Bucking global trend
Andrew Scheer’s winning leadership of the federal Conservative party Saturday goes against rising populist tide.
Conservatives around the world have sought to shake up the political status quo in the last year, voting for Britain to leave the European Union, electing a complete political neophyte as president of the United States.
For a time, it looked like Canadian conservatives were headed down a similar path.
For the first 12 rounds of counting Saturday night, the leader they were poised to elect was Maxime Bernier, a Quebec MP with a libertarian bent whose policy proposals included slaying sacred cows like supply management in agriculture and federal health care funding.
But in the end, the Tories couldn’t bring themselves to do it, instead handing Andrew Scheer the keys to the Opposition leader’s residence, giving him 50.95 per cent of the available points over Bernier’s 49.05.
Scheer’s campaign slogan was “Scheer excitement,’’ and there was no doubt in the aftermath of his win supporters were vibrating with just that.
“He just hit the right balance of values and experience and he was a very genuine person,’’ said supporter Leslie Whicher.
“He’s the kind of person the whole team can rally around. He’s not too far on one direction or another.’’
In his platform with boutique tax cuts, tough talk on extremism, even his release of his “five key priorities,’’ Scheer was also the candidate many saw as any echo of Stephen Harper, the party’s first and only leader.
So what came to mind for some observers was a button available on the leadership event floor reading “Scheer Bored.’’
Scheer is the “Goldilocks’’ candidate, not too hot, not too cold, said Gerry Nicholls, the former vice-president of the National Citizens Coalition, a conservative lobby group.
“I guess they call them conservatives for a reason,’’ he said.
“They didn’t want to take that radical, sort of populist step, or even maybe that libertarian step. They’d rather just sort of be safe.’’
The thing is, said pollster Frank Graves, it seemed like the Conservatives were in fact ready to not just take the step, but jump.
The majority of Canadian Conservative supporters he’s polled have backed not just Trump, but the right-wing candidate Marine LePen who mounted a strong campaign in the recent elections in France.
While yes, social conservatives did help Trump win and are understood to have helped Scheer too, those views are out of lockstep with the majority of Canadians and there’s little political traction to be gained from seizing on them nationally, Graves said.
Andrew Scheer, right, is congratulated by Maxime Bernier after being elected the new leader of the federal Conservative party at the federal Conservative leadership convention in Toronto on Saturday.