Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer faced heavy criticism and calls to resign during a campaign postmortem event in Montreal, according to former Quebec candidates and organizers.
Late Tuesday, Senator Claude Carignan added his voice to the resignation calls, saying the growing criticism shows Mr. Scheer has lost the “moral authority” to lead the party.
“He will not be able to manage the party in the House," Mr. Carignan, the former Conservative leader in the Senate, said. “If all of the media attention, all of the questions are about his leadership, he will lose the possibility to push Trudeau.”
Mr. Carignan’s message echoes participants at the Conservative Leader’s private event held Monday evening, who said a clear majority of those present asked for Mr. Scheer to leave before he faces a confidence vote at a party convention in April.
Defeated candidates Marie-Claude Fournier and Tom Pentefountas said they directly told Mr. Scheer that he has peaked in Quebec and that the Conservative Party cannot grow in the province under his leadership.
“The people have made up their minds and they won’t come back,” Ms. Fournier said in an interview.
Mr. Pentefountas added that while he feels Mr. Scheer would have made an excellent prime minister, the time has come for him to leave in an honourable fashion.
“I think Andrew Scheer should resign. He would go out as a hero,” Mr. Pentefountas said.
Mr. Scheer, who has mandated former Conservative minister John Baird to conduct a separate postelection analysis, has given no hint that he will step down. After firing chief of staff Marc-André Leclerc and director of communications Brock Harrison last week, Mr. Scheer is scheduled to unveil his shadow cabinet shortly.
Mr. Scheer is currently touring the country to hear from members about his party’s second-place finish in the election, which many Conservatives have described as an underwhelming and disappointing performance. He will hold a postmortem event in Ottawa on Thursday and other ones in coming weeks in the Greater Toronto Area, the Western provinces and Quebec City.
Mr. Scheer is under fire from various wings of the Conservative Party. While some would like him to adopt more progressive views on same-sex marriage and abortion, other social conservative groups are accusing him of failing to defend their beliefs.
A spokeswoman for the Conservative Party, Josée Morissette, said that Mr. Scheer “has insisted on hearing directly” from former candidates and will continue to hold similar meetings in coming weeks.
Another defeated candidate, Véronique Laprise, said there was constructive criticism offered during the meeting that lasted more than two hours, insisting there was not a unanimous call for Mr. Scheer’s ouster.
“The main message [to Mr. Scheer] was, ‘If you want to stay, here are the things we need to work on,’” said Ms. Laprise, who ran in the riding of Beloeil-Chambly.
Conservative MP Luc Berthold, who was not present at the Montreal meeting, said Mr. Scheer has the right to conduct his own listening tour and wait for the results of Mr. Baird’s work before making a final decision on his future.
“I applaud him for facing the music,” said Mr. Berthold, the MP for Mégantic-L’Érable. “It is an exercise that requires much humility and courage.”
Kory Teneycke, a senior supporter of Ontario Premier Doug Ford and veteran of the federal Conservative Party, said Mr. Scheer should resign immediately and run again in the subsequent leadership race if he wants to remain in power.
“It is a minority Parliament, and moving more quickly is in the interest of the party,” Mr. Teneycke said. “It is clearly evident he doesn’t have the level of support required to command the leadership.”
There were more than 50 people at the postmortem event in Montreal. In one room, Mr. Scheer and his Quebec lieutenant, Alain Rayes, heard from defeated candidates, while the Conservative Party’s executive director, Dustin van Vugt, met with campaign organizers in another venue.
Over all, the Conservatives lost two seats in the Quebec City area and failed to make inroads in cities such as Trois-Rivières, Drummondville or in the suburbs of Montreal, where the party had high hopes. The saving grace for the party was a victory in the riding of Beauce at the expense of former Conservative MP Maxime Bernier, who is now leading the People’s Party of Canada.