An­drew Scheer, a con­ser­va­tive with a smile

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION -

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.

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