Tory cau­cus em­braces Scheer as new leader

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - JOR­DAN PRESS AND MIA RABSON

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.

FRED CHARTRAND, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Con­ser­va­tive Leader An­drew Scheer re­ceives a stand­ing ova­tion in the House of Com­mons in ques­tion pe­riod on Par­lia­ment Hill in Ot­tawa on Mon­day.

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