‘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

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

Just Posted

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
65 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Overall, B.C. is seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a ‘person of interest’ in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
RCMP identify ‘person of interest’ in Kootenay National Park suspicious death

Police are looking for Philip Toner, who was known to a woman found dead near Radium last week

FILE - In this April 19, 2021, file photo, Keidy Ventura, 17, receives her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in West New York, N.J. States across the country are dramatically scaling back their COVID-19 vaccine orders as interest in the shots wanes, putting the goal of herd immunity further out of reach. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
5 more deaths, 131 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

Those 18-years and older in high-transmission neighbourhoods can register for the vaccine

F.W. Green Memorial Home in Cranbrook. Photo courtesy Google Streetview.
Plan for future expansion of F.W. Green Home taking shape

Capital projects underway at East Kootenay Regional Hospital, per update from Interior Health

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Colleen Price, Vancouver Island University’s bachelor of science in nursing program chairperson, says she is impressed with how students have persevered through the COVID-19 pandemic. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Next generation of B.C. nurses already showing resilience

University program head says learning had to be adjusted amidst pandemic

Two-year-old Kashius Weme rides at the Steve Smith Memorial Bike Park in Nanaimo on Tuesday, May 11. The youngster’s precocious bike-riding ability is already attracting cycle sponsors. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
2-year-old B.C. bike rider already attracting cycle sponsors

Nanaimo’s Kashius Weme has a knack for extreme cycle sports

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Sunfest country music bash won’t be shining on B.C. in 2021

Annual Vancouver Island Festival cancelled due to COVID-19, along with Laketown Shakedown

Most Read