The resignation of Conservative Party of Canada Leader Andrew Scheer took many Canadians by surprise, including members of his own party.
In Manitoba — where Scheer’s party made inroads in October’s federal election, adding two seats in Winnipeg — Conservative MPs said Scheer had strong support as leader.
“It was a shock,” MP Candice Bergen (Portage-Lisgar) told 680 CJOB on Thursday. “We were all ready to fight for him.
“When he talked about his reasons, I think we all understand the huge toll this job has on families and on relationships. Being the leader and going for the job of prime minister demands a lot of time.”
Bergen said the news will generate a storm of activity around who Scheer’s replacement will be. Although her name has been mentioned as a potential candidate, she said she’s currently focused on being Opposition house leader.
“There’s going to be a lot of conversations over the next little while. People will be talking about what we need and who will be qualified,” she said.
“Our challenge is going to be to keep the votes that we have and continue to have a strong conservative message… but also appeal and talk to the people across the country who have issues that they are concerned about on the environment, on social issues, on helping people in poverty, helping people with addictions.
“I think if we can do a better job of speaking to people who are very concerned about those issues, we can keep winning seats across the country.”
Political scientist Chris Adams of the University of Manitoba told 680 CJOB many Conservative voters likely see Scheer’s loss in the federal election, despite a 25-seat increase, as a missed opportunity to unseat incumbent Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“He’s a very smart guy, and I know he didn’t perform that well during the debates and people felt he had not sort of rose to the occasion during the campaign,” said Adams.
“But he was 32 years old when he was made Speaker of the House of Commons, which was the youngest Speaker ever in Canadian history, and I think he’s only 40 years old now, so he’s been a bright shining light in the Conservative Party of Canada.
“I think that he must feel deflated right now and his party must feel deflated.”
Adams said he was surprised by Scheer’s decision, especially given his bullishness immediately post-election.
“I really thought he would be in there for the long haul,” he said.
“There will be some folks who eye this position very carefully, and the fact that it’s a minority government for Justin Trudeau’s Liberals means there might be an election in a year.”
That potential to defeat the prime minister is something the Conservatives remain focused on, said MP James Bezan (Selkirk-Interlake-Eastman), a close friend of Scheer’s.
“From my own riding, in conversations across the province, overwhelmingly people were still supporting Andrew,” Bezan told 680 CJOB.
“We felt in Manitoba that he’d been doing a good job. We picked up a couple more seats in Winnipeg, we had to give him that chance to actually defeat the Liberals… and that’s what we’re still focused on. It’s about getting rid of Justin Trudeau as our prime minister.”
Bezan said he felt Scheer made the decision to step down because it was best for not only his family, but also for the party as a whole.
“I just can’t thank him enough for how he’s led our party,” he said.
“He is a very decent man and one of the reasons he’s stepping out is because he’s such a decent guy. He wants to do this for the right reasons, for the party, so that we do remains strong and united, and so that we can win.”
Scheer, MP for Regina-Qu’Appelle in Saskatchewan, has said he’ll remain in the leadership role until his replacement is chosen.