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Poll finds voters split on future of Andrew Scheer

Last Updated Oct 30, 2019 at 9:10 pm EDT

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer reacts to a question following as he takes questions from the media in Toronto, Saturday, October 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Voters appear split when it comes to the political future of Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.

A survey conducted by Mainstreet Research for iPolitics finds 50 per cent of voters believe Scheer should resign as leader after losing last week’s election to the Trudeau Liberals.

One of those who is calling for Scheer’s dismissal is one-time and possible future leadership contender Peter MacKay, who says the “stinking albatross” of Andrew Scheer’s social conservative values cost the Conservatives the election.

He offered the devastating critique of Scheer’s campaign performance during a panel discussion Wednesday hosted by the Wilson Center in Washington.

“To use a good Canadian analogy, it was like having a breakaway on an open net and missing the net,” MacKay said.

While some frustrated Conservatives have been calling for a Scheer’s resignation, the poll also finds that members of the Conservative party are not as enthusiastic about turfing their leader.

A little more than a third of those who identified as Conservative say they want him gone.

University of Toronto professor of political science Nelson Wiseman says, in modern Canadian politics the leader of a major party gets one kick at the can.

“If you’re the leader of a major party, you better win on your first outing or, not only one knife will come to get you, many will,” said Wiseman. “Look what happened to Stephane Dion. Look what happened to Michael Ignatieff. And once the NDP became one of the major parties, look what happened to Tom Mulcair.”

Scheer has said he plans to stay on as leader but in April he will have to survive a mandatory leadership review at the party’s convention.

MacKay – who briefly led the Progressive Conservatives before they merged with the Canadian Alliance to form today’s Conservative party – was blunt Wednesday in laying the blame for last week’s loss on Scheer’s inability to reassure Canadians that he wouldn’t impose his own religious and social conservative values on the country. And that left Scheer unable to take advantage of the Liberals’ vulnerability, despite a “litany” of controversies dogging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“What went wrong? Well, I’m going to be very honest with you,” MacKay said.

“I think there was a number of issues that became very prevalent in this election that nobody other than the politicos wanted to talk about. People did not want to talk about women’s reproductive rights, and they didn’t want to talk about revisiting the issue of same-sex marriage.

“And yet that was thrust onto the agenda and hung around Andrew Scheer’s neck like a stinking albatross, quite frankly, and he wasn’t able to deftly deal with those issues when opportunities arose.”

Despite Scheer’s repeated assurances that a Conservative government would not reopen either the abortion or same-sex marriage issues, MacKay said the issues created “a nervousness” among voters, particularly women.

MacKay also criticized Scheer’s campaign for failing to “seize the agenda” with a big idea. Scheer’s proposal to create a cross-country energy corridor could have been one such idea but it “didn’t really catch on.” It was a “compelling idea,” MacKay said, but Scheer “didn’t fill in the blanks.”‘

Scheer’s proposal to use technology, rather than taxes, to deal with climate change could have been another big idea. But the pace of modern campaigns makes it difficult for such ideas to gain much traction, MacKay said.

In the end, he said Canadians weren’t inspired by either the Conservatives or the Liberals.

Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report