Prince Albert Conservative MP Randy Hoback was surprised by leader Andrew Scheer’s decision to resign, but he’s waiting for more information before rendering judgment on the former leader’s use of party funds.
Hoback said he expected a regular caucus meeting on Dec. 12, and was caught off guard when Scheer announced his resignation towards the end. Since then, allegations that Scheer used campaign funds to pay for his children’s private education have dominated headlines. However, Hoback says it’s too soon to say whether Scheer was in the wrong.
“I want to wait for the audit to come back before I comment,” Hoback said from Ottawa on Tuesday. “I want to see exactly what they did, who did what, and what was the process. When people are donating to our party, I want to make sure that we spend that money responsibility and do everything we can to direct it into a Conservative victory.”
The Conservative Party has launched an internal audit over the issue on Dec. 13. They also fired the executive director who signed off on the expenses, although some party members doubt whether the firing is valid.
Hoback said it’s not uncommon for party leaders to receive some funds to help pay for expenses, but declined to comment any further.
“I don’t know what the details are so I’d just be speculating,” Hoback said. “I think we have to wait for the details to come out before we make an educated analysis.”
Hoback also plans to wait before deciding which candidate to back in the next Conservative leadership race. He supported Erin O’Toole last time, and said the Conservative MP for Durham remains a “solid, solid choice.” However, he believes other potential leadership candidates like Rona Ambrose and Quebec MP Gérard Deltell have their strengths too.
Regardless of who wins, Hoback said the next leader needs to have a plan for winning seats in Ontario, and that’s where he’ll focus once the campaign starts.
“We’ve won every seat that we could possibly win in Alberta and Saskatchewan,” he explained. “Maybe there’s a few in Manitoba and maybe there’s a few in British Columbia, but we need to make that breakthrough in Ontario, so I’m going to listen closely to who’s got the game plan and who has the best ideas to do that.”
Scheer faced strong criticism for his socially conservative views during the 2019 campaign, especially for his personal opposition to abortion and his refusal to march in gay pride parades. That criticism continued after the election, as Conservative Party members like Kory Teneycke, a former communications director for Stephen harper and campaign advisor for Maxim Bernier’s conservative leadership bid, said Scheer would have “big problems’ with voters if he didn’t adjust those positions.
Despite criticisms from Teneycke and others, Hoback believes Scheer and other social conservatives should still have a place in the Conservative Party.
“We are a big tent party,” he said. “We have libertarians. We have social conservatives. We have red tories. We have fiscal conservatives. When you look at the bulk of all these groups that make up our tent, 90 per cent of what we talk about we agree on.”
Hoback added that Scheer deserves a lot of credit for his performance as Conservative leader. He said many people originally thought Trudeau would automatically win a second majority, but after the leadership convention it became apparent that might not be the case.
Under Scheer, the Conservatives increased their seat count and won the popular vote, while also reducing the Trudeau Liberals to a majority government. However, he also faced criticism from party members who felt the Conservatives should have defeated Trudeau’s scandal-plagued Liberal government.
“Trudeau was basically supposed to be in for another eight years, and (Scheer) put a serious dent in his armor in this last campaign,” Hoback said. “He can take pride in that. He just didn’t have it to complete the job, but at the same time, he did everything he could within his powers.”