Andrew Scheer's Everyman image won't be enough to beat Justin Trudeau - Macleans.ca
 

Andrew Scheer’s Everyman image won’t be enough to beat Justin Trudeau

Any strategy that amounts to Scheer trying to go head-to-head with Trudeau is doomed, experts say


 
Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer and Michael Sirko, left, co-founder of the Vimy Brewing Company, clink beer glasses during a photo opportunity before a press conference launching the Save Local Business campaign in response to the government's tax changes for small businesses, at Vimy Brewing Company in Ottawa on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. (Justin Tang/CP)

Conservative party Leader Andrew Scheer and Michael Sirko, left, co-founder of the Vimy Brewing Company, clink beer glasses before a press conference launching the Save Local Business campaign in response to the government’s tax changes for small businesses, at Vimy Brewing Company in Ottawa on Sept. 19, 2017. (Justin Tang/CP)

Andrew Scheer leaves no room for doubt about how he hopes Canadian voters see him. On the night of his upset win last spring in the Conservative leadership race, Scheer derided Justin Trudeau’s Liberals as a club for “connected Ottawa insiders,” while touting his Tories as the party of, quite simply, “taxpayers.” More recently, in a party video in which he strolls along a path by a suburban playground, he scoffs at Liberals for “taking their cues from the cocktail circuit,” while declaring that he’s attuned to “grocery stores and soccer fields.”

READ: Andrew Scheer of the suburbs vs Justin Trudeau and his throngs

His anti-elitist rhetoric felt relevant through most of the fall of 2017. The serial stumbles of multi-millionaire Finance Minister Bill Morneau—first on small-business tax reform and then on conflict-of-interest questions—played neatly into Scheer’s narrative about Trudeau’s Liberals being dominated by out-of-touch rich guys. Yet not all Conservatives are confident Scheer can count on his I’m-more-like-you theme to carry him through 2018, as he tries to consolidate his relatable image in the run-up to the 2019 election.

Michele Austin, a senior adviser at the Ottawa-based consulting firm Summa Strategies and a former chief of staff to two cabinet ministers in Stephen Harper’s government, says any strategy that amounts to Scheer trying to go head-to-head with Trudeau is doomed. “I haven’t seen any numbers on Justin Trudeau that say, ‘Oh, there’s a weakness here we can take advantage of,’ ” she says. “There are [Liberal] caucus weaknesses, there are policy weaknesses, there are regional weaknesses. But if you’re running against Justin Trudeau, that’s a fool’s errand.”

Austin argues that Conservative strategy must shift away from broadly asking voters to pick between Trudeau and Scheer and instead target clusters of ridings and demographic segments that detailed voter research shows might be primed to shift away from the Liberals. Pollster Shachi Kurl, executive director of the Angus Reid Institute, says polls show that Trudeau’s persona remains potent, and that it defines the Liberal brand for many voters. That might offer Scheer an opening to take more of a team approach, she suggests, although any party strategy that’s not focused tightly on the leader would be a rarity in Canadian federal politics.

Kurl says Scheer’s starting point is that he can rely on about 20 per cent of voters sticking with his Conservatives, with another 20 per cent open to being persuaded. The problem is that the loyal base mostly responds to messages about smaller government and lower taxes, but those willing to be courted often want to hear messages about government doing new things. “The big issue for Scheer is he’s got to keep the base fed and watered and happy, but he’s also got to grow that base,” Kurl says.

READ: Andrew Scheer learns his job’s no fun

One model for expanding Conservative support will be tested on a large scale in Ontario in 2018, where voters are set go to the polls in a June 7 provincial election. In his bid to unseat Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals, Ontario Conservative Leader Patrick Brown, a former federal MP, has tacked to the centre on a few highly symbolic issues. “Imagine Brown wins,” says a senior Conservative who asked not to be named. “Then a lot of people, certainly around Toronto in the old Red Tory crowd, will say, ‘Patrick marched in the Pride parade and said yes to a carbon tax, and he won. So, what’s your plan, Andrew?’ ”

In fact, Scheer resolutely avoided hot-button issues during his patient, quiet, come-from-behind campaign for the federal party leadership. He hasn’t shown any hint of willingness to risk alienating diehards, as Brown has on gay Pride and climate change policy. Instead, Scheer’s top aides say he is determined to keep the focus on managing the economy. There’s little dissent among Tories on that score. They revelled as Morneau’s woes on small-business taxes dominated debate through much of the summer and fall of 2017. “Conservatives win when the ballot question is around economic policy and tax policy,” says that senior Conservative.

