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Former MP Armstrong not surprised with Scheer’s decision to step aside as party leader

Andrew Scheer (right), shown with former Nova Scotia Premier Roger Bacon during a visit to Amherst in August 2018, announced Thursday he is stepping down as leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. File
Andrew Scheer (right), shown with former Nova Scotia Premier Roger Bacon during a visit to Amherst in August 2018, announced Thursday he is stepping down as leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. File - Dave Mathieson
TRURO, N.S. —

Not surprised or shocked is how former Cumberland-Colchester Conservative MP Scott Armstrong described party leader Andrew Scheer’s decision to resign on Thursday.

“I won’t say shocked. Anytime you lose an election there’s a question about leadership and the party has to decide who they want to lead them going forward,” Armstrong said later in the day. “The leader also has to make a decision whether to stay on because it’s a three or four-year commitment. With the Bloc Quebecois supporting the Liberals it’s likely it will be a longer minority government and he likely surveyed the situation and made a decision he thinks is best for the party.”

Scheer told the House of Commons of his decision early Thursday, adding he will remain in his role until the Conservative Party picks his replacement. There is a party convention in April, but it’s not known if that will be when a convention is held to pick a new leader.

There was news out of Ottawa earlier in the day the resignation was prompted by word the leader was using money from the party to pay for his children’s private school tuition.

The Conservative leader has come under fire since election night because he fell short of defeating Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government, even though it was reduced from majority status to minority. Former MP Peter MacKay, who many consider a candidate to replace Scheer, was quoted as saying the leader was like a hockey player who failed to score on an open net.

Armstrong, who lost to Liberal candidate Lenore Zann by just 453 votes on Oct. 21, served with Scheer in the Conservative caucus after he was elected in the 2009 by-election to replace Bill Casey until he was defeated by Casey in 2015.

“When I was first elected, he was one of the first MPs who reached out to me. He had the caucus basketball team and he asked me to play,” Armstrong said. “I consider him a friend and I was proud to run for him when he was leader in the last election. I'm glad he’s going to stay on as an MP and as leader until another leader is chosen.”

Scheer visited Cumberland-Colchester at least four times over the last year, after Armstrong announced he would be representing the party in the October election.

While he will not be putting his name forwards as a leadership candidate, Armstrong he will be active during the campaign and will get behind a candidate and work hard for whoever he decides to support.

During the party’s last leadership campaign he supported Lisa Raitt.

If Peter MacKay runs, Armstrong said, he would seriously consider supporting him since he worked for MacKay during his unsuccessful 2003 leadership run.

“The first thing that has to happen is the national council will have to make a decision on the timing of a leadership selection process and then we’ll see who throws their hat in the ring. There will be many great candidates from across the country,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong said Scheer’s decision will not be bad for the party or its fortunes next time. He said the party had the most votes in the last election, but not the most seats, and the next leader will be well-positioned behind a unified party entering the next federal election campaign.

He hasn’t decided whether he will be a candidate in the next election.

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