Scheer says Canada more divided than ever, warning Trudeau must work with provinces
Election results have prompted talk of separation in the West
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.”
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.