The leader of Canada’s Conservatives has resigned, following mounting frustration over a disappointing performance in October’s general election and reports that he used party funds to help pay for his children’s private school education.
Andrew Scheer announced his intention to step down at an emergency caucus meeting on Thursday morning. Shortly after news of his resignation broke, however, Global News reported that he had used party funds to pay for his children’s private school education – allegedly without knowledge or approval from the funding board.
Party officials said that the use of party funds to partially cover the cost of private school in Ottawa was a “normal practice” for political parties and denied the issue was linked to Scheer’s resignation.
In an emotional speech to the house of commons early Thursday afternoon, Scheer thanked his party and family for their steadfast support.
“In order to chart the course ahead, this party needs a leader who can give 100% 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, who is also head of the official opposition, received a standing ovation from parliamentarians following his speech.
Justin Trudeau, whose Liberals defeated the Conservatives in October’s bitter general election, praised Scheer’s dedication.
“I want to thank him deeply for his service to Canada on behalf of all Canadians, on behalf on all Liberals, and I know there are many more conversations to have,” said Trudeau, as the two shook hands. The NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh, and the Bloc Québécois leader, Yves-François Blanchet, thanked Scheer for his service.
Scheer – who won the popular vote on 21 October but failed to gain enough seats to form government – was unable to resist a parting shot at the prime minister on Thursday.
“I believe I’m the first person in history to get more votes for Trudeau,” he said to laughter.
Scheer, who was once speaker of the house under the former prime minister Stephen Harper, won leadership of the party in 2017. In the months leading up to the election, his Conservatives had polled ahead of Trudeau, but the party was unable to capitalize on a prime minister beset by scandals, leaving many frustrated with Scheer’s performance.
In the weeks following the election, Scheer has become the target of scathing editorials from conservatives, most notably over his stance on LGBTQ+ issues. Sheer has refused to march in any Pride parades and has declined to give full-throated support for gay marriage – positions his critics say risk further alienating voters in much of the country.
Scheer will stay on until a new leader has been chosen, and asked the party’s governing council to immediately begin the search for his replacement