CHAL­LENGE FOR SCHEER

Civil war brew­ing within Con­ser­va­tives fol­low­ing fed­eral elec­tion fail­ure

The Peterborough Examiner - - FRONT PAGE - STEPHANIE LE­VITZ

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.

ADRIAN WYLD THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO

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.

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