As more criticism of Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer emerges and doubts grow about his likelihood to remain at the party’s helm until the April leadership review, the new deputy Tory leader Leona Alleslev is questioning whether the contrarians who have spoken out care about the future of the conservative movement.
“I think that there are certain obviously disgruntled people and I'm very disappointed in them, because if they really cared about the country and they really cared about the conservative movement, they would wait for the external review that we are investing in, to find out exactly where we can do better and what we did wrong,” Alleslev said in an interview on CTV’s Question Period with Evan Solomon.
Alleslev, who was named by Scheer as his new deputy leader on Thursday, has been a member of the party for just over a year, after crossing the floor from the Liberal party in September 2018.
In the wide-ranging interview Alleslev defended her short-track record with the party, saying that while she did campaign against Stephen Harper in the 2015 campaign, “that was then, this is now. I’ve learned a great deal between then and now.”
Alleslev, who clearly states her support for same-sex marriage and has marched in Pride parades, said Scheer knows he has things to work on and change, but still thinks he has the confidence of party membership. When asked what threshold Scheer will need to meet in the April leadership vote happening at the party convention in April, she said Scheer needs to “have the hearts and minds” of Conservative party members.
However, over the last week several high-profile and long-time Conservative party insiders have added their voices to a growing movement of people who are calling for Scheer to resign as leader ahead of the mandatory review. Some have teamed up to create “Conservative Victory,” a new non-profit campaign to mobilize public support to oust Scheer from leadership.
One of the backers is Harper’s former communications director Kory Teneycke, who worked as a top adviser on Maxime Bernier’s unsuccessful bid for Conservative leadership.
On CTV’s Question Period Teneycke didn’t mince words.
While Scheer has taken initial steps -- firing some top staff and embarking on a cross-Canada listening tour -- Teneycke said Alleslev’s appointment wasn’t a good move.
“Now the No. 2 person in the party is someone who is at best a tourist in the conservative movement,” he said, noting that she was part of the Liberal team that campaigned against the former Conservative leader.
“If Conservative party members could do a trade right now, they would trade Andrew for Stephen Harper in a second,” he said. Though, there is no indication Harper is interested in coming back.
Out before April? '100 per cent chance'
Teneycke said he hasn’t spoken to a single Conservative at a riding level who thinks Scheer can win the next election and that there is a “100 per cent chance he’s gone” before April. This would mean Scheer choosing to step aside or re-run in a leadership race as he survived his first caucus meeting where there was the opportunity to oust him before the membership has the chance.
This week Scheer vowed to stay on and “fight the fight Canadians elected us to do.”
Though, it doesn’t seem the criticisms of his leadership are going to let up.
“Andrew is unifying the party right now… in opposition to his leadership,” Teneycke said. “He provided poor leadership during the campaign and he’s provided even worse leadership subsequent to the campaign in terms of actually recognizing and addressing inadequacies in the platform, inadequacies in the campaign and inadequacies in his own performance.”
He said that a “strong, good leader” would have incorporated his leadership rivals into the party instead of, as Teneyke alleges, driving them out. His main rival Bernier went on to defect and form his own party, which did not win a single seat in the 2019 federal election.
'Shooting in is never a good strategy'
In a separate interview on CTV’s Question Period, Manitoba Premier and Conservative Brian Pallister offered his advice to his federal counterparts: “stick to their knitting.”
“Andrew made the decision to enter public life out of a desire to serve, he has a focused desire to serve now, and his choices are his choices, but I would say to Conservative supporters in the country: Don’t be your own worst enemy,” Pallister said.
“If you’ve got some old rivalries to clear up, do it privately, don’t do it in front of a camera, because that isn’t going to help the conservative movement in the country at all.”
He said what the party should be focused on is delivering the job they were elected to do: be the Official Opposition to the Liberal minority government in a Parliament that kicks off on Thursday.
“They were hired to be the opposition, do the job of being the opposition… But don’t start picking at each other. Circling the wagons and shooting in is never a good strategy,” Pallister said.