Veteran B.C. MP Ed Fast says he rejected an offer to be part of Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s team of opposition critics because the leader deserves someone who “fully supports” his leadership.
Mr. Fast served as trade minister under prime minister Stephen Harper and is a senior member of the Conservative caucus. His public rejection comes at the end of a tough week for Mr. Scheer, who has heard nearly daily calls for him to quit after last month’s election loss.
“Mr. Scheer and I recently had a conversation about where I could fit into his shadow cabinet, and I expressed my desire not to be included at this time,” Mr. Fast said in a statement Friday.
The Conservative shadow cabinet is the team of opposition critics who are assigned files on which to criticize the Liberal government.
“Mr. Scheer is entitled to surround himself with a team that fully supports his leadership. I am looking forward to remaining fully engaged in the affairs of our caucus and to holding Justin Trudeau’s government to account for its actions,” Mr. Fast said.
Mr. Fast announced his decision within hours of Mr. Scheer announcing his shadow cabinet, which features 50 of the 121 Conservative MPs. Also this week, Mr. Scheer unveiled a House leadership team of another nine MPs.
In response to the statement, the Conservative Leader’s spokesperson Simon Jefferies said the team is ready to “hold Justin Trudeau to account.”
“Mr. Scheer appreciates the efforts Ed Fast put into developing the Conservative environment plan as the previous shadow minister and Mrs. Kerry-Lynne Findlay will continue to build on his work as the new shadow minister for the environment and climate change,” Mr. Jefferies said.
“Mr. Fast will continue to serve the Conservative caucus in different ways.”
The most senior positions of finance, foreign affairs and industry went to MPs Pierre Poilievre, Erin O’Toole and Michelle Rempel respectively.
Over the last week Mr. Scheer has faced calls for his ouster from progressive and social conservatives. Conservative criticism about his leadership and election performance have been particularly loud in Ontario and Quebec. At a campaign postmortem in Ottawa on Thursday night, two more local campaign managers said Mr. Scheer should resign.
Also this week a new group, Conservative Victory, was launched to press for him to quit before a leadership confidence vote at the party’s April convention.
Mr. Scheer is crisscrossing the country as he tries to hold onto his leadership, speaking with defeated candidates and local party organizers. On Friday evening, he will give a speech at the United Conservative Party’s annual general meeting in Calgary and on Monday he will be in Toronto for another campaign postmortem.
On Thursday Mr. Scheer told reporters he won’t resign and is staying on to “fight the fight.”
“I have the support of my team, I have the support of my caucus, I have the support of millions of Canadians who want to change this government," Mr. Scheer said on Thursday.
"This is not the time for political infighting. We need to stay focused on the task.”