Andrew Scheer and the Conservative Party's future -

Andrew Scheer and the Conservative Party’s future

His wink-and-a-nod Conservatism will not be super-impressive to a nation of distracted voters. The job ahead is daunting.


These things used to happen on the floor of delegated conventions: a party’s accredited delegates would seem to be heading in one direction, only to stop, stare one another in the eye, and pivot. The Progressive Conservatives in 1976, putting the old-school populist Claude Wagner on top of three ballots only to crown an unsteady new-generation man, Joe Clark, on the fourth. The Liberals in 2006: Ignatieff and Rae, Ignatieff and Rae, then Stéphane Dion roaring up the inside. We told one another such hijinx were impossible any more, with almost all the ballots cast in advance.

Maybe. But this odd Conservative race ended so close that perhaps it’s possible to wonder whether, in the campaign’s last few days, just enough last-minute voters gave Maxime Bernier one last look—and turned away.

His stance against supply management in agriculture, which would have won Bernier a landslide victory if only newspaper columnists and economists were voting, cost him bragging rights in his native Quebec early on: in January four Quebec Conservative MPs announced they were supporting Andrew Scheer because he supported supply management and he just might beat Bernier.

READ MORE: Andrew Scheer’s victory speech takes aim at Trudeau

In the campaign’s closing days, my colleague John Geddes read Bernier’s policy on health care and realized it would mean the effective end of the Canada Health Act. Bernier’s own staff finally acknowledged as much. There may come a day when a political party wants to pick a fight over health care, but to many Conservatives it was a nasty surprise to discover the day might be so close.

And so on. Bernier’s staff seemed a touch eager to get the victory parade started. Bernier’s Friday night speech at the “leadership event,” next door to a dress-up party at a Toronto airport-strip convention rent-a-hall, fell flat. Bernier had just about zero appeal to the party’s assorted family-values constituencies. None of these problems, by itself, would sink a cocky, dynamic candidate with bold ideas on serious issues. But each was like a sleeve of ball bearings injected into the shoes of a good runner in what would turn out to be a 13-ballot marathon.

So get to know Andrew Scheer. Every year when he was Speaker of the Commons, he’d welcome organizers and winners of the Maclean’s Parliamentarian of the Year awards for lunch in the Speaker’s chambers. He’d make sure I was seated on his right and he’d spend the hour cheerfully grilling me for political gossip and analysis. He’s deeply political, deeply partisan, and maybe a little young for the Reagan-Thatcher instincts that are so deeply ingrained in him.

He was one of the first members of the Conservative caucus to support Brexit, though I’m quite sure at least two-thirds of his caucus colleagues agreed with him, most quietly. It’s automatic when you get all your Europe news from the Telegraph and the Spectator. He had few clear, memorable policies—his victory will be seen, with some justification, as the choice of a party that has decided not to be too clear or too memorable in what it proposes—but he did get some mileage, in the home stretch, from a promise to withhold “federal funding” from universities that “don’t protect free speech.”

READ MORE: Andrew Scheer’s path to leadership of the Conservative Party

He meant universities that don’t let, say, Ann Coulter speak. He will learn, quickly, to be careful what he wishes for. There are a hell of a lot more universities in Canada where student groups celebrate Israeli Apartheid Day than campuses wondering when Ann Coulter will pop by. Does Scheer intend to protect Israeli Apartheid Day by withdrawing health-care research money?

But he will have plenty of time to figure out the answer to that one. The campaign is two-ish years away. The Liberals were so eager to run against Max Bernier they spent the weekend doing so, using social media and jokey props to remind everyone that Bernier was once kicked out of Stephen Harper’s cabinet for poor judgment. Scheer, in contrast, was elected Speaker by his colleagues, is a consistently strong question-period performer, and brings with him some of Rona Ambrose’s cheerful mien. His preference for leaving third rails untouched—supply management, medicare—means he makes a smaller target than Bernier would have, though have no fear, the Liberals will still find reasons to take their potshots.

He pretty desperately needs a platform. A Conservative MP I know, who didn’t publicly support any candidate, told me he’d be giving his first ballot spot to Scheer because “I’ve had scotch with him in the Speaker’s chamber, I know what he thinks.” Most Canadians haven’t, and the wink-and-a-nod Conservatism Scheer used to rally an extremely slow-building majority within a party of ideologues will not be super-impressive to a nation of distracted voters who do not, as of today, particularly despise Justin Trudeau.

So Scheer will have to operate at two tempos, in two modes. This week in the House of Commons he can be cheerful, cherubic, Dad-jokey and sharp-tongued as he takes the daily battle to Trudeau. But over the next several months he needs to put real meat on the bones of his Conservatism. The job ahead is daunting. Since Confederation, how many prime ministers have come to office with a majority, only to lose the next election? Two: Alexander Mackenzie and R.B. Bennett. Every other PM who got there with a majority on their first try was invited by voters to stick around the next time. “Throw the bums out” is a sentiment that takes time to build. “I’ve got a better idea” offers better chances. If Scheer has better ideas. Up to him now to show us if he does.



