By electing Andrew Scheer, the Conservatives choose not to go 'Mad' - Macleans.ca
 

By electing Andrew Scheer, the Conservatives choose not to go ‘Mad’

By rejecting Maxime Bernier with a cautious, conservative choice for leader, Conservatives choose life, as a party


 

Selecting Maxime Bernier as Conservative leader would have qualified as a bold move. Revolutionary, even.

After years of perceived small ball under Stephen Harper, Conservative policy under Bernier would have shot right by leaps and bounds.

But in the end, it appears someone who styled himself as “Mad Max” presented too much risk. And so Conservatives elected 38-year-old former House Speaker Andrew Scheer as their leader over Bernier—albeit on the final ballot and by the slimmest of margins.

What? Did you expect any differently from a party and movement that values life, electoral and otherwise? Picking Scheer provides the best chance for the existing body of Canadian conservatives to stick together.

It is also a deeply cautious choice, one that values preserving the gains made by Stephen Harper over fresh thinking on how to make new advances with the electorate.

Were Maxime Bernier’s pledges to scrap supply management, overhaul health care, and shock the tax system simply too much? Or was it a more parochial concern like his accented English?

Or was it none of the above?

PAUL WELLS: Andrew Scheer and the Conservative Party’s future

The inclusion of Pierre Lemieux—a staunch social conservative—until the eighth ballot, and Brad Trost—Mr. Social Conservative—in the race until the 11th ballot provides the answer.

The Conservatives might have won their 2011 majority without Quebec, but this leadership race shows no Conservative can secure his own party without social conservatives. Scheer was simply more trusted by this key constituency (over Bernier) to, if not advance social conservative positions, at least prevent their further erosion.

Here, Scheer will need to continue the art of Stephen Harper and keep social conservatives onside without overtly doing much for them. Scheer has, after all, declared gay marriage and abortion closed, as per party policy.

The need to at least speak to so-cons goes a long way toward explaining Scheer’s policy on universities and free speech, which will send the right signal to a crowd nervous about L/liberal bodies cracking down on conservative thought on gays and marriage (and Muslims, sadly).

More broadly, the decision to continue on with a Harper approach that’s a bit shinier and happier makes sense.

The Conservative Party isn’t in pieces, or in obvious need of an extensive overhaul. It has a healthy 99 seats in the House of Commons. Cash is pouring into to the party’s coffers. And Justin Trudeau’s Liberals aren’t exactly nailing government, despite their continued advantage in the polls.

By selecting Andrew Scheer, one could argue Conservatives are confident the Trudeau government will never meet its potential, and that Canadians will be ready to consider another option in two years’ time, even if that option is decidedly vanilla.

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

It doesn’t necessarily matter that most Canadians couldn’t pick Scheer out of a lineup at this stage of the proceedings. Indeed, one of the benefits of subtracting the word “interim” from the front of “Conservative leader” is that the choice for Canadians in 2019 is now clear. It’s no longer Trudeau against nothing; it’s Trudeau against someone real.

The Liberals know this, which is why they will quickly begin with the hard work of framing the next choice. The early attacks during the Conservative convention were predicated on a Bernier win, but Liberal strategists will quickly recalibrate, most likely in the direction of presenting Scheer as Harper 2.0.

It’s a simple story, one voters turned off by Harper in 2015 will be open to hearing again.

This is the biggest and best reason for Scheer to open up and adopt some of the policy boldness shown by his fellow leadership contestants. The surest route to party growth is new policy to put in the window.

Pinching third-place leadership candidate Erin O’Toole’s “Kickstart” policy for new graduates could be one. Adopting some of Bernier’s tax reforms could be another. Sadly, a Scheer-led party won’t try for fresh thinking on the environment or carbon taxation, which will continue to limit the Conservatives’ appeal for younger voters.

MORE: A young Conservative on what comes next

A heavy lean on fiscal responsibility is also a given, and something that will be supported by the Conservative coalition and persuadable voters worried about Trudeau’s profligacy.

Holding Trudeau to account in the House of Commons on this and other matters will be the immediate glue that binds together all factions of the Conservative Party. They might have voted for different potential leaders, but they all dislike the one Canada last chose.

Having someone of the same generational cohort as the Prime Minister will help. And while Scheer isn’t as charismatic as Trudeau, or a social-media supernova like him either, he is closer than Trudeau to the pressures faced by Canadian families in this slow-growth world.

