Senior Conservative MP Mark Strahl says everything is “on the table” as the party tries to figure out why it lost last week’s election and what needs to change for the Tories to be better prepared for the next one.
Mr. Strahl met with Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and the rest of his inner circle in Ottawa on Tuesday as Mr. Scheer prepares for his first caucus meeting since the loss. After the meeting, the Conservative Leader left it to his closest allies to defend him and explain the next steps.
“You have to examine everything,” Mr. Strahl, a B.C. MP and the party’s chief Opposition Whip, said of the “thorough” review the party will conduct of staff, policies and leadership during the campaign.
“If personnel need to be changed, they will be changed,” he said.
Mr. Strahl said someone who was not part of the campaign should conduct the postmortem.
Conservatives had hoped to defeat the Liberals, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who had been mired in controversies. They were returned to government, but with a minority.
Mr. Scheer initially tried to frame the outcome as a victory because the party won the popular vote. He has since faced calls from an ex-Conservative MP to quit, while another candidate said he needs to make significant changes if he hopes to stay.
“Winning the popular vote is great, but winning the general election is what we were after," Mr. Strahl said as he acknowledged “discontent.”
The election outcome triggers a leadership vote, which will be held at the April convention in Toronto. According to the party’s constitution, Mr. Scheer can avoid a leadership race if he wins more than 50-per-cent support. His spokesman, Simon Jefferies, said Mr. Scheer will look for “a clear mandate.”
Mr. Scheer is talking to caucus members and defeated candidates as he prepares to meet with all 121 MPs next week. In addition to Mr. Strahl, his Tuesday afternoon senior leadership meeting included defeated MP Lisa Raitt, and re-elected MPs Candice Bergen, Chris Warkentin, Alain Rayes, John Brassard and Diane Finley.
Ms. Bergen and Ms. Finley expressed support for Mr. Scheer after the meeting.
“I’m behind him 100 per cent," Ms. Finley said. “We need a strong leader, we have that in Mr. Scheer."
Mr. Strahl said he thinks most Conservatives do not want a “divisive leadership race while we’re focusing on replacing Justin Trudeau."
Still, Mr. Scheer is facing pressure to make changes in his office.
Mr. Rayes also had a one-on-one with Mr. Scheer. He gave a “no comment” when asked how the meetings went.
During the campaign, Mr. Scheer was forced to defend his anti-abortion views, his previous comments about same-sex marriage and his decision not to march in Pride parades. Those social issues were perceived to hurt him, particularly in Quebec, where the party had expected to grow its base, but lost seats.
Ms. Raitt, a long-time Conservative MP and former cabinet minister who lost her Milton riding, said she didn’t think those issues had a “huge impact” on her campaign.
Earlier this week, ex-MP and defeated candidate Terence Young told The Globe and Mail that Mr. Scheer failed to connect with voters and should quit. Mr. Strahl said such conclusions so soon after the election are “knee-jerk” reactions.
“We’re not going to ask Mr. Scheer to change who he is in order to try to fit the narrative that some are trying to put on this,” Mr. Strahl said. He said the party would dig into the data and talk to the grassroots to figure out why it failed to break through in some regions.
Ms. Raitt said the meeting with Mr. Scheer was a strategy session and a chance to explain what she saw at the local level.
She said support decreased over time, and the party needs to “do better when it comes to reaching out to cultural groups and women.”
She also said the platform fell short with Ontarians, and she “didn’t have a huge amount of things to sell at the door” that excited people.
With reports from Daniel Leblanc