Former Conservative cabinet minister Peter MacKay is blaming the party’s federal election loss on what he says was Andrew Scheer‘s inability to change the channel away from his socially conservative views.
“I think there was a number of issues that became very prevalent in this election that nobody other than the politicos wanted to talk about,” he said, referencing same-sex marriage and women’s reproductive rights.
The former Nova Scotia MP spoke Wednesday about the federal election campaign during a panel discussion hosted by the Canada Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C.
Scheer’s personal views were a frequent target of his opponents in the run-up to the Oct. 21 vote.
In late August, before the campaign was officially underway, the Liberals dredged up a clip of him speaking out against same-sex marriage during a House of Commons debate in 2005.
The Saskatchewan MP has said his party wouldn’t re-open the debate on abortion, though he is personally against it. He has ruled out marching in Pride parades but says that he supports the LGBTQ2 community in other ways.
The election saw the Tories win 121 seats — up from 95 at dissolution — compared with 157 for the Liberals. Global News has learned that the Conservative party has summoned its top members for a two-day campaign post-mortem in Ottawa this week.
The Liberals won their minority mandate despite a rocky final stretch in office that brought scandal over the prosecution of Quebec engineering giant SNC-Lavalin, discord with Conservative premiers over the carbon tax and a high-stakes diplomatic spat with China.
During the election campaign, multiple photos emerged showing Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau in black- or brownface as a younger man.
Asked about what went wrong for the Tories — given the perception that the election was Scheer’s to lose — MacKay summed things up with a hockey quip.
“To use a good Canadian analogy, it was like having a breakaway on an open net and missing the net,” he said.
Scheer has vowed to stay on as leader of the party, but it’s not entirely up to him.
Party members are set to vote on whether Scheer should stay on as leader at a leadership review in April 2020 and already there are rumblings about whether prominent party members like MacKay could be vying for his job.
WATCH: Peter MacKay criticizes Conservative leader over election loss
MacKay denied rumours of a possible leadership run while campaigning with Scheer in Nova Scotia.
He served as minister of national defence and justice, among other roles, in former prime minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet. MacKay did not seek re-election in 2015.
— With files from Amanda Connolly, Global News