Conservative Deputy leader Leona Alleslev as Leader of the Opposition Andrew Scheer speak with the media in the Foyer of the House of Commons in West Block, Thursday November 28, 2019 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Scheer heads to Conservative heartland after a bruising week of challenges

Earlier in the week, Andrew Scheer had been blasted by party supporters in Montreal

Andrew Scheer heads into the Conservative heartland of Alberta today where he’ll make a pitch to some of the party’s most fervent supporters about why he ought to keep his job as federal leader and how he intends to do it.

His speech to the United Conservative Party convention in Calgary comes at the end of a bruising week of challenges to his leadership from across the conservative spectrum, and what he himself described as frank conversations about why he failed to win a majority in last month’s election.

The latest of those took place at an Ottawa convention centre Thursday night, where he heard from a range of failed candidates and volunteers in two hours of meetings.

“All our conversations have been very, very open and frank, and respectful,” he said.

“We are all focused on learning from what happened in the campaign and to finish the job.”

Earlier in the week, Scheer had been blasted by party supporters in Montreal, including outright calls for his resignation.

In Ottawa, the mood was far calmer and there were more overt signs of support.

READ MORE: Scheer appoints floor-crossing Liberal as deputy leader of Conservative party

Lucia Fevrier-President, who voted for Justin Trudeau and the Liberals in 2015 but switched to the Tories for the 2019 election, acknowledged that there are some in the party who think Scheer should go, but not her.

“He can stay on as leader,” she said. “The individuals I speak to, none of them want him to leave at this point. This is a minority government, we need to be able to focus on doing the work right now (rather) than what’s happening out there.”

Carol Clemenhagen, who ran for the Conservatives in the riding of Ottawa Centre, home to Liberal cabinet minister Catherine McKenna, said she was still processing her loss in what’s admittedly a tough riding.

She attributed the party’s failure broadly to Scheer’s inability to clearly articulate a distinction between his personal positions on issues such as abortion and LGBTQ rights and that of the party.

“The Conservative party at heart is a centrist party, and that’s what voters want to see in a national party,” she said.

“I believe and I hope that’s the direction he will follow should he stay on as leader.”

Another Ottawa candidate, Justina McCaffrey, called Scheer a nice guy, but one who failed to present a compelling enough persona to voters and was surrounded by a bad team. She said she still supports him but wants change, and she’s not sure he’s capable of it.

Mike Duggan, who ran in the riding of Hull-Aylmer, just over the Ottawa River in Quebec, said in his view Scheer deserves to stay.

“He’s an intelligent person, he’s got good values,” Duggan said.

Scheer had sought Thursday to move forward from the question of his leadership with the appointment of Leona Alleslev as deputy Conservative leader. She was elected as a Liberal in 2015 but crossed the floor to the Conservatives in 2018 and was re-elected in her suburban Toronto riding as a Tory in October. He called her role a signal to those disillusioned with the Liberals there’s a home for them with him.

Next will come the announcement of the other members of his front benches, the critics who will be charged with pressing the government on its agenda beginning with the return of Parliament on Dec. 5.

What shape that Opposition will take is to be outlined in a speech later tonight at the UCP convention in Alberta, a province where the federal Tories swept every seat save one in the October vote.

But while their vote totals in Alberta hit record highs, it’s also the home of some of the most abject frustration that Scheer failed to win a majority when faced with what many believed should have been an easy win.

The speech will be his first major appearance before supporters since election night.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 29, 2019.

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey bus driver tests positive for COVID-19

Routes he drove have not been disclosed

Surrey mayor denies property tax deferral motion

Councillor’s notice of motion for Surrey property taxes to be deferred until Dec. 2 out of order

Team refunds OK’d for cancelled Surrey Mayor’s Cup soccer tournament

The decision follows the amalgamation of the Central City Breakers club with Surrey Football Club

COVID-19: 4 new deaths, 25 new cases but only in Vancouver Coastal, Fraser Health

A total of 1,291 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus

COVID-19: Don’t get away for Easter weekend, Dr. Bonnie Henry warns

John Horgan, Adrian Dix call 130 faith leaders as holidays approach

COVID-19: Trudeau says 30K ventilators on the way; 3.6M Canadians claim benefits

Canada has seen more than 17,000 cases and at least 345 deaths due to COVID-19

RCMP call on kids to name latest foal recruits

The baby horses names are to start with the letter ‘S’

As Canadians return home amid pandemic, border crossings dip to just 5% of usual traffic

Non-commercial land crossing dipped by 95%, air travel dropped by 96 per cent, according to the CBSA

Logan Boulet Effect: Green Shirt Day calls on Canadians to become organ donors

While social distancing, the day also honours the 16 lives lost in the 2018 Humboldt Broncos Crash

COMMENTARY: Knowing where COVID-19 cases are does not protect you

Dr. Bonnie Henry explains why B.C. withholds community names

B.C. wide burning restrictions come into effect April 16

‘Larger open burns pose an unnecessary risk and could detract from wildfire detection’

B.C. secures motel, hotel rooms for COVID-19 shelter space

Community centres, rooms reserved for pandemic self-isolation

Most Read