Scheer says Canada more di­vided than ever, warn­ing Trudeau must work with prov­inces

Elec­tion re­sults have prompted talk of sep­a­ra­tion in the West

The Peterborough Examiner - - CANADA & WORLD -

REGINA — Con­ser­va­tive Leader An­drew Scheer of­fered the Lib­er­als no help Tues­day to piece to­gether na­tional unity af­ter an elec­tion con­test that’s left the coun­try di­vided on re­gional lines.

Scheer seized on his party’s suc­cess in the pop­u­lar vote, the com­plete an­ni­hi­la­tion of the Lib­er­als in Al­berta and Saskatchew­an and the re-emer­gence of a strong Bloc Québé­cois as ev­i­dence that what­ever plea­sure the Lib­er­als might take from Mon­day’s night re­sults has come at a cost.

Trudeau spent 40 days de­mo­niz­ing the prov­inces and any­one else who dis­agreed with him, said Scheer. The choice is his about what hap­pens next.

“Justin Trudeau now has to make a de­ci­sion if he’s go­ing to change course, have a more co-op­er­a­tive ap­proach with all prov­inces, or if he’s go­ing to con­tinue down on this path,” Scheer said in Regina.

“We’re go­ing to do ev­ery­thing we can to fight for a united Canada.”

But the re­sults Mon­day night also showed a di­vide for the Con­ser­va­tives to con­tend with.

While the Lib­er­als were shut out of two key prairie prov­inces, they took two-thirds of the seats in On­tario.

The Con­ser­va­tives failed to make any sig­nif­i­cant gains in On­tario and also lost one of their high­est-pro­file MPs — deputy leader Lisa Raitt. The Con­ser­va­tives also lost seats in Que­bec, where the Bloc Québé­cois snatched away many of their hoped-for gains.

All told, the Lib­er­als won 157 seats to the Con­ser­va­tives’ 122 even as the Tories claimed 34.4 per cent of the pop­u­lar vote com­pared to the Lib­er­als’ 33.1 per cent.

Scheer will face a po­ten­tial lead­er­ship re­view in six months, at the party’s con­ven­tion in Toronto next year.

He, and those clos­est to him, were adamant Tues­day that he will re­main in place, though there was grum­bling among those far­ther away from his or­bit about the party’s fail­ure to cap­i­tal­ize on the mul­ti­ple scan­dals around the Trudeau Lib­er­als.

Con­ser­va­tives say they threw all the re­sources they had at this elec­tion, but al­ways knew the strong drive for change that un­seated them in 2015 wasn’t a pow­er­ful enough force, at a na­tional level, to take Trudeau down.

Af­ter 2015, the plan and bud­get they put in place had al­ways been set with a long game in mind: a po­ten­tial mi­nor­ity in 2019, and then a ma­jor­ity af­ter that gov­ern­ment fell, party sources said on back­ground Tues­day, granted anonymity to talk about in­ter­nal strategy. Scheer also char­ac­ter­ized Mon­day’s re­sults that way.

“We’re go­ing to work as hard as we can in the com­ing days to pre­pare the ground­work for the next cam­paign,” he said.

“This is a first step.”

The elec­tion has also sparked talk of western sep­a­ra­tion — or Wexit, as some are call­ing it — a day af­ter vot­ers re­turned the fed­eral Lib­er­als to power but with a mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment.

The VoteWexit Face­book page with its motto “The West Wants Out” has more than 142,000 mem­bers and count­ing.

And an on­line pe­ti­tion call­ing for a western al­liance and Al­berta to sep­a­rate has been backed by nearly 26,000 peo­ple so far.

Grant Fager­heim, CEO of oil com­pany White­cap Re­sources Inc., says Al­berta and Saskatchew­an’s con­tri­bu­tions to the Cana­dian econ­omy have not been re­spected.

He says he’s not sur­prised there has been talk of western sep­a­ratism, but whether that amounts to any­thing is an­other mat­ter.

“I don’t be­lieve at this par­tic­u­lar time, whether you live in Saskatchew­an or Al­berta, that peo­ple would say they’re Cana­dian first at this time.”

Fager­heim said his­tor­i­cally he’s been a fed­er­al­ist, but he has mixed feel­ings now. “I can’t say I’m a proud Cana­dian at this par­tic­u­lar time.”

ADRIAN WYLD THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Con­ser­va­tive Leader An­drew Scheer seized on his party’s suc­cess in the pop­u­lar vote, the an­ni­hi­la­tion of the Lib­er­als in Al­berta and Saskatchew­an and the re-emer­gence of a strong Bloc as ev­i­dence that the Lib­er­als’ win has come at a cost.

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