Scheer cautions against internal fighting in speech in Conservative heartland

CALGARY — Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has dismissed those calling for him to step down after last month's election loss as elites and "talking heads" who know he'll never relent in his opposition to the carbon tax.

"They think that what Canada needs is a second Liberal Party," he said in a speech to the Alberta United Conservative Party annual general meeting on Friday.

"And you may have heard that some of these folks want me gone because they know I will never stand for that."

The Liberals were re-elected with a minority government on October 21. They were entirely shut out of Alberta and Saskatchewan, where there is deep anger over the federal carbon tax, an overhaul of resource project environmental reviews and an oil tanker ban off the northern B.C. coast.

Scheer's speech in the heart of Conservative country received a warm, but by no means raucous, reception. It was bookended by standing ovations and some in the crowd waved signs bearing his name.

When he asked UCP members whether a carbon tax would be the Conservatives' path to victory in the next election, they responded with a hearty "no" followed by a smattering of cheers of "Andrew! Andrew! Andrew!"

The Conservative leader said he was deeply disappointed in the election results and would be listening and learning from people in his party about what can be done better next time.

"I am very interested in how you think our party must be shaped to finish the job we started this campaign," he said.

"I am entirely uninterested in what the talking heads, the naysayers and the people who make their money by stirring up division in our party have to say."

Scheer cautioned against listening to those who want to turn the Conservatives' April convention into an internal fight.

"When we focus on our differences instead of our common goals and our vision for a strong and united Canada, we have snatched victory from ourselves in the past," he said.

Earlier Friday, Conservative MP and former cabinet minister Ed Fast said he has declined a spot in Scheer's shadow cabinet, saying the party leader needs to be surrounded by people who fully support him.

The B.C. MP expressed frustration over how the party's climate-change policy was handled, saying most of the voters he met didn't even know the party had one. Fast had previously served as Scheer's critic for the environment ministry.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2019.

 

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press