On the tail of the high-profile resignation of Maxime Bernier and the equally headline-grabbing floor-crossing of former Liberal MP Leona Alleslev, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer used the first caucus meeting of the fall to tell members he has a message for the prime minister: “bring it on.”
Caucus meetings are a chance for leaders to ready their troops for political battle and to address internal disagreements in private before they become public feuds.
They can also be a chance for party brass to invite media for a glimpse of caucus members rallying behind their leader and the vision they outline for the coming year of unofficial campaigning in the lead-up to the 2019 federal election.
That was the case on Wednesday as Scheer used the first meeting of the session to walk Alleslev in to a standing ovation, present her with a Conservative Party membership card, and officially address her new caucus members in a speech blasting the Liberal record on a multitude of issues.
WATCH BELOW: MP Leona Alleslev says the Conservative party is ‘what we need’ following defection
Scheer then took the podium to slam the Liberals for what he has deemed a “summer of failure” after a court ruling put the brakes on construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which the government recently purchased at a cost of $4.5 billion, not counting construction.
“I think we learned something about Justin Trudeau and the Liberals this summer. His failure doesn’t take time off. It doesn’t go to the cottage and turn off its phone, relax on the dock with a cold beer. His failure doesn’t stop,” Scheer said.
COMMENTARY: But do the Tories have a better plan?
He then took aim at comments made by Trudeau on Monday night during an armchair discussion organized by Macleans.
In the talk, Trudeau doubled down on his plan to implement a carbon tax.
WATCH BELOW: Andrew Scheer welcomes Leona Alleslev to the Conservative Party
While he would rather work with the provinces to come up with plans that work best for them, he defended the federal plan to impose a backstop on the provinces that refuse to come up with a plan of their own.
Scheer told his caucus members that if that’s the case, he is willing to take the issue straight to Canadians.
“You say you’re ready to fight the election on the carbon tax? We say bring it on,” he said. “We’re ready for that fight.”
His speech echoed many of the comments he made on Monday when he welcomed Alleslev to the party following her surprise defection in the House of Commons’ first day back from summer recess.
It also painted a clearer picture of how the party plans to try to win back voters who swung red in the last election.
“It’s not their fault,” he said of people who voted for the Liberals. “They had confidence Justin Trudeau would help the middle class.”
Like Alleslev, he said the world has changed since the 2015 election.
Voters, Scheer implored, should look to the Conservatives as the party best placed to lead in the changing circumstances, which have seen the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, trade wars launched by his penchant for using tariffs as a bargaining tool, and rising concern about irregular migrants crossing the Canadian border from the U.S. amid a ramping up of anti-immigrant rhetoric there.
“They are not able to lead our country and meet the challenges of our time,” he said.
The federal election is scheduled for Oct. 21, 2019.