Speaker Scheer may win over MPs

Regina Leader-Post - - Forum - Mandryk is the po­lit­i­cal colum­nist for the Leader-Post. MUR­RAY MANDRYK

Against rather im­prob­a­ble odds, Andrew Scheer has con­tin­u­ally won peo­ple over dur­ing his rel­a­tively short po­lit­i­cal ca­reer.

Of course, the chal­lenges now be­fore the youngest Speaker in House of Com­mons his­tory will be far greater than the ones he over­came mov­ing from an anony­mous con­stituency aide for Cana­dian Al­liance MP Larry Spencer just eight years ago to a four­time win­ner of the one-time NDP strong­hold of Regi­naQu’Ap­pelle.

But as daunt­ing as the Speaker’s job may be for some­one who turned 32 years just three weeks ago, don’t un­der­es­ti­mate Scheer’s abil­ity to per­se­vere and, ul­ti­mately, win peo­ple over. He’s done it be­fore. Scheer’s ar­rival in Regina in 2003 of­fered lit­tle that fore­shad­owed Thurs­day’s six-round, eight-per­son runoff to win the pres­ti­gious and perk-filled Speaker’s chair, which in­cludes a car and chauf­feur; an apart­ment right above Par­lia­ment Hill’s Cen­tre Block, that 19th-cen­tury farm­house in the Gatineaus; a size­able bud­get, with seem­ingly lim­it­less world travel; and a fed­eral-cabi­net-min­is­ter-like $233,000 an­nual salary.

Born in Ot­tawa, Scheer was bit­ten by the po­lit­i­cal bug rather early and served as an in­tern for fed­eral op­po­si­tion lead­ers, in­clud­ing Pre­ston Man­ning, Stock­well Day and Stephen Harper.

How­ever, po­lit­i­cal am­bi­tion was briefly put on hold in the early 2000s when he was in­tro­duced to the best friend of Scheer’s best friend’s girl­friend — a Regina girl at­tend­ing the Univer­sity of Ot­tawa named Jill Ryan. Scheer fol­lowed Jill back to Regina where he fin­ished up his de­gree at the Univer­sity of Regina (U of R) and made ends meet by work­ing at Dan­bry’s Restau­rant and sell­ing in­surance for com­pany run by a long- time Saskatchewan Party friend Mike Schen­her. In an in­ter­view Fri­day, the new House of Com­mons Speaker laughed that, in the space of a year, he some­how man­aged to move to Regina, fin­ish his de­gree, get mar­ried, con­ceive their first of four chil­dren and get right back into pol­i­tics.

That po­lit­i­cal job was a short-lived one as Spencer’s con­stituency as­sis­tant. Spencer would be left be­hind in the Cana­dian Al­lianceCon­ser­va­tive merger af­ter the Van­cou­ver Sun quoted him say­ing he be­lieved ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity should be il­le­gal and that there was a ho­mo­sex­ual con­spir­acy to re­cruit young boys. How­ever, as that door to back­room pol­i­tics closed for Scheer, an­other door to elected po­lit­i­cal of­fice opened ... al­beit, just a crack.

Scheer de­feated for­mer Ot­tawa Rough Rider of­fen­sive line­man Morris Elfen­baum for the Con­ser­va­tive nom­i­na­tion in Regina-QuAp­pelle — what seemed a con­so­la­tion prize, given that he would have to run against vet­eran MP Lorne Nys­trom in the NDP rid­ing con­tain­ing Regina’s Core area. But re­dis­tri­bu­tion was on Scheer’s side and added ru­ral votes al­lowed him to squeak out an 861-vote win in 2004. (In­ter­est­ingly, he im­me­di­ately started brush­ing up on his im­mer­sion French.) And, while few ex­pected the Ot­tawa trans­plant to hold the seat for long, he again de­feated Nys­trom in 2006 — this time, by 2,740 votes.

Scheer’s ini­tial elected years were spent ac­count­ing for Con­ser­va­tive mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment’s $800-mil­liona-year prom­ise to Saskatchewan to re­move nat­u­ral re­sources from the equal­iza­tion for­mula. But while deemed not overly ef­fec­tive, the young MP gen­er­ally at least avoided the stupid mis­takes his col­leagues made. For ex­am­ple, de­spite his own staunch Catholic be­liefs, Scheer avoided be­com­ing em­broiled in di­vi­sive ho­mo­sex­ual is­sues some Saskatchewan MP col­leagues have rev­elled in. Regina Qu’Ap­pelle vot­ers even for­gave him for sup­port­ing Con­ser­va­tive pol­icy not to pub­licly fund sta­di­ums largely used by pro­fes­sional sports fran­chises. In fact, they re­warded him with even larger mar­gins in 2008 and 2011.

Per­haps the tough­est battle, how­ever, was win­ning over his staunchly New Demo­crat Ryan fam­ily. Brother-in-law Steve has run for the NDP, provin­cially, and Scheer jokes that Christ­mas din­ner gets in­ter­est­ing at their house.

How­ever, they are all bonded by that one thing in Saskatchewan more in­tense than pol­i­tics — foot­ball. Scheer is a huge foot­ball fan. Brother-in-law Steven played for the U of R Rams and brother-in-law Jon is the punter for the Seat­tle Sea­hawks.

Ad­mit­tedly, win­ning over 308 pas­sion­ate MPs will be even more dif­fi­cult.

But Scheer’s com­ments to MPs Thurs­day that “we all do sin­cerely want Canada to be the best that it can be,” would seem to be a good start to win­ning them over as well.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.