Scheer names floor-crossing Liberal as his second-in-command amid Tory infighting

Scheer unveils leadership team as party faces turmoil
WATCH: Scheer unveils leadership team as party faces turmoil

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said Thursday that despite considerable party infighting over his future as leader, he will remain at the helm.

And as a show of how he intends to change the party, he’s appointed a former Liberal as his second-in-command.

Toronto-area MP Leona Alleslev was named this morning as deputy leader of the Conservatives, replacing former deputy leader Lisa Raitt, a longtime MP who lost her own Toronto-area seat in the October election.

Scheer announces parliamentary leadership team, names new deputy leader
Scheer announces parliamentary leadership team, names new deputy leader

Alleslev was first elected as a Liberal in 2015, but crossed the floor to join the Conservatives in September 2018, saying at the time she disagreed with the Liberals’ handling of the economy and foreign affairs.

She declined to answer questions from reporters Thursday, leaving Scheer to explain why he plucked her out his 120-member caucus, as opposed to others who had been in the trenches with the Tories for years.

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READ MORE: Tory Senator quits caucus over Andrew Scheer’s social conservative views

“This is all about moving forward,” Scheer said.

“Leona embodies exactly the type of person that we are trying to reach out to, to show that if you have voted Liberals in the past, if you are disappointed with the government that Justin Trudeau has been providing Canadians, there is a place for you in the Conservative Party of Canada.”

Scheer has kept some longtime loyalists on the team who will manage the party’s affairs in the House of Commons, including Candice Bergen, who will remain as House leader and Mark Strahl, who will stay as chief Opposition whip.

Many members of the party have been outspoken in recent days about Scheer’s failure to win a majority government in October, citing a variety of reasons why they feel he can no longer stay on as leader and demanding he resign.

Growing calls for Scheer to quit as Conservative leader
Growing calls for Scheer to quit as Conservative leader

Two campaigns have now been launched to galvanize grassroots support against Scheer, in the hopes of either forcing him to step aside soon, or lose a leadership review that will be held at the party’s convention in April.

Scheer reiterated Thursday he intends to spend the coming months making the case for why he should stay on.

In the meantime, he intends to remain where he is.

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“I am staying on to fight the fight that Canadians elected us to do,” he said.

Scheer has put together his so-called “shadow cabinet” just days after firing two of his top advisors.

READ MORE: Trudeau meets with Scheer, Moe as he moves to resume Parliament on Dec. 5

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also revealed his front bench but went a step farther than Scheer, unveiling his full roster of critics.

Singh also said he will be the party’s critic on Indigenous matters and on intergovernmental affairs.

The idea is to emphasize how important the concerns of people who feel ignored by the federal government are to the New Democrats, with their party leader taking charge of files the Liberals have divided among four people.

In revealing the NDP’s shadow cabinet in Ottawa, Singh criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for naming a minister for middle-class prosperity as empty symbolism.

Instead, the New Democrats will have a critic for income inequality and affordability: veteran Ontario MP Charlie Angus.

They’ll also have one for democratic reform to promote changes to the federal voting system, though Trudeau nixed that as a distinct ministry last week.

The party’s last MP from Quebec, Alexandre Boulerice, remains Singh’s deputy leader.

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The NDP’s numbers in the House of Commons were cut sharply in the Oct. 21 election, from 39 MPs to 23. With 36 ministers in the Trudeau government, plus a need for whips and caucus officials, practically all of Singh’s critics are doubling or even tripling up with their responsibilities.

Singh had already announced that fellow British Columbia MP Taylor Bachrach will be his infrastructure and communities critic.