POLITICS
03/07/2019 16:15 EST | Updated 03/07/2019 17:18 EST

Scheer Doesn't Want Early Election, Despite Claiming Trudeau’s Government Has ‘Ground To A Complete Halt’

Canadians are expected to head to the polls on Oct. 21.

Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer speaks during a press conference in Toronto on March 7, 2019.
Chris Young/CP
Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer speaks during a press conference in Toronto on March 7, 2019.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer isn't itching for an early election, despite claiming that the "government of Canada has ground to a complete halt."

The Tory leader, who a week ago charged that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had "lost the moral authority to govern" and must resign, reiterated those demands in Toronto Thursday.

Yet, Scheer also conceded there is little he can do about the matter.

Watch: Scheer reiterates call for PM to resign

"If (Trudeau) doesn't do the right thing and step aside, Canadians will determine his fate this fall," Scheer said, referring to the Oct. 21 election.

Scheer spoke to reporters hours after Trudeau addressed the SNC-Lavalin controversy that has cost him two cabinet ministers and his most trusted adviser in just a month.

Trudeau denied inappropriate pressure was placed on his former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to offer SNC-Lavalin a remediation deal that would let the Quebec engineering giant avoid a criminal trial on bribery and corruption charges.

The prime minister offered no apologies to Wilson-Raybould, but conceded he should have been aware about an "erosion of trust" between her and his office.

Scheer said he stands by his call for the prime minister to quit because "the real Justin Trudeau" is someone who "can't manage his office, let alone the affairs of a great nation."

He urged Liberal MPs to "speak truth to power" — a reference to Wilson-Raybould's infamous statement after she was removed as attorney general — and send a signal that Trudeau "is not entitled to be the prime minister of Canada."

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Jane Philpott's resignation as Treasury Board president Monday, citing lost confidence in how the government is handling the SNC-Lavalin issue, revealed a government in chaos, Scheer has said.

While the Tory leader is calling for an RCMP investigation, he is not calling for a snap election.

"We have fixed election law on the books and I don't think those should be manipulated for political purposes," he said Monday. "Justin Trudeau already stands accused of using political motivations to undermine and to break the law. This is not something that we're calling for."

Under Stephen Harper, Tories ignored their own fixed-election-date legislation to call a snap vote in 2008. Harper said at the time that Parliament had become "dysfunctional."

Finance Minister Bill Morneau will table a budget on March 19. A defeat of that legislation — extremely unlikely given the Liberal majority in the House of Commons — would cause the government to fall.

Fred Chartrand/CP
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes his way to start a news conference in Ottawa on March 7, 2019.

Scheer could also move a longshot motion of no confidence and attempt to pressure Liberal MPs to abandon the government. When asked if he would take such a step last week, Scheer said that, "at this point," Tories are merely calling for Trudeau to step down.

To trigger an election, Scheer would need at least 13 Liberals to jump ship and vote for a no-confidence motion or against Morneau's budget, as well as every Tory, New Democrat, Bloc Quebecois, and Independent MP in the House and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.

The NDP, however, is in a deep fundraising hole and the party's leader, Jagmeet Singh, won't take a seat until later this month. Singh reiterated Thursday that the NDP wants a full public inquiry into the affair.

Earlier in the day, Scheer tweeted that Trudeau's government cannot be redeemed.

"It must be defeated," he said. "Conservatives are ready."