OTTAWA — Members of the federal Conservative caucus have gathered on Parliament Hill to sift the ashes of the 2019 federal election campaign — and contemplate the future of leader Andrew Scheer.
The meeting, which follows a casual gathering with MPs that Scheer hosted at his official residence Tuesday night, is expected to be a long, drawn-out affair as members debate what went wrong in the 40 days prior to Oct. 21.
Scheer will speak to the gathering before caucus members vote on whether to adopt a series of measures that would give them more power, including the ability to trigger a leadership review ahead of the party’s convention in April.
The Conservatives earned their largest share of the popular vote since their inception in 2004, and successfully elected 26 more MPs than they had in 2017, when Scheer took over the leadership.
But many in the party believe they should have done better — and some say Scheer’s personal views on abortion and same-sex marriage, paired with his reluctance to elaborate on those positions during the campaign, were a significant drag on Conservative support, particularly in Quebec.
On Tuesday, Sen. Jean-Guy Dagenais said the first French debate was “catastrophic” for the Conservatives in Quebec, and that the party can’t win in his province as long as Scheer remains the leader.
Sen. Claude Carignan said the election was over for the party in Quebec several weeks before the first debate, when Scheer fumbled repeated questions about whether the abortion issue could be reopened under a Conservative government.
Scheer eventually said his government would oppose efforts to legislate restrictions on women’s access to the procedure but never clarified whether he would allow individual backbenchers to propose private member’s bills on the issue.
“All the hesitation that he had in the debate and in the electoral campaign, particularly at the beginning of the campaign, created doubt in the heads of people,” Carignan said. “In Quebec, we lost this campaign the first week.”
Carignan didn’t rule out Scheer remaining as leader, but he said without changes to his team, his approach to abortion and his message in the pivotal battlegrounds of Quebec and Ontario, it will remain difficult for the party to win under Scheer’s continued leadership.
Sen. David Tkachuk, who represents Scheer’s home province of Saskatchewan, bristled at suggestions the leader should go.
“What about (Justin) Trudeau? Should he remain leader of the Liberal party? He lost the majority government, he lost the popular vote, he’s hated in two parts of the country,” Tkachuk said.
“Mr. Scheer’s the leader of the party and he’s going to remain the leader of the party until the party says otherwise.”