OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada’s Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer, after losing the October election to Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, said on Thursday he would resign so the country’s largest opposition party could pick a new chief.
Canada’s Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer announces that he is stepping down as party leader in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada December 12, 2019. REUTERS/Blair Gable
“I just informed my colleagues in the Conservative caucus that I will be resigning,” Scheer said on the floor of the House of Commons. The decision is “the best thing for the Conservative Party,” he said.
He will stay on in his role until the party chooses a new leader, he said. There is a party convention scheduled for April, but it is still unclear whether that will be the setting for the party to elect a new chief.
Scheer has come under fire since the vote because he failed to defeat Trudeau, who polls showed was vulnerable after a series of scandals. When pictures of Trudeau in blackface emerged during the campaign, Scheer got a bump in the polls that faded before election day.
In recent weeks some Conservatives, particularly in Quebec, said it was time for him to go.
While Scheer won more votes than Trudeau in the election, his support was concentrated in Western provinces that have fewer seats than Quebec and Ontario, where Trudeau prevailed. Critics say his personal opposition to abortion and his refusal to participate in gay pride marches hurt him among Easterners.
Former Conservative cabinet minister Peter MacKay, whom some consider a potential future leader, compared Scheer’s performance to a hockey player who failed to score “on an open net”.
Jason Kenney, a former Conservative defense minister and now the head of Alberta’s regional government, is considered one of the strongest candidates for leadership, but he has denied wanting the job.
Lawmaker Erin O’Toole, now the party’s critic for foreign affairs, is another possibility.
“I felt it was time to put my family first,” Scheer said when he announced his decision. It has been “an incredible challenge” for his five children, he said.
Trudeau thanked Scheer for his service and, as a father of three, said he understood the difficulties of balancing the job with a family.
Scheer’s kids “have made some significant sacrifices to see their father take on a leadership position,” Trudeau said.
Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Lisa Shumaker