Lastest update: Dec. 12, 2019, 4:10 p.m.
Andrew Scheer says he is stepping down as Conservative Party leader as soon as a successor can be chosen.
Scheer addressed the House of Commons today, saying leading his party had been the honour of his life but that he could not commit to giving the Conservatives 100 per cent any longer. He called resigning “one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made.”
Scheer’s resignation came a few days after Maclean’s contacted a senior party official to ask whether the party was paying for his children’s school fees. The party’s fund was said to have been picking up the fees but a senior official, speaking off the record, firmly denied the allegations.
The official, concerned by the allegations, followed up and learned that the party was, in fact, paying the fees. The revelation led to the resignation, party sources told Global News, which first broke the news.
Sources told the CBC that Scheer’s decision was prompted by a late-night conversation with his eldest son that “left him feeling he didn’t know his son well enough.”
The Conservative Party’s fund is governed by a board of directors, including former prime minister Stephen Harper and longtime key fundraiser Irving Gerstein. They were apparently not aware of the payments until Maclean’s inquired.
“This expense was hidden from us at the board. I’m beyond furious about it,” said an official, who was not authorized to speak publicly. “But we didn’t know about it. We certainly were never asked to approve it which I would not have.”
“There’s no scenario where it was okay not to bring these expenditures to the board for approval. And of course we would have said no.”
In a statement, the executive director of the Conservative Party, Dustin van Vugt, said that “as is the normal practice for political parties, the Party offered to reimburse some of the costs associated with being a national leader and re-locating the family to Ottawa. Shortly after Mr. Scheer was elected leader, we had a meeting where I made a standard offer to cover costs associated with moving his family from Regina to Ottawa. This includes a differential in schooling costs between Regina and Ottawa. All proper procedures were followed and signed off on by the appropriate people.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded to Scheer’s resignation by saying he and Scheer, as well as the other parents in the House, share the goal of wanting to improve things for their children. “We are politicians, we are in this House not in spite of having kids but because we have kids and are dedicated to building a better world for them with everything we have. And I respect that deeply in him,” Trudeau said.
He said few know the challenges and rewards of leading a diverse party like the Conservatives or the Liberals and congratulated Scheer for showing “tremendous strength and compassion as he has done that through tragedies, difficulties, victories and more challenging moments.”
New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh said he wanted to acknowledge the “hard work” that Scheer has put into his various roles. Before leading the Conservatives, Scheer was Speaker of the House of Commons. “I think we speak as a united voice in acknowledging that and thank you for your service,” Singh said.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford thanked Scheer for his work as leader of the federal Conservatives. “I wish Andrew Scheer all the best as he undertakes this new chapter in his life, and thank him for his service as the head of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition and leader of the Conservative party,” Ford said in a statement.
The decision comes less than two months after a disappointing election result and after weeks of Conservative infighting about whether Scheer should stay on.
Several prominent Conservatives have called outright for his resignation, or for him to re-apply for his job in a new leadership contest. Having not won power in October, he faced a mandatory leadership review in April.
Scheer said he has asked the Conservative national council to begin a leadership contest and that whoever wins the job will get his complete support.
—with files from The Canadian Press