Scheer’s sum­mer tour re­build­ing for 2019

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA -

Rest and re­lax­ation might top the agenda for most Cana­di­ans right now but newly-minted Con­ser­va­tive Leader An­drew Scheer is go­ing full-tilt on the bar­be­cue cir­cuit in a bid to in­tro­duce him­self and boost his party’s prospects be­fore 2019.

As part of his sum­mer trav­els, Scheer spent a chunk of July in New Brunswick, Prince Ed­ward Is­land, Nova Sco­tia and New­found­land and Labrador be­fore mov­ing on to Al­berta, Saskatchewan and Que­bec.

“A big part of my tour was to in­tro­duce my­self and make con­nec­tions with peo­ple who maybe weren’t fol­low­ing the lead­er­ship race but are in­clined to sup­port the Con­ser­va­tive party,’’ he said in an in­ter­view.

Scheer, who is ex­pected to tour west­ern Canada this month, ac­knowl­edged his party will have to cul­ti­vate new sup­port if it hopes to head back to 24 Sus­sex Dr., in ad­di­tion to hold­ing on to the 98 seats it has today.

Poll­ster David Co­letto said it takes a long time to build up a party’s ground game ahead of an elec­tion and sum­mer is a crit­i­cal time for out­reach, es­pe­cially with a new leader.

“One of the in­ter­est­ing things about new Op­po­si­tion lead­ers is no­body knows who you are,’’ said Co­letto, CEO of Aba­cus Data.

“If you looked at the can­di­dates who ran for the Con­ser­va­tive lead­er­ship, at least in the polling we did, he was prob­a­bly one of the least well-known can­di­dates in terms of just gen­eral name recog­ni­tion and aware­ness.’’

If Scheer wants to win a ma­jor­ity in the next elec­tion, Co­letto said he’ll have to make in­roads in At­lantic Canada, where the Lib­er­als made a clean sweep in 2015. And on that score, he said Scheer has a long way to go.

“You look at the polling that’s been put out in the last few weeks, ours in­cluded, the Lib­er­als are still do­ing very well in At­lantic Canada,’’ he said.

“The ma­jor­ity of the re­gion would vote Lib­eral which is pretty much where they were at the last elec­tion so At­lantic Canada re­mains, I think, a fortress for the Lib­er­als.’’

Scheer, a Saskatchewan MP who took the helm in May after a marathon lead­er­ship race sparked by the de­par­ture of for­mer prime min­is­ter Stephen Harper, said his party is in the midst of be­gin­ning a new chap­ter and re­build­ing trust, in­clud­ing with vot­ers who were wooed to the Lib­er­als in the last elec­tion.

Con­ser­va­tive MPs are also pre­par­ing to hold their an­nual sum­mer cau­cus re­treat in Win­nipeg on Sept. 7 and 8 — a key tar­get area for growth.

“There are sev­eral seats in the area that we held for many years and that we lost in the last elec­tion,’’ Scheer said. “We want to get some col­leagues back and show Man­i­to­bans and Win­nipeg­gers that we want to be there, we want to be there to lis­ten to what we need to do bet­ter.’’

He also pointed to the elec­toral suc­cess of the prov­ince’s Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive premier Brian Pal­lis­ter, a for­mer Con­ser­va­tive MP.

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