Still, Scheer can’t expect the Liberals to keep giving him gifts as valuable as the small-business tax fiasco. The 2018 economic picture is shaping up well for the Liberals, with growth strong and the federal deficit coming in lower than projected. That could leave Scheer searching for other issues on which to score points. Another surge in refugees crossing into Canada from the U.S.? Rough patches on the road to marijuana legalization? Which issues he highlights could depend on what he picks up from soccer sidelines and grocery-store aisles.

MORE ABOUT ANDREW SCHEER:


 

Andrew Scheer’s Everyman image won’t be enough to beat Justin Trudeau

  1. Andrew Sheer and the cons have to start to use ‘Bullets'(policy and vision),instead of ‘Boomerangs'(insults and rhetoric),if they have any chance of penetrating the ‘Trudeau Juggernaut’. Just a small reminder for Sheer as well, if he doesn’t show signs of his party coming out of the cave’s, and pack away that ideology thing, chances are he may end up in the same ‘Pew” as Judge Roy Moore, you know the old saying, same church, same pew. Patrick Brown just made his first move into oblivion the other day, and Sheer and his party has the same approach, by voting against legalized pot if elected. Canada is having a taste of progress, the Genie is out of the bottle, Canadians love choices and the right to choose, not back to chains and prohibition.

    • Trudeau had to make big changes to the liberal party when he was elected, he had to make bold policies changes, he took a risk, hoping with the changes he made, he would get the attention of the country, a lot of liberals were very upset with some of his changes, and he had to contend with blue liberals if he wanted to win, the risk paid off, and Trudeau won in 2015. In other words, Trudeau would have lost with the Status Quo of the direction the party was going in before the election, so he took a ‘Risk’ and the country payed attention, and it paid off in big dividends. Andrew Sheer wants his party to stay in the caves, no risk, no changes, means your tent doesn’t grow, instead, your stuck with Status Quo.

  2. “Everyman” is not a Rebel media adherent the way Scheer is. This is Canada, not the southern USA.

  3. No matter how hard Andrew Sheer will try to keep the ‘ugly uncle’ away from the public eye, he will eventually creep up. By ugly uncle, I mean that rump in the Conservative party aligned with the alt-right and Rebel Media islamophobe gang and the Evangelical, pro-life, Trump-cheering Bible-thumpers. If Sheer wants to win, he’ll have to keep a tight lid on this merry gang.

  4. Sheer should get coaching about how to compose himself. He always has a sh!t eating grin on his face and it causes people to not take him seriously. He looks like a child in an adult discussion.

    • That grin, as you say causes people not to take Scheer seriously, as evidenced in his stint as House Speaker and now as leader of the Opposition. Compounding the situation is his own MPs still haven’t figured that he is the new Sheriff in town. They have been allowed (prompted?) to run amok. Is this what Scheer thinks is leadership?

  5. Trudeau’s fate depends on the economy. His economic policies favour the elites over the middle and working classes, and that will become more evident over time. And his economic policies cannot work in the long run, but they may get him through the next election, since pumping up the economy with $100 billion of new debt over his mandate might provide enough of a temporary blip to get him re-elected.

    • 70,OOO elites got jobs last month?

  6. Scheer’s potential lies with his ability to draw the electorate’s attention to the fact that far too many of the causes championed by the Libs and NDP’s are usually of a certain nature. They require tangible sacrifices of time, labor, and money on the part of the electorate, with only intangible, ephemeral even, benefits. The pattern also follows that the most visible and loudest champions of such causes are well insulated from any of the very real downsides of such policies.
    From Bill Morneau spending months promoting changes to tax policy aimed at impacting virtually everyone whose name is not Bill Morneau, to Justin Trudeau jetting hither and yon to promote the Liberal “Climate Agenda”, or vacation on a private tropical island while writing a speech about the evils of income disparity, all Scheer has to do is keep beating the drum that the Liberals don’t care about how well off taxpayers are, they care about how Liberals feel about what it is they’re doing.

  7. This coming from the same paper that said Hillary would win by a landslide, lol.
    Keep beating that liberal drum no matter what the truth is, we’ll see who’s right soon enough.

  8. This sounds exactly like the MSM tripe Americans were fed before Trump was elected with an electoral landslide in 2016; despite all the naysayers who assured us that Hillary was a shoo in. Likewise those Brits who supported Brexit in Britain were assured by the MSM (and pressured by that globalist traitor, Obama) that they could never win. Wrong again.

    It ain’t over until the election count is in and the village idiot is kicked out of the PMO.

  9. Andrew Scheer has all the personality of a glass of water. I’m saying this as someone who detests the Liberal party and the NDP. If he’s trying to convey an ‘everyman’ image, he’s failing, and that’s bad news, because the kind of populism that is sweeping the rest of the world is here in Canada too. If the Tories want to win, it is critical that they tap into that.