Andrew Scheer has fired two top aides, a month after the Conservatives lost an election they were expecting to win.
Chief of staff Marc-André Leclerc and director of communications Brock Harrison have both left the Conservative Leader’s office, according to an e-mail sent on the weekend by Mr. Scheer to staff and the caucus.
Mr. Leclerc said he is retiring from federal politics after 10 years working with the Conservatives. “The results of October 21 are not what I expected,” he said in a statement. “But they do not reflect all the efforts our team made before and during the campaign.” Mr. Harrison called his time with Mr. Scheer a “short, intense and life-changing experience,” in a Facebook post.
Permanent replacements for the two have not yet been named. In the interim, Mr. Scheer’s deputy chief of staff, Martin Bélanger, will serve as the acting chief of staff and his associate director of media relations, Simon Jefferies, will be the acting director of communications.
Mr. Bélanger has worked with the federal Conservatives since 2006, according to his LinkedIn profile. Mr. Jefferies joined Mr. Scheer’s office this summer, after serving as director of media relations for Ontario Premier Doug Ford.
Mr. Scheer, who has kept a low profile since the election, is shaking up his senior team as questions about his own future continue to mount. On Wednesday, two senior Conservatives penned a column calling on the party and Mr. Scheer to take a clearer stand on LGBTQ rights.
Canadians expect political leaders to share their values, Melissa Lantsman and Jamie Ellerton wrote in The Globe and Mail, adding that during the election Mr. Scheer struggled to “deviate from a script that reluctantly accepts marriage equality” as the law of the land.
“His visible discomfort in answering questions relating to LGBTQ people and their place in society only amplifies this reluctance,” they wrote.
While it’s rare for an incumbent government to be defeated after just one mandate, the Tories were confident they could oust the Liberals in the October election because of the many controversies dogging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In the last week of the election campaign, Mr. Scheer openly talked about internal party polling and said he expected to win a majority government.
Instead, the Liberals won a strong minority government, 13 seats shy of a majority.
Conservatives will vote on the future of Mr. Scheer’s leadership at their April convention in Toronto.
Some Conservatives had been privately calling for Mr. Leclerc to be fired since their election defeat. However, people such as Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus came to Mr. Leclerc’s defence, saying he did a good job.
The first sign the Conservative Leader might change his communications team was in early November, after the party’s first caucus meeting since the election loss. Speaking to reporters, Mr. Scheer said the policies that he was presenting during the campaign weren’t the problem but how they were communicated was.
“There were times where our message didn’t resonate with Canadians, that’s clear," Mr. Scheer said on Nov. 6.
Mr. Harrison joined the leader’s office in June, 2018. He previously worked in Alberta as director of communications for the Wildrose Party.