POLITICS
04/26/2019 10:27 EDT | Updated 04/26/2019 15:02 EDT

Scheer Downplays Closed-Door Election Strategy Meeting With Oil Execs

"I meet with people all the time."

Justin Tang/CP
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer meets volunteers during an event in the Kanata suburb of Ottawa on April 25, 2019.

KANATA, ONT. — Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer didn't have much to say Thursday about a private conference he held with oil executives earlier this month to iron out a plan to boot the Liberals from government.

"I meet with people all the time. I meet with different representatives of many different types of industries," Scheer told HuffPost Canada after some pre-election door knocking in an Ottawa suburb.

According to a Globe and Mail report, Scheer and other top Tories met with oil industry executives at the Azuridge Estate Hotel just outside of Calgary on April 11. They gathered to share ideas about campaign strategies including using independent interest groups to rally the Conservative base.

Justin Tang/CP
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer speaks to supporters before a door knocking event for volunteers in the Kanata suburb of Ottawa on April 25, 2019.

Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould called the campaign-related meeting between Scheer and oil executives "concerning."

The day's agenda included a litigation session hosted by Mike Roman, who used to lead the Koch network research unit before finding work in the White House as a Trump administration operative.

Scheer did not speak to the details in the Globe story, instead said his party is a champion for the Canadian energy industry and pipelines.

The Tory leader joined Kanata—Carleton candidate Justina McCaffrey for some canvassing on a quiet residential street in the neighbourhood of Katimavik-Hazeldean. The area was historically Conservative until Liberals' Karen McCrimmon won the seat in 2015.

"This is one of the ridings we're going to get back," Scheer said. With the election six months out, the party said they've already knocked on 500,000 doors across the country since January.

Justin Tang/CP
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer speaks to a resident with Kanata—Carleton candidate Justina McCaffrey, right, during a door knocking event in the Kanata suburb of Ottawa on April 25, 2019.

Approximately 80 people showed up outside a nearby community centre to listen to the Conservative leader. He stood next to a dark blue polished pickup truck and portrayed his party as an underdog ahead of the upcoming election.

"We are a grassroots party," Scheer said. "We don't have well-connected friends that, as we learned today, funnel money through donations. We don't have the types of corporate buddies that Justin has."

That jab at the prime minister references a $1,600 ticket a U.S. cannabis technology company CEO received from a Liberal donor to attend a party fundraiser with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier this month. The company later bragged about its CEO having a one-on-one conversation with Trudeau in a news release. The party refunded the cost of the ticket.

Scheer calls Liberal attacks 'smear and fear' campaign

MPs are scheduled to return to the House of Commons next week. Before the break, parties began to engage in heated debates around topics such as racism and climate change.

The Tory leader told supporters that the Liberal "smear and fear" campaign of "made-up, baseless" attacks against him is a sign that Conservatives are winning.

Without using the words "white supremacy," Scheer talked about recent Liberal campaigns that have linked him to white supremacy. The attacks and "personal smears" didn't work in Ontario or Alberta, he said, and the results of those elections flipped power to conservative parties.

Watch: Trudeau, Scheer have heated exchange over white supremacy

The SNC-Lavalin affair got one passing mention before Scheer moved on to mock Trudeau's 2014 remark that the budget "will balance itself."

Nothing new was offered in terms of planks for the party's election platform.

Scheer repeated his pledge to make repealing the carbon tax his number one priority should his Conservatives be given an opportunity to form government this fall. He pivoted criticism he's received over his lack of a climate plan to talking about the carbon tax.

"I'd like to see the Liberal environmental plan. Because the carbon tax isn't an environmental plan, it is a tax grab," he said. His next comment earned him more applause and laughter from supporters.

"The Liberals are making you pay at the pumps. We will make the Liberals pay at the polls."

While the claim the carbon tax is snatching money away from Canadians is seductive political fodder, it conflicts with a new analysis Canada's budget officer released the same day.

More from HuffPost Canada:

The parliamentary budget office report concludes most households will get more money back than what they pay in the carbon tax. The office estimates the pricing plan will generate $2.4 billion in revenues from the fuel charge alone, and $200 million from taxes collected from large industrial emitters.

Scheer use the PBO report as an opportunity to state how the Liberals are giving a pass to big emitters. "Ninety-two per cent of the cost of the carbon tax will be borne by individuals, families, and small and medium sized businesses," he said.

A Conservative government would take the GST portion of the HST off home heating and energy bills, he added, because winter heating in Canada isn't a luxury — it's a necessity. He also pledged to make parental leave tax free.

The crowd clapped to the platform commitments, which have all been previously announced.

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