Calls for Andrew Scheer to resign continued Thursday night in Ottawa as the Conservative Leader and his staff met with party organizers and candidates from the region.
However, sources said the meetings were not as intense as similar closed-door sessions in Montreal Monday, where Mr. Scheer endured heavy criticism and more demands that he quit.
He is holding meetings with MPs, defeated candidates and party members across Canada as he tries to hold on to his job after losing an election the party was expecting to win. Since his October defeat, a growing number of voices have called on him to resign, and a group of prominent Ontario-based Conservatives has launched a campaign called Conservative Victory, with the goal of ousting him immediately.
The Conservative Leader faces an automatic confidence vote at the party’s April convention.
In their private meeting with party officials, two Ottawa-area campaign managers said Mr. Scheer needs to resign, according to sources that The Globe and Mail will not identify because they were discussing internal party matters.
Among the concerns they cited was the campaign’s failure to define Mr. Scheer – leaving that to the Liberals.
Mr. Scheer dismissed the calls for his resignation and said that while some people are interested in another leadership race, it’s in the “party’s best interest to stay united, to stay focused on the task at hand, and that is showing Canadians that [the Conservatives are] ready to govern.”
Candidates who met separately with Mr. Scheer said the calls for him to step down were not made in front of him – unlike in Montreal. But a source said there was a lot of negative feedback about how the campaign was run.
MP Michael Barrett said the conversations Mr. Scheer is having are “really tough.” He called Thursday’s honest and constructive and that, ultimately, feedback is good.
MP Eric Duncan said Mr. Scheer “deserves a chance to stay on.” And on his way into the meeting, Ottawa-area MP Pierre Poilievre said he supports Mr. Scheer and blamed the media for focusing on his detractors.
Defeated candidates, though, were more cautious.
“That’s up to him,” Ottawa Centre candidate Carol Clemenhagen said when asked if Mr. Scheer should stay on. She said her message to him was that the party needs a “credible, reliable climate plan.”
Defeated Gatineau-area candidate Dave Blackburn said he hasn’t decided yet whether Mr. Scheer should stay on, adding that the party missed the “perfect time to win Quebec.” He noted that, just one year ago, the Bloc Québécois had virtually no presence in the province and the NDP was on its way out. He said he asked Mr. Scheer what he plans to do in Quebec, and that’s one of the many issues he’s contemplating.
Another source said the campaign managers meeting with party staff was more acrimonious and ended in frustration. Most campaign managers declined to speak with reporters on their way out.
Party members and volunteers who arrived for a cocktail reception later in the evening were the most supportive of Mr. Scheer. The majority who spoke to reporters said he deserves to stay on and that this is the wrong time for the party to “start from scratch“ with a new leader.
Lucia Fevrier-President,said she supported the Liberals in 2015 but was disappointed with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. She said she backed Mr. Scheer in the leadership race and still supports him. She thinks he isn’t getting enough credit for what was accomplished.
“He was able to substantially reduce the Liberal Party,” Ms. Fevrier-President said.
With reports from Robert Fife