Andrew Scheer resigned as leader of the Conservative Party of Canada Thursday, the same day I received this Christmas card from him. I guess he remebers me from when I worked on Parliament Hill.
He really had no choice. After the October election Scheer said he was staying on the job and would fight the next campaign. After all, the Conservatives increased their vote share and seat count, even if they weren’t able to beat the governing Liberals.
Given that the last time a majority government was defeated after one term was 1935, Scheer was a long shot to win in October. There are those who didn’t accept that, given how vulnerable the Prime Minister seemed with foreign policy gaffes, allegations of corruption, ethics violations and the infamous blackface incidents.
Still the resignation came as a surprise. There had been rumblings. Some Conservatives were unhappy (and competing websites had been set up for and against Scheer), but given the fragility of a minority parliament I expected Scheer to stay on until at least the mandatory leadership review in April 2020.
That he would resign at this point shows Scheer’s character and commitment to his party. To have stayed on for another four months of party infighting would have helped the Liberals. Even if he received an endorsement in the leadership review, it seemed he was a wounded leader.
Wednesday night I was invited to a Conservative Christmas gathering where the leader was the main topic of private conversations. It seemed to me the party members in my area were pretty evenly split between those who wanted to see Scheer gone and those who felt he deserved a second chance.
Given that Scheer grew up in my area and is well known by many, that even split surprised me. I thought it didn’t bode well for his leadership. Still, I didn’t expect him to resign less than 24 hours later.
I have no predictions at this point as to who will step up to lead the Conservatives and become the next prime minister. Nor do I know if I will take out a party membership so I can vote in the leadership race. It is much to early to tell.
Of course, it could be a slick political plot, with Scheer resigning to lull the Liberals into complacency.
In 1979 Pierre Elliot Trudeau resigned as Liberal leader after losing an election to Joe Clark’s Conservatives, who formed a minority government. With the Liberals leaderless, the Conservatives lost a confidence vote in the House of Commons, triggering an election. Trudeau stayed on, won a majority and remained prime minister until he retired for good in 1984.
My advice to the current price minister would be not to get overconfident in the interim before the conservatives choose a new leader.
Because sometimes history can repeat itself.
Lack of an official Opposition Leader might not be enough to deter the other parties from deciding to defeat the Liberals in Parliament and force an election. Unlikely? Yes – but not impossible. It has happened before.