The federal Conservative Party has a new leader after electing Andrew Scheer during a leadership convention over the weekend in Toronto.
Scheer, the former Speaker of the House under the previous Conservative government, serves as the MP for Regina – Qu’Appelle in Saskatchewan and was first elected in 2004.
Scheer came out on top of the Tory leadership vote after 13 ballots, defeating presumptive frontrunner Maxime Bernier, a former Conservative cabinet minister.
David Wilks, who represented the Kootenay-Columbia riding from 2011 to 2015 and worked alongside Scheer in the House of Commons, said the party will be well-served by the new leader.
“Being Speaker of the House for four and half years really helped him along because you really have to have control of the entire House of Commons and the 308 — now 338 — Members of Parliament,” Wilks said. “Also, being the Speaker of the House, you’re always dealing with Heads of State and hosting international and national events.
From that perspective I think he’s learned a lot, especially when it comes to rules and procedures within the House of Commons and it will serve him well.”
In addition to working with Scheer in Parliament, he also had the chance to get to know the new Tory leader and his family during a trip to Turkey in 2014 to promote the establishment of ongoing parliamentary dialogue and exchanges.
As far as the final results of the Conservative leadership race are concerned, Scheer finished in first with 50.95 per cent of the membership vote, while Bernie captured 49.05 per cent. The process was determined through a one-member, one-vote process using a ranked ballot.
Wilks had publicly thrown his support for Erin O’Toole, a former Harper cabinet minister and military veteran who finished in third. However, the final results weren’t too surprising to the former Kootenay-Columbia representative.
“I was surprised how high Brad Trost and Pierre Lemieux ended up throughout the entire voting process,” said Wilks, “but the social conservatives within the Conservative Party are obviously very strong and very in tune with each other and they backed those two candidates.
“Obviously, they didn’t get as far as they hoped they could, but that was the only surprise that I saw. It didn’t shock me that Kellie Leitch was down on the board a bit, I think her campaign hurt her.”
Moving forward, the Conservative Party needs to regenerate themselves and be wary of shifting too far to the right on the political spectrum and alienate independent voters, said Wilks.
“What I hope they don’t do is stay with the status quo,” he said. “What I mean by that is Stephen Harper, the former Prime Minster, served us very well, but Andrew has to create his own niche and he can’t be afraid to do that and so I would like to see them certainly consider staying a lot more to the centre so we get that centre-right vote that we lost in 2015.”