Politics Insider

The Scheer divide

Politics Insider for Nov. 29: Scheer faces more calls to resign but vows to fight on, and Quebec's mad at Manitoba ads

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Under Pressure: Calls are once again mounting for Andrew Scheer to step down ahead of next spring’s Conservative convention. In the latest post-election wave of calls for his departure, Jenni Byrne, the former campaign director to Stephen Harper, said Scheer’s continuation as leader is not in “the best interests of the party.” That’s because the debate over his leadership is “consuming” the party, she told the CBC. Her comments come as a group of Conservatives launched a non-profit pushing for Scheer’s ouster. The organization, called Conservative Victory, is the brainchild of Kory Teneycke, who ran campaigns for Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s, Jeff Ballingall, the founder of the Ontario Proud and Canada Proud websites and former Conservative MP John Reynolds. On its website the group states, “When a political leader fails, they resign. Andrew Scheer should immediately step aside as the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and run in a competitive race against a full field of contestants.” Meanwhile Lisa Raitt, the former Conservative MP who lost her Milton, Ont. riding, said there’s a growing consensus within the party, though one she doesn’t personally agree with, that Scheer “wasn’t strong enough” as a leader.

Scheer and the Conservatives’ choices: But as Conservatives squabble over whether Scheer should be keep his job, writes Paul Wells, they should remember that only one person in the last 30 years has done what the party is asking of its current leader:

What Conservatives want from their leader is hard to do. Liberals are hard to beat. They work hard, they can be wily, they get a sympathetic audience in the news columns, their power base—Ontario and sometimes Quebec—is big. Only one leader has beaten the Liberals in a federal election in the last 30 years. His name was Stephen Harper and he did it three times. That’s why Abacus found he’s the only potential candidate whom Conservative voters prefer to Scheer. And he’s probably not a potential candidate. He’s probably done.

I qualify those statements because he’s Stephen Harper, so who knows? But if Conservatives don’t have Stephen Harper as their leader, it’s hardly obvious who can achieve the same effect—build a winning coalition, keep the party united, infuriate Liberals — with a different style and different priorities. The usual answer from the news columns is that a leader should be socially progressive and economically conservative. But that combination’s wins-and-losses record isn’t great either. Read more ››

Andrew Scheer’s plea for Conservative unity: With his leadership under fire, Scheer argues that division is weakness, although as John Geddes writes, it’s worked for his party in the past:

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is just 40 years old, but when he talks about his party’s proclivity for internecine strife, his tone takes on a seen-it-all, world-weary quality. “Now is not the time for internal divisions or internal party politics,” Scheer said today when asked about increasingly open challenges to his leadership.

No? When is the time, if not after you lose an election that looked winnable? Read more ››

Look here instead: On Thursday Scheer sought to refocus attention on the job at hand by announcing his Parliamentary leadership team, headed by floor-crossing former Liberal MP Leona Alleslev as his deputy. Alleslev checks off several boxes for the party, as a woman who hails from a Toronto-area riding, but the move still left some observers scratching their heads about what she can bring to the Conservatives, since she’s only been one for a little over a year.  He also used Alleslev’s announcement to declare once again that he isn’t going anywhere: “I am staying on to fight the fight Canadians elected us to do.”

He’ll try to change the channel again today when he announces his shadow cabinet and delivers the keynote address to the United Conservative Party’s annual general meeting in Calgary.

The Rona factor: According to the Globe and Mail, Justin Trudeau has discussed approaching former Conservative MP Rona Ambrose to take over as ambassador to the U.S., having watched her work on the NAFTA renegotiations. Nor would it hurt Trudeau to take Ambrose out of the picture as a formidable successor to Scheer. As the Toronto Star‘s Chantal Hébert writes, both Trudeau and Scheer have reason to fear her, even if it’s not yet clear whether she wants back in the game: “From the perspective of those who are parsing the field for someone to stand in Scheer’s place and bring a still-united party to the next federal campaign, few names tick as many boxes as Ambrose’s. Those boxes include the attributes that would make her an attractive Liberal choice for Washington and more — including a strong personal relationship with Harper, a decade of ministerial experience and a demonstrated capacity to act as an effective leader of the official Opposition.”

I’ll see your ‘middle class prosperity’ and raise you ‘income inequality’: Overseeing a much-depleted stock of NDP MPs, Jagmeet Singh named his shadow cabinet, and gave himself the role of critic for intergovernmental affairs and Indigenous affairs. He slammed Trudeau’s decision to create a “minister of middle class prosperity” as a meaningless gesture, and created a role of critic for income inequality, which he gave to Charlie Angus.

Confused yet?: Quebec Premier François Legault may have banned kippah, turban and head scarf-wearing individuals from the province’s public sector with Bill 21, but he’s not happy that Manitoba is running ads to attract those people to that province instead. In announcing the ads, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, an outspoken critic of Quebec’s secularism law, said “we’re not big on clothing police here.” Now Legault is lashing out, telling Pallister he should mind its own business and instead use the money to pay for French language services and “to keep his own people in Manitoba, like Dustin Byfuglien with the Jets” — whatever that has to do with anything. Legault also repeated his assertion that the vast majority of Quebecers support the ban on government workers who wear religious symbols, which kind of makes Pallister’s point that those workers might find a more welcome reception elsewhere.

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