Commons Speaker.
Diefenbaker’s response? “‘I can’t help that,’ he said — ‘I’m one of them.’ And that’s as true of our party today as it was 50 years ago,” Scheer said to resounding cheers.
“We’re the party of everyday Canadians who work hard, who make sacrifices to secure a better future for their kids. That’s who we are, that’s who we fight for — that’s never going to change.
“The Liberals can take their cues from the cocktail circuit. We will take ours from the minivans, from the soccer fields, from the legion halls and the grocery stores.”
Later Monday, the Conservatives cheered lustily as the genial, friendly faced Scheer made his debut during question period, targeting the government over soaring budget deficits, the overseas fight against terrorism and higher payroll taxes.
But it was Scheer’s fellow candidates — Maxime Bernier, Erin O’Toole, Brad Trost, Michael Chong and Kellie Leitch, among others — who stole the show, each one letting loose on the Liberals with pointed questions.
Leitch likened the government’s infrastructure bank to “Gomery 2.0,” a reference to the Liberal sponsorship scandal of 2004. O’Toole tweaked Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s infamous claim to be a military “architect.”
Bernier, who went down to defeat Saturday by a single percentage point after leading each of the previous 12 ballots, chose not to speak to reporters Monday, said a spokesperson, citing his desire to stay out of the spotlight.
Tory MPs cheered, hugged and shook Bernier’s hand prior to the start of Monday’s meeting. Scheer singled him out during his speech, a show of solidarity the caucus acknowledged with a standing ovation for the second-place finisher.
Bernier responded by giving Scheer a thumbs-up.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer receives a standing ovation in the House of Commons in question period on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday.