Andrew Scheer cites ‘new hope for Canada’ in first caucus address

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OTTAWA—Newly elected Conservative leader Andrew Scheer was greeted with a standing ovation by his parliamentary caucus Monday in a display of a party united after a deeply split vote on the weekend.

Scheer, the 38-year-old MP and former Commons Speaker, was elected with 50.95 per cent of ballots cast in a leadership race that saw 13 candidates vie for the top job, and a ballot contest that ran right up to the 13th count.

On Monday, Scheer said appealed for unity, saying it’s the only way “we’ll defeat Justin Trudeau in 2019.”

After saying it was “so great to be back in front of such a dynamic team,” Scheer delivered a speech that summed up many of the standard Conservative planks of low-taxes, support for families, and “conservative policies that will create prosperity,” as well as his own personal pitch to protect free speech on campuses at threat of de-funding universities.

“To Canadians across the country, there is renewed hope for Canada,” Scheer said in a speech that echoed his weekend victory address. “Because we know that the pain the Trudeau Liberals are causing Canadians is only temporary. Our team is united, positive and focused on delivering for everyday Canadians and their families in 2019.”

He said Canadians saw what the Conservative team could do “when we were competing against one another. Now imagine what we can do when we work together.”

Scheer got another standing ovation when he said how proud he was to have shared the stage with the other candidates, singling out Maxime Bernier—the presumed frontrunner who led through much of the count but lost to Scheer at the last ballot. Bernier had won the support of Kevin O’Leary, who dropped out before last week’s count, but it wasn’t enough to put him over the top.

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Scheer said the party’s funds are in good shape, and the caucus is united – which he credited to interim leader Rona Ambrose.

He used a lot of the same lines from his weekend speeches, about having to fill Ambrose’s “stylish” shoes.

Before caucus, some of his rivals promised to work with him.

Erin O’Toole, who was widely considered the person along with Scheer who had a good shot at defeating Bernier, was generous, saying Scheer will focus on policies that will unite Conservatives.

MP Kellie Leitch, whose pitch to put all Canadian visitors, immigrants and refugees to a face-to-face screening interview failed to win much support, denied the vote showed a split in the party. She said Scheer had broad support across the country. She said she intends to run in the next election, and believes Scheer will be able to rally the support of women voters.

Scheer supporter Mark Strahl was thrilled with the result and predicted the party would rally behind Scheer.