MPs surprised, saddened by Scheer’s resignation

December 17, 2019, 1:39 am
Kevin Weedmark

Souris-Moose Mountain - MP Robert Kitchen - Yorkton/Melville - MP Cathay Wagantall, Brandon-Souris - MP Larry Maguire

Members of Parliament for southeastern Saskatchewan and southwestern Manitoba say they were surprised and saddened by Conservative leader Andrew Scheer’s resignation Thursday.

Scheer announced his decision to Conservative MPs at a caucus meeting earlier Thursday morning.

“I just informed my colleagues in the Conservative caucus that I will resign as leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and I will be asking the Conservative Party National Council to organize the process of a leadership election,” Scheer told the House of Commons Thursday.

“As our party embarks on this exciting opportunity, electing a new leader and Canada’s next prime minister, I intend to stay on as leader of the party and the Official Opposition.”

He was emotional in his seven-minute speech to the House of Commons, interrupted multiple times by applause and standing ovations from his caucus. His wife Jill was in the gallery watching.

“Our party is not a cult of personality, it is not shaped by whoever’s name is on the masthead,” Scheer said. “My only ask to my fellow Conservatives is this: let’s stay united.

“In order to chart the course ahead, this party needs a leader who can give 100 per cent to this effort. So after a conversation with my kids, my loved ones, I felt it was time to put my family first,” he said.

Scheer won the leadership of the party in 2017.

The World-Spectator spoke with the three MPs for southeast Saskatchewan and southwest Manitoba Thursday afternoon.

Robert Kitchen MP for Souris-Moose Mountain

“It wasn’t what I was expecting when I got up this morning,” said Kitchen. “We had a caucus meeting on the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Free Trade Agreement, and this was announced at the end of the meeting. It took everybody by surprise.

“He came in and took a party that had lost an election, and he took the party from 93 seats to 121 seats and the highest number of votes, more than the Liberals, and those are the good things that people will talk about. As well, his integrity for the party and looking out for the best of the party will be remembered.

“As we move forward, we will see people that believe they can take this party and make it such that the next leader we choose will be the next Prime Minister of Canada when we defeat this minority government.

“I think you could see it. He’s had an awful lot on his mind obviously, after the election.

“Ultimately, like Andrew, I expected us to win that election and worked hard to try to win that. I don’t think there’s anyone as disappointed as he was or I was that we didn’t win that.

“But since the election, there appear to have been attacks on him, on his family. Those are challenges you have to deal with, and as leader of a party, you need to be certain you can tolerate that. Not only do you need to tolerate that, but your family needs to tolerate that. That has had a big impact on him. It’s a huge challenge for anyone who wants to step up in a leadership role. I commend him and his family for doing that, but ultimately I believe family comes first, and that was part of the discussion this morning, that he didn’t believe he could commit enough time to his family and at the same time give 100 per cent to the Conservative Party.

“Ultimately we are a big tent party, and that’s one of the things I like most about this party. You can have differences of opinion, you can express issues important to you. I’m sure we will find the right person to lead us forward.

“I have a saying in my office, ‘ube concorde ibi victoria.’ Translating that, it means ‘with unity, there is victory.’ I believe that we will have that unity, and we will have victory.”

Cathay Wagantall MP for Yorkton-Melville

“Quite honestly, it was a shock to the entire caucus. We were quite emotional. Personally, I supported Andrew right from the beginning in the leadership race,” says Wagantall.

“He’s a remarkable man, very honest and very forthright. He has a beautiful family, Jill and the kids, my ideal of what a prime minister and his family should be like. I’m very proud of how we have functioned as a caucus under his leadership.

“We won that first vote on a committee on China. His leadership is something I will personally miss.

“That being said, politics is incredibly challenging and that campaign was very difficult in a lot of ways.

“I know family was a huge factor for him in this decision, and I respect that.

“In many ways I’m happy for him and Jill, but I’m sad for us.

“It hasn’t been celebrated enough what he has accomplished in his career.

“I was talking last night with a couple of good female friends who are members of parliament, they are prominent and hard working, and the things they have faced just curled my hair.

“For Andrew, whatever nastiness you might see out there on social media, it’s just the tip of the iceberg of what he and Jill and even their children have had to face through this.

“That’s the part of politics now that is just so unfair and inappropriate, that people just go to an extreme in expressing their views.

“People have that opportunity with social media more than ever, and people think that empowers them when really to me it doesn’t do anything to improve the dynamics. I personally received a letter today about the issue of leaving Canada . . . but the approach just leaves me shaking my head.

“In the past you could at least protect your family to a certain degree, or have a sense of safety. That really concerns me.

“But even in the midst of this, I’m excited about the work that we’re doing here. The fact we have an opportunity to have a special committee to deal with China. That’s a big thing, and I’m so proud of how we did that as a party.

“It was the usual Andrew—very statesmanlike, very loving, very caring about the people in the room, and very respectful and honest.”

What does she believe will be Andrew Scheer’s legacy?

“I think we will see it more as time goes on,” she says. “It’s interesting to see how our policies may have had an impact. You’re beginning to hear the Liberals say over and over again how important it is that Canada has a global role to play in climate change, and this was our focus on our environmental plan. The mainstream media kept saying we have no plan and it drove me crazy. We have the best plan for the planet, where Canada does play the role that it should, and now the government is picking up on these terms.

“I think the legacy is in the vision speeches he gave at the beginning of the campaign that showed the potential of a real leader who was igniting Canadian’s hearts, and unfortunately we didn’t carry on with that. That to me was quite amazing.

“As Conservatives, I believe this will unite us. Whoever comes forward to run will have the support of the whole party.

“Look at the number of people involved in our last leadership contest, and the variety of perspectives, and the energy that was there. I believe it will come out very positively,” she says.

Larry Maguire MP for Brandon-Souris

“It was certainly a surprise to all of us. I respect him for being straight-up and giving us a decision that he made himself in consultation with his family,” says Maguire.

“He’s a true family man, and he was very concerned about the toll on his family. He’s very sincere in wanting to make sure his family is looked after first.

“It was a very hard-fought battle in the election campaign and he did very well in it.

“I think he’s looking down the road and seeing what might be best. He is still a very young man and has lots of experience. He wants to continue to do the great job he’s been doing in Regina-Qu’Appelle. He has the respect and the support of his constituents to do that, because he has represented them well.

“He has been very aware of the criticism since the election. We have done very well as the Conservative Party, but I think there was some concern there.”