A bit. Even if you’re relieved to see him go.
Andrew Scheer’s announcement Thursday that he will step aside as Conservative leader was a surprise. But it wasn’t a shock.
Surely even he could see the writing on the wall.
His party was to hold a vote on whether he should continue as leader at a convention in Toronto in April.
Another fumbling, stumbling, bumbling Conservative leader, Joe Clark, also allowed his party to be beaten by a Quebec Liberal named Trudeau.
At a party convention in 1983, only 66.9% of delegates endorsed Clark to stay on.
Nobly, Clark said that wasn’t enough and resigned.
Ever since, most Canadian politicians and commentators have used the Clark result as the standard a leader must exceed when his or her position in being questioned within a party.
Given that social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, libertarians, failed candidates and past cabinet ministers have all complained about the horribly weak campaign Scheer ran in October’s election, it was almost impossible for him to hope he would get an endorsement even as anemic as Clark’s.
It would have been horribly embarrassing for Scheer to show up in Toronto and receive 60% support.
Fifty per cent.
There were also reports on Thursday that directors of the Conservative Fund – the fundraising arm of the Conservative party – had discovered party donations were being used without their knowledge to pay the tuition of the five Scheer children at a private school in Ottawa.
The reports conflicted as to whether this revelation was behind Scheer’s resignation.
Although, if true, the revelations certainly wouldn’t have helped Scheer’s case to stay on.
But regardless, Scheer had to go.
The final straw may have been a speech Scheer gave in Calgary at the end of November.
There he received a polite, but unenthusiastic response from delegates to the United Conservative party’s (UCP) annual provincial convention.
Social conservatism is not the prevailing ideology in the UCP, but there is probably a higher percentage of social conservatives among party members in Alberta than, say, Ontario. And if Scheer (who is frequently stigmatized for his personal, socially conservative beliefs) couldn’t even whip up an Alberta crowd, his days must have been numbered from then on.
Or perhaps it was the report delivered this week by former Harper Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird that was, apparently, “highly critical” of the campaign Scheer and his organizers had run.
Scheer tried to deflect criticism from himself a couple of weeks ago by firing his chief-of-staff and his communications director, blaming them for the way he failed to put the Liberals out of Canadians’ misery.
But the Baird report, apparently, placed the blame squarely on Scheer, as it should have.
Even if the fired staffers, Marc-André Leclerc and Brock Harrison, were to blame for the Conservatives election loss, who hired them in the first place? Scheer. So he has to take responsibility for their failures.
Furthermore, I would chalk up the Conservative loss to two factors, both tied to Scheer.
First, there was his inability to answer tough questions about his stances on abortion and same-sex marriage and his dual Canadian-American citizenship.
Then came his failure to take advantage of the Liberals’ many scandals.
It should have been obvious to Scheer and his team from the start that uncomfortable questions were going to be asked. It is unforgivable that because they weren’t ready to answer them, Justin Trudeau gets a second term.
Scheer seems a decent man. Perhaps he deserved a kinder fate. But for the good of his party, he had to go.