OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said Thursday that despite considerable party infighting over his future as leader, he will remain at the helm, and as a show of how he intends to broaden the appeal of his party, he’s appointed a former Liberal as his number 2.
Toronto-area MP Leona Alleslev has been chosen as deputy leader of the Conservatives, replacing former deputy leader Lisa Raitt, a longtime Conservative who lost her own nearby seat in the October election.
Alleslev was first elected as a Liberal in 2015, but crossed the floor to join the Conservatives in September 2018, saying at the time she disagreed with the Liberals’ handling of the economy and foreign affairs.
She declined to answer questions from reporters Thursday, though posted a message to her social media account calling the job an honour.
“I will be a strong voice for Ontario at the table and will be focused on uniting Canada,” she wrote.
Alleslev’s riding of Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill is the kind of seat the Conservatives must win in bulk in order to form government in the next election: suburban, diverse and filled with middle-class families. Alleslev won it for the Conservatives by 1,060 votes. She’d won the seat as a Liberal with nearly the same margin.
Alleslev’s appointment is about proving the party is open to all comers, said Scheer.
“This is all about moving forward,” Scheer said.
“Leona embodies exactly the type of person that we are trying to reach out to, to show that if you have voted Liberals in the past, if you are disappointed with the government that Justin Trudeau has been providing Canadians, there is a place for you in the Conservative Party of Canada.”
Scheer has kept some longtime loyalists on the team who will manage the party’s affairs in the House of Commons, including Candice Bergen, who will remain as House leader and Mark Strahl, who will stay as chief Opposition whip. Alain Rayes, who was in charge of the party’s campaign in Quebec during the election, retains the position of Quebec lieutenant.
In Quebec, and elsewhere, however, many members of the party have been outspoken in recent days about Scheer’s failure to win a majority government in October, citing a variety of reasons why they feel he can no longer stay on as leader and demanding he resign.
Two campaigns have now been launched to galvanize grassroots support against Scheer, in the hopes of either forcing him to step aside soon, or lose a leadership review that will be held at the party’s convention in April.
One is being run by Kory Teneycke, a former spokesman for former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, and also the man who ran the leadership campaign for Scheer’s main rival for the job, Maxime Bernier. Teneycke also managed the successful 2018 campaign for Ontario Premier Doug Ford, a wing of the conservative movement sidelined during the federal election.
Teneycke’s efforts will include recruiting prominent Conservatives to come out publicly against Scheer, and will be backed by advertising and media outreach to convince people they need to mobilize come April and vote Scheer out during the leadership review.
Scheer suggested the naysayers were an “unfortunate part of the conservative tradition” of infighting that rears its head after every election loss.
“I’m staying on,” he said.
“I will be making the case to our members that we need to stay united and stay focused and I will be seeking a mandate to do that in April.”
This report was first published by The Canadian Press Nov. 28, 2019.
Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press