‘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

Robert’s column
Robert Barron column: New hospital shouldn’t charge for parking

Paying a parking meter is the last thing people visiting a hospital should have to worry about.

A 3.0-magnitude earthquake occurred off Ucluelet just after 12:30 a.m. on April 10 and was reportedly felt as far south as Oregon. (Map via United States Geological Survey)
Quake off Ucluelet reportedly felt as far south as Oregon

Magnitude 1.5 earthquake also reported off Vancouver Island’s west coast hours earlier

Asparagus root, dug up from the old patch and ready to be transplanted. (Mary Lowther photo)
Mary Lowther column: Some tips on growing asparagus

When choosing asparagus I recommend buying male plants for juicier, plumper spears.

If you’re looking for a goat time, visit Russell Farms Market! (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Sarah Simpson Column: Looking for a goat time on Good Friday

If you drive by the farm market a little slower you see the goat pen.

The McCloskey-Hydro Rain Garden, located in a sunny Hydro corridor and receiving about 2.5 million litres of rainwater runoff per year from the roof of nearby McCloskey Elementary School. (Deborah Jones photo)
A&E column: From nature to poetry to puppets, there’s plenty afoot

What’s going on in the Cowichan Valley arts and entertainment scene

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

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

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

The 10-part Netflix series Maid, which is being exclusively shot in Greater Victoria, was filming near Prospect Lake in Saanich last month. (Photo courtesy Fred Haynes)
Province announces $150,000 towards South Island film studio, fulfilling B.C. NDP promise

Investment to fund movie studio feasibility study at Camosun College

Most Read