Former prime minister Stephen Harper’s former right-hand man is coming back to help Andrew Scheer for the next six months.
Ian Brodie, Harper’s ex-chief of staff, will take on the role of adviser to the outgoing Conservative Party leader.
Many in the party say they hope Brodie can rein in what’s being described by some as a “Wild West” atmosphere in both the Official Opposition leader’s office and the wider party as Conservatives get ready for a leadership contest.
A source close to Scheer told CBC News Brodie’s job will be to keep the caucus united and working in concert while Conservatives wait to choose a new leader.
Conservative strategist Tim Powers said that kind of internal discipline is critical in a minority Parliament — where an errant vote or strategic miscalculation on either side of the aisle can lead to the sudden defeat of the government and an unexpected election call.
“He is a key adult to have in the room when a minority accident is the last thing the CPC needs now,” Powers said.
“This is a good move. Many people will be breathing a sigh of relief to know Ian is on board.”
One prominent Conservative called on Brodie to immediately release the internal party report on its election performance, drafted by former Harper cabinet minister John Baird.
“Ian is a person of experience and integrity. I hope he will be able to bring additional transparency and accountability to the party’s operations, starting with a full release of the Baird report,” said Kory Teneycke, a former director of communications for Harper. Teneycke was one of the first prominent Conservatives to call on Scheer to resign after the election.
CBC News has spoken to multiple people in the Conservative Party who say they’ve discussed the report’s contents with Baird. While the party has said the report will not be made public, those sources said it blames the party’s performance in the 2019 election on inexperienced staffers and centralized control of the campaign.
Internal party discipline became an issue for Scheer’s office almost immediately after the fall election, as a movement to push him out of the leadership started mobilizing in public.
Former Harper cabinet minister Peter MacKay — who is expected to officially launch his own leadership bid over the weekend — told a Washington, D.C. audience in late October that the Conservatives’ election loss was like a hockey player failing to score on “an open net.” He also said Scheer’s reluctance to discuss his past positions on abortion and LGBTQ rights “hung around [his] neck like a stinking albatross.”
In late November, Teneycke and other former Harper aides co-founded the group Conservative Victory to organize a pressure campaign to convince Scheer to resign.
That same month, senior Conservative strategists Melissa Lantsman and Jamie Ellerton published an article in the Globe and Mail arguing Scheer’s “visible discomfort” during the campaign with questions about LGBTQ rights undermined the campaign.
Then, on Dec. 12 — as reports were emerging about his use of money from the party’s Conservative Fund to pay for private school tuition for his kids — Scheer announced his resignation as leader.
The party’s executive director, Dustin van Vugt, said that Scheer and his family were presented with “a standard offer to cover costs associated with moving his family from Regina to Ottawa.” Those funds included schooling, he said.
A source close to the board told CBC News in December that board members were blindsided by the news of the tuition payments — and the fund was in the process of looking into the matter when Scheer abruptly quit his post as permanent leader. The fund’s decision to probe the spending and Scheer’s resignation were “not viewed as coincidental,” the source said.
Conservative Fund directors dismissed van Vugt from his post in mid-December. A month later, Stephen Harper quit the his position on the fund’s board.
Right now, Scheer’s chief of staff and communications director are working on an interim basis. Scheer fired chief of staff Marc-André Leclerc and communications director Brock Harrison in late November in response to the party’s failure to defeat the Liberals the previous month.