This authenticity, channelled properly, could be a compelling proposition to voters tired of the slick self-promotion of a government short on accomplishment. Especially if the economy deteriorates appreciably.

Congratulations, Conservatives. You survived the leadership race. Your reward? More hard work.

Andrew MacDougall is a London-based columnist and commentator. He was a director of communications to Stephen Harper.


 

By electing Andrew Scheer, the Conservatives choose not to go ‘Mad’

  1. Interesting isn’t it?

    Cons are always wanting lower taxes, private medical care, cost cutting……and yet when they get it they run right back to religion instead.

    Weird.

    • And Brad Wall climate change denial with silly job killing carbon tax chant, weaken public education (easy for rich to leave, public schools for the poor) get rid of CBC. Screaming, chanting, personal attacks in Commons. What else?

      • The Liberal Carbon Tax has nothing to do with helping the environment but everything to do with raising more REVENUE TOOLS. If the carbon tax is to help the environment, why doesn’t JT reduce the GST or personal income tax by the same amount? A a carbon tax is really a sin tax to change people’s behavior. I have no problems with them levying it, but it should be offset by a lower GST as that would accomplish the same thing.

        • I thought the world had pretty much decided a price on carbon was a good way to curb the damaging emissions.
          California, Quebec, Ontario anyway.

          • It’s not the price of carbon that is bad, it’s the fact that the Liberals don’t offset this extra tax by lowering taxes elsewhere. Good example is Wynne’s carbon tax imposed on gasoline in 2017. If she was so concerned about the environment, should could have dedicated the extra 8% HST windfall in 2010 towards the carbon tax back then! But instead, she choose to keep the 8% for general coffers and do nothing for the environment for the last 7 years!

      • The climate catastrophists have been warning us of the Great Lakes drying up for the past 25 years. Suddenly, a month ago, those warnings fell silent. Any guess why that was? Because we haven’t seen water levels this high in the past century. The St. Lawrence seaway is at 117 year highs right now.

        Personally, I do not believe we can change the composition of the atmosphere without altering the climate somewhat. And melting glaciers remain a concern. As for the deniers, the climate cultists have only themselves to blame. Crackpot computer modelers masquerading as scientists, and BS forecasts based on those models that cannot even hold up over a decade, let alone the absurd 50 and 100 year predictions we are subject to. Yet you complain that deniers exist? Stop feeding the bears, and they won’t be a nuisance anymore. But keep littering “scientific” journals and the press with junk science based on statistical modelling, and the bears will grow fat and ever more aggressive. The entire climate industry – and it is an industry – needs a purge.

    • I am so sadden that Maxime Bernier did not win. He is the Margaret Thatcher that Canada will desperately needs after foolish Trudeau destroys it. Andrew Scheer’s victory by less than 1% vote, is due to Liberal infiltrators who bought Conservative memberships.

      • He had the best platform, but many who have worked with him say he cannot be trusted. He has severe reliability issues. Plus he favoured a free trade deal with China. That’s a nonstarter in the party. His flakiness I was willing to risk in favour of his bold platform, but his willingness to negotiate a trade agreement with China was a deal breaker. No way do I want government owned entities taking over Canadian industry as though they were private corporations, And that’s exactly what the Chinese are demanding in order to get a deal.

    • What’s wrong with Private Medical Care? The best healthcare systems in the world such as France, Sweden and Norway all has it! In fact, Sweden even declared that its private medical care is an important element in its overall national healthcare system as it provides the necessary competition to its universal healthcare to keep it efficient and acts as a necessary release valve at times its universal healthcare system is strained. The only other countries in the world that bans private healthcare is North Korea and Cuba.

  2. Bernier’s accent was definitely a problem. The possibility of two Quebec based Prime Ministers in a row was also problematic for a lot of Canadians. That is just an observation of reality. Bernier also represented the worst side of the Conservative party, a too close of a comparison to the American’s extreme right wing in the Republican Party and the resulting fiasco manifested in Trump. Canadian Conservatives took a good look at that and ran the other way.

    • Bernier is exactly what Canada needs, a Margaret Thatcher to fix up the mess Trudeau is leaving behind.

      • Bernier is no Thatcher. He had personal reliability issues. The boldest and best platform I agree, but he was too flaky on a personal level.