OTTAWA – Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is speaking directly to his entire caucus today for the first time since the election, in a meeting that presents the first opportunity — should there be enough unsatisfied MPs — to oust him from the leadership.
While the likelihood of that remains to be seen, the option to trigger a leadership review and vote within their caucus was made possible thanks to Conservative MP Michael Chong’s contentious legislative initiative in 2015, aimed at empowering caucuses.
Called the Reform Act, it spells out that at each party’s first caucus meeting of a new parliament, members have to hold four votes to decide whether they will enable the caucus’ ability to remove an MP or caucus chair, remove a party leader, or elect an interim leader.
The Conservatives did not vote to enact these powers at the start of the last parliament.
Depending on the will of the returning and newly-elected Conservative MPs at today’s 1 p.m. EDT meeting, it would take just 20 per cent of the caucus to sign on in agreement of a leadership review. The actual secret ballot vote requires a majority to vote to replace the leader.
“I’m sure that the leader of the Conservatives would rather have been having this meeting under different circumstances,” Conservative commentator and former staffer Andrew Brander said on CTV News Channel. “I think there’s a lot of serious questions that he’s going to be held to account for today.”
Conservative insiders CTV News has spoken with are skeptical that the caucus, who were largely just elected under Scheer’s banner, will take this route but it’s something Scheer’s team is keeping an eye on.
Because of the election loss, a leadership review is already going to occur at a delegated party convention in Toronto in April.
Scheer’s leadership questioned
While the party elected 121 MPs to the House of Commons, in the weeks that have passed since election day Scheer has faced outspoken criticism from within his party on various aspects of the campaign.
From questioning the data-driven internal decision-making lead by his campaign manager Hamish Marshall, to Scheer’s position on what the majority of Canadians view as settled social issues like same-sex marriage and abortion, there appears to be knives out for the leader who narrowly took the helm of the party in 2017.
Last week, Scheer spent a few days huddled with senior members of caucus to plot their Official Opposition strategy for the new parliament and assess the lay of the land heading into today’s meeting.
Stephen Harper’s former director of communications said on CTV’s Question Period that Scheer’s position on same-sex marriage “could be fatal” to his future as leader because not supporting same-sex marriage is “viewed increasingly as bigotry.”
One-time Conservative cabinet minister and rumoured potential leadership contender Peter MacKay compared Scheer’s 2019 election loss to a scandal-plagued Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “having a breakaway on an open net and missing the net,” and said that Scheer’s socially conservative personal views hurt their chances to pick up key votes.
He then sought to clarify that he meant his comments on Scheer’s campaign “shortcomings” to be constructive and any rumours of him organizing a leadership challenge are “false.”
On election night, Scheer highlighted that the Liberals lost support in all regions, while the Conservatives were sending a bigger team to Ottawa that would position themselves as a government-in-waiting should Trudeau’s minority fail.
“More Canadians wanted us to win this election than any other party,” Scheer said. The next day he framed the loss as the “first step” towards ousting Trudeau. “We’re going to re-double our efforts for next time,” he said.