Andrew Scheer wins Conservative leadership

Newly elected Conservative party leader Andrew Scheer

Andrew Scheer, a longtime Saskatchewan MP and former Speaker of the House of Commons, has been narrowly elected the new leader of the federal Conservative party.

The nail-biting process of winnowing the field went down to the final 13th ballot before Scheer, 38, was declared the winner with 51 per cent of the available points, edging out longtime front-runner Maxime Bernier.

Bernier had led throughout the previous 12 ballots, but finished a close second with 49.05 per cent.

"What a campaign this has been," Scheer told the crowd as he acknowledged and thanked Bernier -- who appeared to be fighting back tears of disappointment -- and his other leadership rivals for their efforts and hard work.

"Time away from your families and your everyday lives -- what a sacrifice this has been for all of you," Scheer said.

"We have all grown because of your hard work ... you have each brought your passion and what you believe in to the centre stage, and I plan to ensure the very best of those ideas are brought forward ... to help us win in 2019."

Candidates were scored not by votes, but by points: every riding in the country was allocated 100 points, and each candidate received a number of points depending on their share of votes in that riding.

Bernier is a longtime Quebec member of Parliament, but support in his home province wasn't a sure thing, given his profuse opposition to the supply management system that regulates some of the province's most lucrative agricultural industries.

After the first ballot, he had captured just 48 per cent of support from his own riding of Beauce, with rival Scheer nabbing a surprisingly high 47 per cent.

Deepak Obhrai, Andrew Saxton, Rick Peterson, Kevin O'Leary, Chris Alexander, Steven Blaney and Lisa Raitt were some of the earliest casualties as early-ballot results were announced, while Kellie Leitch, Pierre Lemieux and Michael Chong fell off in subsequent rounds.

"I'm a free market guy so I like competition," Bernier said earlier, after he was seen exchanging a nervous laugh with Scheer after the results of one of the ballots. "It's a tough competition."

Gone in the 9th ballot was controversial MP Kellie Leitch, the former cabinet minister and orthopedic surgeon whose key campaign pledge to screen newcomers for Canadian values saw her dominate early media coverage of the race, only to fade from prominence as the vote grew nearer.

Pierre Lemieux, a former MP from Ontario who ran championing socially conservative policies, dropped off in the 8th ballot, while Brad Trost hung in longer than many expected, dropping off on the 11th ballot.

Obhrai was the first of 13 candidates to drop off as the party begins disclosing the results of voting, which began weeks ago by mail and culminated Saturday with members voting in person at the Toronto Congress Centre and polling stations across the country.

O'Leary dropped out of the race abruptly last month but was too late to have his name removed from the ballot.

The lengthy ranked-ballot system and the size of the field meant several rounds of balloting were necessary to crown a winner. Officials say 132,000 ballots -- the party has some 259,000 eligible members -- had been received by the Friday deadline for mail-in ballots.

Candidates were scored not by votes, but by points: every riding in the country was allocated 100 points, and each candidate received a number of points depending on their share of votes in that riding.

Mesh bags released Conservative party balloons over the crowd at the Toronto Congress Centre as hundreds of people cheered the news of their unlikely winner.

Ahead of the announcement, the party's interim leader Rona Ambrose took to the stage for one final farewell -- and to send some words of advice to whomever replaces her.

Bedrock conservative values are more important than any policy proposals shared during the campaign, Ambrose said.

"When we rally around those values and speak with one voice there is no limit to what we can achieve together," she said.

The winner should also take heed of the advice former leader Stephen Harper gave caucus when she replaced him, she added.

"The measure of a good leader is also how they treat their opponents in defeat," she quoted Harper as saying.

"Never forget that."