Speaker Scheer may win over MPs
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.