'I am staying on to fight the fight' says Scheer amid more calls for resignation
OTTAWA -- On the day Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was hoping to change the channel from ongoing calls for his resignation, a number of high-profile Tories publicly voiced their opinion that he should step down.
Speaking in Ottawa after naming his House leadership team on Thursday, Scheer was dogged by questions about whether he would concede to these calls but reiterated he has no intention of leaving his post.
"I am staying on to fight the fight Canadians elected us to do," Scheer told reporters.
"Now is not the time for internal divisions or internal party politics – that is an unfortunate part of the Conservative tradition in this country."
Group calls for immediate leadership review, Scheer's ouster
This comes amid news that Stephen Harper’s former communications director Kory Teneycke and two other longtime Conservative operatives have created a new non-profit campaign to mobilize public support to oust Scheer from leadership.
Teneycke – who worked as a top adviser on Maxime Bernier’s unsuccessful bid for Conservative leadership – has been a vocal critic of the Conservative leader, specifically about his stance on social issues like same-sex marriage.
"What’s interesting is he’s sort of unified social Conservatives and social moderates together in being disappointed in how he handled those questions. It takes a special talent to lose both sides of an argument simultaneously but I think that’s what he’s accomplished," Teneycke told CTV News on Thursday.
Dubbed Conservative Victory, the organization states on its website that "When a political leader fails, they resign."
"Andrew Scheer should immediately step aside as the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and run in a competitive race against a full field of contestants. It's how we'll get the best result," the website reads.
It asks visitors to the site to add their name to the call to launch an immediate leadership race with a "full field of candidates."
In an interview on CTV’s Power Play, one of the group’s creators, Jeff Ballingall – who’s also the founder of social media groups Ontario and Canada Proud – said Scheer has opened himself up to criticism.
"He doesn’t act like he even wants the job. He doesn’t have much energy, he’s not very authentic when he speaks, he doesn’t have conviction," said Ballingall.
He said that while the election result was disappointing, Scheer’s post-election performance has been "abysmal" and that the Tory leader is the same "lifeless, monotone speaker."
He said Conservative Victory is growing momentum by the day, having just launched 24 hours ago.
"We’re going to be raising some more money and we’re bringing on a big team. We have more names to announce over the coming weeks. But there’s a lot of interest in what we’re doing."
Ballingall said that Scheer is a "big distraction" and needs to move aside, but he didn’t reveal who his group would like to see fill the leadership.
"This effort is about clearing the path so we can have great candidates run," he said. "I think a woman would be great but again, I don’t have a candidate in mind."
Scheer for his part, remained steadfast on Thursday that he will continue to lead the party until April, when he’ll undergo a leadership review at the party’s convention in Toronto.
"There is no one more eager to get it right the next time," said Scheer. "I am focused on the job at hand. I am focused on showing Canadians that it is a Conservative government that will keep this country united and strong."
More Tories add their name to the chorus of Scheer criticism
Former Conservative staffer Jamie Ellerton, who worked on Scheer’s campaign and recently co-wrote an op-ed in The Globe and Mail about the impact of Scheer’s inability to vocalize his position on social issues, told CTV News on Thursday that solidifying his leadership should be Scheer’s top priority from now until January.
"[Scheer] needs to take some decisive action in the coming days and weeks, prior to the end of this calendar year, to inspire confidence in the leadership to kind of quell some of the doubts people are having, otherwise I do think his days will be numbered."
Jenni Byrne, another former Harper aide, echoed her colleagues’ sentiments that Scheer’s leadership is proving to be more of a diversion.
"If this is going to grip the party for the next five months, this is going to give Justin Trudeau and the Liberal government a free ride," said Byrne on CTV News Channel.
"The question people are asking are just one: Can Andrew Scheer win the next election?" said Byrne. "What people are saying is they don’t think he can and there are a whole host of reasons."
Former Conservative deputy leader Lisa Raitt said Scheer’s fate as leader is up to the grassroots Conservative base, which she added is "alive and well, very vocal, and not only that, they’re organized."
"I'm waiting to see what ends up happening here and where my fellow Conservatives are going to go on this matter."
'I don't know whether he was directed properly'
Thursday evening, the Conservative leader continued with his cross-country listening tour, with the Ottawa-area campaigns and candidates. Earlier this week he got an earful from Montreal candidates and campaign representatives about his performance during the election.
On his way in to the meeting he did not speak with reporters, but a few area candidates and campaign staff did.
"We have to give him a chance," said Ottawa-Carleton riding association staffer Edward Atraghji.
Though failed Kanata-Carleton candidate Justina McCaffrey was less forgiving.
"I am here to tell him that he's a decent guy, I like him a lot, I don't know whether he was directed properly," she said. "I feel bad for him because of that, and it happened to me as well as a candidate. I did everything everybody wanted me to do and it didn't quite work out."
She said that she was told during the campaign to not be "so close to the media."
During the race she came under fire after a video from 2013 resurfaced of her with a far-right political commentator, and then dodged reporters who were asking her about it.
She suggested Scheer show more of his personality and be "stylized in the right way," but that it would "take a lot of different people behind him and he would have to be that different person."
With files from CTV News' Rachel Aiello