Conservative MP Andrew Scheer has scored a major upset in the federal leadership race, beating out front-runner Maxime Bernier to take the helm of the party.
Mr. Scheer won on the 13th ballot with 51 per cent of the available points to Mr. Bernier’s 49 per cent. Mr. Bernier, a Quebec MP, had led all 12 ballots to that point, but Mr. Scheer benefited from a final push when Erin O’Toole’s support was redistributed to the last two contenders. The final results were unveiled at 8:13 p.m. at the Congress Centre in Toronto, about two hours after the first-round results came out. More than 140,000 votes were cast.
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Mr. Scheer, the 38-year-old former Commons Speaker and father of five, received a major boost from social Conservatives, whom he said would have the freedom to speak their minds in his party. He has said his government wouldn’t propose legislation on subjects such as abortion, even though he is against it.
The Saskatchewan MP focused mostly on projecting a positive tone in the race, lending some to call him Stephen Harper with a smile. He has repeatedly said the party lost the past election not because of its policies but because of the way it communicated them to the broader public.
Mr. Bernier’s team said the Scheer victory was due to the social-Conservative vote and the strong showing of candidate Brad Trost, who expressed his discomfort during the race with “the whole gay thing” and said he would vote for pro-life bills.
Mr. Scheer’s campaign manager, Hamish Marshall, said Mr. Scheer received a big bump from Mr. Trost, who fell off the ballot with 14.3 per cent of the vote, as well as Lisa Raitt. Mr. Marshall also said Mr. Scheer benefited from second-place support from Mr. O’Toole, the third-place candidate who dropped off the ballot with 21-per-cent support.
Mr. Scheer’s campaign focused on sweeping pledges such as ending corporate welfare and balancing the budget in two years, but mostly incremental policies such as more support for parents of home-schooled children, withholding federal grants for universities that curb free speech, and scrapping the GST and HST from home heating and electricity.
Conservative members were asked to rank up to 10 of the 14 official candidates on their ballot. The votes are counted by riding, with each of the country’s 338 ridings given the value of 100 points in the final tabulation.
While Kevin O’Leary was still officially in the race, he quit the contest last month to endorse Mr. Bernier.
Mr. Scheer, unlike Mr. Bernier, supported supply management, the system that regulates prices on dairy and poultry in Canada. Mr. Bernier’s position hurt him in Quebec and was a key part in Mr. Scheer’s success.
Mr. Scheer also had the support of four Quebec MPs. In the final ballot, Mr. Scheer beat Mr. Bernier in the Quebecker’s own riding of Beauce, where there are many farmers, 51.11 per cent to 48.89 per cent.
In his victory speech, Mr. Scheer focused on unity, telling Conservatives old and new that “You are all welcome and this party belongs to all of you.”
“We all know what it looks like when Conservatives are divided,” he said.
“We will not let that happen again.”
He said the leadership candidates helped to grow the party to its biggest membership in history and vowed to beat Justin Trudeau in the next election.
“There is hope because Conservatives are united. We are positive, we have strong Conservative values, and we will work together … to win in 2019.”
Mr. Scheer said the next Conservative government will cut taxes and make it easier for the private sector to create meaningful jobs.
He thanked his family and campaign team, as well as interim leader Rona Ambrose and Mr. Harper.
He said he also believes the party can do better in Quebec in the next election.
Mr. Scheer said that as prime minister, he will focus on Conservative policies that create prosperity and opportunities for Canadians.
“I will bring us back to balanced budgets and end corporate welfare,” Mr. Scheer said.
He called the Liberal carbon tax a “cash grab,” and said he would defend any province that does not impose one.
Candidates who were eliminated also included Deepak Obhrai, Andrew Saxton, Rick Peterson, Chris Alexander, Steven Blaney, Kellie Leitch, Pierre Lemieux and Michael Chong.
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Source: Google News