CHALLENGE FOR SCHEER
Civil war brewing within Conservatives following federal election failure
OTTAWA — Signs are pointing to a civil war breaking out within the Conservative party but splitting along different lines than past internal battles that divided the party ideologically.
At its heart a single question: Is Andrew Scheer personally and solely to blame for the failure of the party to capture a majority in last week’s federal election?
The Conservatives will soon announce who they’ve hired to conduct their campaign postmortem to officially answer that question, but analysis is well underway — some of it very publicly.
Former Conservative spokesperson Sara MacIntyre used Twitter to blast Scheer’s socially conservative views, while Dennis Matthews, one of the party’s former ad whizzes, did a deep dive into questions around campaign and Conservative branding.
At the grassroots level, one Conservative has launched an online petition calling on Scheer to resign, while hundreds of others have peppered Scheer’s social media pages with pledges of allegiance, laying the loss at the feet of the media and the electoral system, among other things.
Some former Conservative MPs have also spoken out publicly about the results, attaching negative outcomes to Scheer’s anti-abortion views. At the same time, the anti-abortion Campaign Life Coalition released an analysis on Thursday suggesting candidates it supported did better than those it did not.
Behind closed doors, Conservatives are chewing over different things: why their storied ground game failed to deliver, why there were no communications strategies to tackle known points of weakness, and why Scheer and others raised public expectations that a majority was even in the cards when it was clear internally it wasn’t.
Altogether, there’s now a frenzy of speculation around the future of Scheer and the party that some insiders say is completely overblown, noting neither the Liberals nor NDP are seeing the same focus on their futures despite both having disappointing election results.
But some of that frenzy is being whipped up by a man long thought to want to lead the party: Peter MacKay. MacKay was at the helm of the Progressive Conservatives when they merged with the Canadian Alliance to form the modern-day Conservative party in 2004.
He delivered a blistering critique of Scheer on Wednesday, calling his social conservative values a “stinking albatross” around his neck that cost the party the election, an opportunity MacKay likened to “having a breakaway on an open net and missing the net.”
Early Thursday morning, MacKay tweeted his support for Scheer, saying his comments were aimed at helping the party improve.
Scheer will face a leadership review at the party’s spring convention — it’s mandatory if a leader fails to win a majority.
But his team of MPs could choose to exercise their power under the Reform Act of 2014 and launch a leadership review.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, right, shakes hands with former Tory MP Peter MacKay during a campaign stop in Little Harbour, N.S., a few days before the Oct. 21 federal election.