Andrew Scheer and the Conservative Party’s future

  1. ‘Now 38, Scheer is often called “Stephen Harper with a smile.” He’s said he doesn’t mind the description because he maintains it was the party’s image—not Conservative policies—that cost them the last election. During his victory speech he called Harper “a man whose leadership i enjoyed working under and a man who will always stand tall in the conservative movement.”’

    No, it’s the policies….and the Cons never catch on to that.

    • Did you notice all the white people at the leadership race, its still a pearly white party, some things just don’t change.

      • Please don’t overdo it CB, we’ll have Sharia laws soon enough.

        • not over my dead body we will

        • Muslims already have Sharia law in Canada. Jews have Halakha, Anglicans have chuch law…so do Catholics…….

          Canadian law overrules all of them.

  2. He still supports furthering the installation of the Neoliberal Age of Austerity along with tweedle dee (Conrad Black’s term for Trudeau when he reassured Bay Street that Trudeau was one of them).

  3. And how old of a leader do you have to be before your in over your head, in the conservative caucus, to be PM, i know the cons pilloried Trudeau for his age and many other things, like hair. I see a young man with a very thin skin, and a very thin resume to boot. He is just what the con base wants, someone as exciting as a bowl of bread pudding. This guy has skeletons in his closet, definitely, you can read it in his eyes, it’s just, are the media going to be giving this guy a free ride, or are they going to start looking under rocks like they did, and they still are with Trudeau. Harper groomed, and even changed this guys diapers, Harper probably even breast feed this guy, so we could in the throws of watching a second coming of Steve Harper, he has that Harper cornball look.

    • Just to add, after reading the morning news circuit, couldn’t help but notice the lovely love letter tribute to the new con leader, on the National Newswatch site from all of the right leaning rag mags, they all seem to be in a flutter over the new leader, far different site(NN) when Trudeau was elected..

    • I still don’t understand why Scheer wasn’t wanted in caucus and shoved into Speaker instead of Cabinet, or why he wanted to escape the Harper regime, or was he tapped to serve by favouring Harper in the Speakers chair? Harper knew he was pliable and controllable?
      There’s something we don’t know. Ottawa media won’t help clarify what happened if it will damage Scheer.
      Look at the uncritical love affair they had with Ambrose.
      She’s left a totally wild, chanting, yelling, unruly, and basically rude caucus.

      • Scheer angled for the Speaker’s job because there was no chance that he would be able to get into Cabinet because of more senior MP’s from Saskatchewan. Scheer faced the same backbench fate as many able Alberta MP’s (Rajotte, Lake).

        The Speaker is an important job. He went against Harper’s wishes in allowing backbench MP’s to speak on issues they care about.

        • Lets see how Niks numbers pan out over the next couple of weeks, see if Harper, excuse me, i mean Scheer, gets a new leader bump, and every new leader gets a bump, Trudeau did, if the numbers stay flat or don’t move, chances are, the rank and file may live to regret. Its fine to get full support from your own party, but can you get support from outside your party. Scheer is center right, not center, he needs to pivot a little to the left in order to pick up the seats to take away from Trudeau, but the So-Cons won’t let Scheer get over that threshold, they(so-cons)are looking for their pound of flesh from the conservatives for the years of sitting in animated suspension in the nose bleed section of the HOCs.

  4. The task ahead for Andrew will be a fairly easy one.The lie-berals with blunder boy at the helm will continue to shoot itself in the foot every time the pothead opens his mouth or travels abroad .I would think that by mid 2019 a few high ranking Lie-berals will be fighting criminal charges and trying to stay out of jail.Canadians will be tired of the carbon tax and will want it removed.

  5. I was surprised Scheer took such a nasty personal attack mode toward Trudeau. The Carribean crack backfired when the crowd seemed to instantly see the unfortunate Ambrose connection. And they were taking selfies on the stage!
    A slur against Pierre seemed out of place. Gratuitous. Unnecessarily snarky.
    So I assume this mean spirited personal gotcha style will continue.
    Too much to expect in his first speech he might say he wants to work with other leaders and parties to make Parliament work in the best interests of the country.
    What a stupid thing for me to say.
    The Cons and Ottawa media still firmly believe Trudeau has no right to be PM, not smart enough, not educated, no experience. Just not ready as they were taught by the Party in the campaign advertising. And they think their contempt is shared by Canadians.
    But we’re getting close to two years, many international summits, meetings with world leaders, budgets at home, economic policy, social issues handled.
    Here’s the news Ottawa. Canadians don’t despise him the way you do. They like him. They think he’s doing a fairly good job.
    Scheer,drop the personal attacks, get the disgraceful backbench antics under control and come up with some mature well thought out policies and ideas.

    • All Scheer was saying was that he plans to nuke all the dumb ass stuff Trudeau has done-like the carbon tax ( a money grab), giving back some of the taxes that Trudeau has squandered, and heading for a balanced budget whereas Trudeau is on a bent on making Canada looks like Ontario.
      It will be great to have a P.M. who can say full sentences without all the ahhing an oohing.

  6. As if any campus has any trouble hosting `Israeli Apartheid Week’. As though any `anti-Zionist’ has any trouble with thuggish students preventing them from speaking…