On the last day of a difficult week on the campaign trail for Andrew Scheer, the Conservative leader visibly didn’t want to talk about a B.C. candidate he fired the previous night for slurs she had made against LGBTQ people.
Upon his exit from glad-handing at a harvest festival in Newcastle, Ont., reporters tried to ask Scheer questions about Heather Leung, who suggested in a YouTube video posted in 2013, that LGBTQ people need to “recruit” children.
“As you know, the candidate has been fired from our campaign,” Scheer said, walking briskly towards his tour bus. The party announced Friday night the candidate for the British Columbia riding of Burnaby North-Seymour had been booted for her “offensive comments.”
Scheer’s campaign team did not make the leader officially available to speak about Leung on Saturday, so reporters had to follow him through the harvest festival parking lot.
In another YouTube video, purportedly from 2016, Leung discusses what she called the “perverted sexual preferences” of LGBTQ people.
Scheer told reporters he had confidence in his campaign’s candidate vetting process. “We ask our candidates to be open and forthcoming,” he said. “And when we become aware of things that are inappropriate, we take appropriate action.”
Watch Andrew Scheer answer questions on the candidate vetting process:
The Conservatives this week announced big-ticket campaign pledges on foreign policy and about strategies to deal with gun crime in Canada, but Scheer was forced to spend a lot of time talking about his background and beliefs.
Scheer was confronted by the revelation he is in the process of renouncing the dual American-Canadian citizenship he has through his U.S.-born father, and why he had never said anything publicly about it until now.
When his colleagues over the years attacked political opponents about their dual citizenships, he stayed silent.
Debate a test for Tory leader
The Tory leader spent the early part of the campaign — including a laboured debate performance Wednesday night — refusing to state his stance on abortion. Scheer came out on Thursday saying he was “pro-life” but added a Conservative government led by him wouldn’t restrict access to the procedure in Canada.
Earlier Saturday, Scheer got a reprieve from the campaign tumult. He was a guest of honour at the official opening of what was described as the largest Buddhist temple outside China.
The Conservative leader was warmly welcomed by hundreds of worshippers attending the celebration southwest of Peterborough, Ont.
The large wooden temple at the Wutai Shan Buddhist Garden, with its golden-coloured roof, sat overlooking the rolling hills of the countryside, covered in the autumn-coloured forest.
Temple president Dayi Shi introduced Scheer and translated his last name into Chinese, saying it meant “calm mind gives rise to wisdom.”
Scheer told the crowd that the temple — almost complete but still partly under construction — “will be the largest Buddhist temple in North America and the largest anywhere in the world outside China.”
He also pledged his government would “defend religious freedom at home and abroad.… We will protect freedom of conscience, thought and belief as core human rights.”
The Conservative campaign is scheduled to take Sunday off, before picking up again Monday for the English-language debate in Ottawa.