Andrew Scheer stepping down as Conservative Party leader

After weeks of mounting criticism of his election performance, Andrew Scheer announced today he is stepping down as Conservative Party leader.

Scheer told his caucus the news earlier today. After he made the formal announcement in the House of Commons, he received a standing ovation on both sides of the aisle.

"In order to chart the course ahead, this party, this movement, needs someone who can give 100 per cent to the efforts, and after some conversations with my kids, my loved ones, I felt it was time to put my family first," said Scheer.

"Our Conservative team is always stronger when we are united."

Scheer said he did not come to the decision lightly, but only after long conversations with people close to him following the Oct. 21 election.

He said it has been an "incredible challenge" for his family to keep up with the pace required for him to lead the caucus and party through the election.

Scheer will stay on until a new leader is chosen.

Conservative MPs and grassroots party members have been divided over whether he should stay on as leader through the next election.

Several failed candidates and party operatives have publicly questioned his leadership and suggested he should step aside. Until today, Scheer had given every impression of digging in and defending his leadership.

"I am staying on to fight the fight that Canadians elected us to do. Now is not the time for internal divisions or internal party politics. That is an unfortunate part of the Conservative tradition in this country, but it's essential that we stay focused on the task at hand," he said on Nov. 28.

"I will be making the case to our members that we need to stay united and focused, and will be seeking a mandate to do that in April."

Conservatives gather in Toronto for the biennial convention in April.

Supporters had pointed out that Scheer led the party through the election campaign to an increased seat count and a boost in popular support, but detractors said his campaign failed to capitalize on a series of Liberal scandals and missteps.

Scheer has been dogged by questions over his positions on abortion and same-sex marriage, which many people inside and outside the party say are out of step with the majority of Canadians.