Is Scheer just a smil­ing Harper?

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OPINION - Alan Hol­man Alan Hol­man is a free­lance jour­nal­ist liv­ing in Char­lot­te­town. He can be reached at: achol­man@pei.east­link.ca

An­drew Scheer, the 38-yearold leader of the Con­ser­va­tive Party of Canada, ac­com­pa­nied by his wife and five young chil­dren, spent a cou­ple of nights on the Is­land ear­lier this month.

Mr. Scheer is far dif­fer­ent from the cold, aus­tere, Stephen Harper, the for­mer Tory leader. He’s a pleas­ant man, with an easy smile and a slightly re­served man­ner. He’s not a charis­matic show­boat, pos­ing for self­ies with ev­ery sec­ond per­son he comes across.

But, if he is go­ing to pose any kind of a po­lit­i­cal threat to the sunny ways of Trudeau-the-Younger he is go­ing to have to be­come a bit more ag­gres­sive in ap­proach­ing the pub­lic. More im­por­tantly he needs to es­tab­lish him­self as his own man, not sim­ply fol­low­ing the foot­steps of the pre­vi­ous leader.

In the past few weeks, Mr. Scheer has missed a cou­ple of op­por­tu­ni­ties to set him­self apart from Mr. Harper. One was his con­tin­u­a­tion of the Harper govern­ment ac­cep­tance of the Amer­i­can po­si­tion that Omar Khadr was a ter­ror­ist who mur­dered one Amer­i­can sol­dier and wounded an­other in Afghanistan, not a child-sol­dier in an op­pos­ing army.

While he ac­cepts a 2010 rul­ing by the Supreme Court that Canada had vi­o­lated Mr. Khardr’s rights by con­tribut­ing to his on-go­ing de­ten­tion and tor­ture in an Amer­i­can prison in Guan­tanamo Bay, Cuba, Mr. Scheer claims that the only com­pen­sa­tion needed was the repa­tri­a­tion of Mr. Khadr to a Cana­dian prison where he could en­joy the ben­e­fits of the Cana­dian jus­tice sys­tem.

In an ar­ti­cle in a Toronto news­pa­per, Mr. Scheer points out that this is what the Harper govern­ment did, and Mr. Khadr was sub­se­quently granted his free­dom.

Mr. Scheer says there was no need for any ad­di­tional com­pen­sa­tion. He re­jects the govern­ment’s ar­gu­ment that it saved money by pay­ing $10.5 mil­lion in com­pen­sa­tion rather than fight­ing a pro­longed court bat­tle, which would have cost much more in le­gal fees, plus run the risk of an even larger com­pen­sa­tion pack­age.

Mr. Scheer has ex­pressed some sym­pa­thy for the wife of the Amer­i­can sol­dier killed by Mr. Khadr who suc­cess­fully sued him for over $100 mil­lion in an Amer­i­can court. How­ever, that ac­tion doesn’t ap­ply in Canada.

It is un­der­stand­able that Mr. Scheer and the Con­ser­va­tive Party hold a dif­fer­ent view on the govern­ment’s obli­ga­tions to Mr. Khadr, but the Con­ser­va­tives over­stepped the line by dis­patch­ing two of their MPs, and Mr. Scheer him­self, for ap­pear­ances in Amer­i­can me­dia where they sug­gested the Khadr com­pen­sa­tion pack­age will be used in the re-ne­go­ti­a­tion of the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment. It is gen­er­ally con­sid­ered poor form to go out of the coun­try and use in­ter­na­tional dis­agree­ments as lever­age in do­mes­tic po­lit­i­cal dis­putes.

An­other area where Mr. Scheer missed an op­por­tu­nity to dif­fer­en­ti­ate him­self from the pre­vi­ous lead­er­ship was his in­di­ca­tion he would turn back the clock with re­gards to Mr. Trudeau’s at­tempts re­form the Se­nate.

While the jury is still out on how suc­cess­ful Mr. Trudeau has been in his at­tempt to ap­point peo­ple to the Se­nate who are rel­a­tively free of any po­lit­i­cal bag­gage; peo­ple who, once ap­pointed to the Se­nate, sit as in­de­pen­dents and not as mem­bers of any po­lit­i­cal party cau­cus.

Though the govern­ment has had some leg­is­la­tion held up, and the Se­nate has made some amend­ments the govern­ment wasn’t happy with, there hasn’t yet been any ma­jor cri­sis, and the Se­nate op­er­ates more in­de­pen­dently from the Prime Min­is­ter’s of­fice than ever be­fore.

How­ever, Mr. Scheer re­mains unim­pressed. In an in­ter­view at the end of the

Par­lia­men­tary ses­sion in June he said if he be­came prime min­is­ter he would re­vert to the old process of ap­point­ing peo­ple who would be con­ser­va­tive sen­a­tors who would im­ple­ment the con­ser­va­tive vi­sion for Canada.

While it is still two years be­fore the next elec­tion, the early in­di­ca­tions are Mr. Scheer plans to keep the Harper’s right-wing poli­cies, just present them with a friend­lier face, leav­ing the Lib­er­als and the NDP fight­ing for the pro­gres­sive vote.

Only time will tell if that will work.

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