‘Not a decision I came to lightly:’ Scheer to resign as Conservative leader

Decision comes after weeks of Conservative infighting following the October election

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer acknowledges supporters following a speech on election night at party campaign headquarters in Regina, Tuesday, October 22, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer acknowledges supporters following a speech on election night at party campaign headquarters in Regina, Tuesday, October 22, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

After rejecting calls for his resignation from within his party for weeks, federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer announced Thursday that he will step down as soon as his party chooses a successor.

“Serving as the leader of the party that I love so much has been the opportunity and the challenge of a lifetime,” Scheer said Thursday in the House of Commons, “and this was not a decision I came to lightly.”

The decision comes less than two months after a disappointing election result for the Conservatives, in which they couldn’t capitalize on the governing Liberals’ ethics record and a stunning mid-campaign revelation that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had repeatedly dressed up in blackface and brownface as a younger man. The Liberals were reduced to a minority in the House of Commons but held on to power.

On Thursday, Scheer said he was proud of his time as leader, noting there are more Conservative MPs than there were before the Oct. 21 election.

“We kept our party united and strong,” he said. “We knocked the Liberals down to a minority. We increased seats all over this country.”

Still, he said he is stepping down because he can no longer give it his all.

“In order to chart the course ahead, this party, this movement, needs someone who can give 100 per cent to the efforts,” he said, adding that he had decided it was time to put his family first.

Scheer said he would ask the national council of the Conservative Party of Canada to begin a leadership contest.

Dustin van Vugt, the executive director of the Conservative party, said Scheer made up his mind to resign after having “long and hard conversations with friends and family” over several weeks, and that he began to let his staff know earlier this week.

He also shed light on how the party had helped Scheer with the cost of moving his family from Regina to Ottawa once he became leader.

“Shortly after Mr. Scheer was elected leader, we had a meeting where I made a standard offer to cover the costs associated with moving his family from Regina to Ottawa,” van Vugt wrote in a statement Thursday.

“This includes a differential in schooling costs between Regina and Ottawa. All proper procedures were followed and signed off on by the appropriate people.”

Scheer was emotional in his seven-minute speech to the House of Commons, interrupted multiple times by applause and standing ovations from his caucus. His wife Jill was in the gallery watching.

READ MORE: Abbotsford Conservative MP declines critic role, cites Scheer’s leadership

Scheer said he plans to remain as Conservative leader until his successor is chosen rather than giving way to an interim leader. He also plans to stay on as the MP for Regina-Qu’Appelle, the Saskatchewan riding he has represented since he was first elected in 2004.

He said he had a message for his fellow Conservatives as they head into the leadership race: “Let’s stay united.”

Scheer was elected as the Tory leader in May 2017, barely besting Maxime Bernier in the contest after numerous rounds of voting.

Bernier ultimately quit the party and founded his own People’s Party of Canada. He lost his seat in the October election but spent a year harrying Conservatives from the right for being too much like Liberals.

Scheer said he would stand behind whoever wins.

“That person will have my 100 per cent support,” he said.

Scheer also said the Liberals should not expect to benefit from facing an outgoing leader of the Opposition.

“During this leadership election there will be no free rides in the House of Commons,” he said.

“We are going to continue to be here every single day to represent our constituents, perform our duties as parliamentarians, put Canadians and Canada first,” he said.

Trudeau responded by saying he and Scheer, as well as the other parents in the House, share the goal of wanting to improve things for their children.

“We are politicians, we are in this House not in spite of having kids but because we have kids and are dedicated to building a better world for them with everything we have. And I respect that deeply in him,” Trudeau said.

He said few know the challenges and rewards of leading a diverse party like the Conservatives or the Liberals.

Trudeau concluded by thanking Scheer “deeply for his service to Canada.”

New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh said he wanted to acknowledge the “hard work” that Scheer has put into his various roles. Before leading the Conservatives, Scheer was Speaker of the House of Commons, the youngest person to hold the post.

“I think we speak as a united voice in acknowledging that and thank you for your service,” Singh said.

Several prominent Conservatives in the past few weeks have called outright for Scheer’s resignation, or for him to re-apply for his job in a new leadership contest. Having not won power in October, he faced a mandatory leadership review in April.

The party has asked former Conservative cabinet minister John Baird to conduct a review of the election.

On Thursday, Baird said that work is not yet finished.

“I look forward to writing and then submitting my report when it is complete,” he wrote in a message posted to Twitter, where he also thanked Scheer for his service as leader. “I hope it will inform our party’s next campaign and provide advice to whomever the (Conservative party) membership select as leader.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Geordie Fife exits the dunk tank during 2017’s Discovery House Father’s Day festivities at Skaha Lake Park. The fundraiser helps raise awareness of the work done at the house and break down the stigma associated with addiction. (Western News File)
Discovery House Father’s Day fundraiser goes digital

The addiction recovery program will be rolling out videos ahead of the fundraiser

The proposed design of the five-storey building on Front Street. (City of Penticton)
Five-storey building proposed for Penticton’s Front Street

It will be the second time the proposal will head to council

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from St. Eugene’s residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

RCMP thanked the public for assistance in finding Benjamin Archie, last seen in Princeton. (RCMP)
Missing Chilliwack man found safe and sound

The 80-year-old had walked away from his home in Chilliwack

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

(Heather Lueck image)
Crash north of Enderby knocks out power, slows Highway 97A traffic

A witness captured footage of a medical helicopter landing at the scene

Most Read