Andrew Scheer, a conservative with a smile
This editorial appeared in the Halifax Chronicle Herald:
A Westerner who is unknown to many Canadians has won the race to lead Canada’s Conservatives, and will square off against a Liberal government run by a Trudeau.
If you’re of a certain age, 38-year-old Andrew Scheer’s storyline may sound familiar to you. Joe Clark was a 36-year-old Albertan when he won the Tory leadership in 1976, and was so little known that he was burdened with the nickname “Joe Who?”
After winning the 1979 election against Pierre Trudeau, Clark enjoyed a storied career as prime minister, and later as Canada’s minister of external affairs during the Mulroney years.
Scheer, a 38-year-old father of five from Saskatchewan, will be hoping he can follow Clark’s path to the Prime Minister’s Office after narrowly defeating libertarian Maxime Bernier on the 13th ballot Saturday.
Bernier, depicted as the front-runner in this campaign, won every ballot on Saturday except the last one. Bernier’s policies made him the most interesting candidate in the race. It may also have made him the least electable.
Scheer is a safer choice. He’s a social conservative on issues like gay rights and the legalization of marijuana, but he’s made it clear he’s not going to push those issues in Parliament.
His challenge inside the party will be giving voice but not much political clout to social conservatives. His bigger task will be making himself better-known among Canadians — and transforming his party into a credible government-in-waiting. Scheer, a former speaker of the House of Commons, certainly understands how to use the Parliamentary system to advance his goals as leader.
If he can beat Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, he will have to restore his party’s reputation as good financial and economic managers.
Scheer also shares some of Mr. Trudeau’s “sunny ways.” He’s practical rather than doctrinal, collegial, and he smiles like he means it. Indeed, he has often been called “Stephen Harper with a smile.” In short, Scheer has a fighting chance to become prime minister one day.