A group of prominent Conservatives is setting up a non-profit organization to campaign for the immediate ouster of Andrew Scheer as federal party Leader.
Called Conservative Victory, the organization aims to mount a cross-country grassroots movement to put pressure on Mr. Scheer to step down as leader before the Conservative Party holds a mandatory leadership review vote in April.
The group’s organization is the latest blow to Mr. Scheer who, in the past three days, has faced growing calls for his resignation. The Conservative Leader has been trying to convince his caucus and party members that he can continue to lead the party despite what Tories say was an unexpected election loss last month.
“When a political leader fails, they resign,” the Conservative Victory website reads. “Andrew Scheer should immediately step aside as the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.”
However, the group is already being dismissed by one Conservative MP because it’s run by the same people who were involved in a rival’s leadership campaign in 2017.
The campaign is being led by Kory Teneycke, a Toronto lobbyist who ran Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s leadership and election campaigns; Jeff Ballingall, the founder of Ontario Proud and Canada Proud, two websites dedicated to defeating Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that have amassed a significant online following; and John Reynolds, a former Conservative MP who co-chaired former prime minister Stephen Harper’s successful 2006 election campaign.
Mr. Teneycke and Mr. Reynolds were both involved in runner-up Maxime Bernier’s leadership campaign.
Mr. Teneycke said Mr. Scheer doesn’t have enough support to win the April confidence vote and the party can’t afford to have a long drawn-out leadership fight during a minority Parliament.
“Our hope is to get Andrew to resign as leader and, [if] he wants to continue, to enter into a leadership race as a candidate," Mr. Teneycke said in an interview Wednesday. He said the group will unveil support from other high-profile Conservatives over the coming weeks.
“It is absolutely clear that he doesn’t command the respect, or the support, of the majority of the membership,” he said.
The Globe and Mail reached out to Mr. Scheer’s office for comment and was given an interview with Conservative MP Chris Warkentin, a close ally of Mr. Scheer, in response. Mr. Warkentin said he has met with hundreds of party members since the election who support the leader and he won’t resign.
“The voices of dissent are being covered in the media, while the voices of support are not," Mr. Warkentin said.
He dismissed the new group because of its connection to Mr. Bernier’s unsuccessful leadership bid. Mr. Scheer won on the 13th ballot with 51 per cent of the vote to Mr. Bernier’s 49 per cent.
“Kory’s been upset and bitter since and obviously this is a personal vendetta," Mr. Warkentin said.
Mr. Teneycke backed Mr. Scheer after his leadership win and distanced himself from Mr. Bernier after his split from the Conservatives.
The Conservative Party’s constitution requires a leader to get only 50 per cent plus one to stay on, but in practice the bar has been set higher. For example, Joe Clark called a leadership race in 1983 after he won 67 per cent in a leadership review; and after the 2004 election loss, Mr. Harper said he needed to get at least 80 per cent to stay on, which he did.
“He doesn’t have that level of support so why put the party through this protracted process,” Mr. Teneycke said.
Mr. Teneycke said Conservative Victory intends to use social-media ads to target Conservatives and put pressure on Mr. Scheer to step down. The website has a sign-up tool so the group can build an online database. Mr. Reynolds said fundraising is already under way and the group will have enough money to run a campaign.
Mr. Scheer has been under fire from many members of his party after failing to win the October election. To win back their support, he appointed former cabinet minister John Baird to conduct a review of the campaign and he fired two of his senior aides. Mr. Scheer is also conducting a listening tour across the country. People who attended an event in Montreal on Monday said it featured open calls for his resignation.
“His performance during the election was disappointing,” Mr. Ballingall said in an interview. “But his postelection performance has been abysmal.”
Mr. Scheer has faced public criticism from progressive and social conservative factions in the party. Most of the criticism has come from former aides and defeated party candidates in Ontario and Quebec, where the Conservatives won few seats. Conservative MPs have generally offered muted support for him in public.
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