Conservative MP Andrew Scheer listens to a question after announcing he will run for the leadership of the Conservative party Wednesday September 28, 2016 in Ottawa. Scheer is accusing possible candidate Kevin O’Leary of trying to avoid an all-French debate in two weeks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Conservative Leader Scheer dismisses two top staff in wake of election loss

Martin Belanger and Simon Jefferies will fill the respective posts on an interim basis

Federal Conservative party Leader Andrew Scheer dismissed two of his top aides on Saturday as he and his party grapple with the fallout of what many see as a disappointing performance in last month’s election.

Scheer announced the changes in a morning letter to caucus, saying chief of staff Marc-Andre Leclerc and communications director Brock Harrison have been relieved of their duties effective immediately.

Martin Belanger and Simon Jefferies will fill the respective posts on an interim basis until full-time replacements can be found.

Scheer did not spell out reasons for the dismissals in his letter, saying only that personnel changes were being made as the party prepares to assume an active role in the liberal-led minority parliament.

“We have an important job to do – holding Justin Trudeau and his corrupt Liberal government to account – and when we do that job well, we will be ready to replace him when the next election comes,” the letter said.

ALSO READ: Scheer facing new kind of civil war brewing within the Conservative party

The changes come at a time when both the party and Scheer are facing tough questions following the results of the Oct. 21 election.

Scheer was widely perceived as a front-runner following the SNC-Lavalin affair that was believed to have dimmed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chances at re-election. Victory seemed still more plausible after images surfaced earlier in the campaign depicting Trudeau in blackface.

But polls consistently showed that Scheer was unable to gain a meaningful edge, with the Liberals and Conservatives running in a dead heat throughout the campaign.

And while the Conservatives gained seats on election day, few of them came in the seat-rich battlegrounds of Quebec and Ontario. The Liberals now form a minority government with the Conservatives maintaining their status as the official opposition.

Word of the staffing changes came as Scheer toured the Atlantic provinces, partially to gather feedback from party members.

Both of the dismissed staffers issued Facebook posts acknowledging the personnel changes and thanking Scheer for his support over the years.

“Of course, the results of October 21 are not what I expected,” Leclerc wrote. “But they do not reflect all the efforts our team made before and during the campaign.”

Leclerc said he would now be retiring from politics after spending the past 10 years in the field.

“I wish nothing but success to my former colleagues in the months ahead,” wrote Harrison, who once worked for Alberta’s now-defunct Wildrose party. ”We all poured ourselves into this campaign, and while I am part of changes that had to be made, I hope you all continue on with your eyes on the prize.”

Questions around Scheer’s own job continue to swirl as the house prepares to resume in two weeks time.

His fate will be decided at a leadership review in April 2020.

Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press

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