Andrew Scheer has been watching the polls and listening to the backroom chatter surrounding the Conservative leadership race this spring, and he’s not worried.
With six weeks to go until the party chooses its new leader from a field of 14 candidates, Scheer says he sees a clear path to victory for his campaign as some of the more divisive personalities fall off in the first ballot count on May 27.
“I’m not saying to any one kind of conservative that ‘you’re not welcome in the party,’ or ‘we don’t want to hear from you,'” Scheer told The West Block‘s Vassy Kapelos this weekend.
People like Kevin O’Leary, Maxime Bernier or Kellie Leitch may be a top choice for a slice of delegates at the leadership convention, Scheer predicted, but they won’t get enough broad support to ensure a win.
That’s why second and third choice candidates on those ballots are so critical.
“I believe the way this race is working, that I am in the top tier of candidates,” Scheer told Kapelos. “I think I have the best chance of winning.”
The former House of Commons Speaker also addressed the possibility of the party splitting into factions following the race. Historically, conservative parties are always splitting and coming back together in Canada, Scheer said, and it has to stop.
“I don’t want to have to go through some of those painful times that we know result in Liberals winning election after election.”
WATCH: Charting a new course for the Conservative party may mean a painful break-up
Scheer is making some big promises, like balancing the budget within two years of taking power. Among other things, that will mean cutting back on areas of foreign aid that don’t directly feed people or irrigate their crops, he said.
“There’s a lot of low-hanging fruit there,” he said. “We’re borrowing money from our kids every year we run a deficit.”
Scheer says he won’t repeal the current government’s assisted death law (which he says is supported by a Supreme Court ruling), instead he’d like to add more protections for the mentally ill, young people, and doctors or nurses who have conscientious objections to assisted death.
Scheer, an avowed social Conservative, also confirmed he won’t roll back the Liberals’ new marijuana legislation once it passes.
“As a father of five, I’m not thrilled with the idea that this is something that could be more accessible or the signal would be sent that this is just another thing that you can do,” he cautioned.
“But I am very realistic, and once it’s legal in a short period of time there’s going to be a lot of people that work for companies that distribute it …. so we have to be very realistic as a party.”
Watch the full interview with Andrew Scheer above.