Scheer wants to reconnect with N.L. Conservatives
Sitting in Rocket Bakery in St. John’s on Wednesday morning, sipping on a cafe americano and chatting about politics, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer comes across pretty much like you might expect, if you’ve seen him on TV — affable, understated and cheerful.
On his first visit to Newfoundland and Labrador since winning the Conservative leadership in May, Scheer said he’s looking to rebuild the party in Atlantic Canada.
In the 2015 federal election, the Liberal party won every seat in Atlantic Canada, and much of the electorate in Newfoundland and Labrador has been deeply hostile to federal Conservative party politicians for much longer than that.
“We have an idea in Ottawa that it was a particular dispute between the provincial government and the federal government that was the cause of all that, but I’d like to hear from people who had been involved federally and maybe disengaged,” Scheer said.
“What was it that drove you away? Was it more than just a policy dispute? Was it the way the party listened to local campaigns?”
Scheer said he believes Atlantic Canada values line up pretty closely with Conservative values. When SaltWire Network pointed out that NDP politicians say the same thing about New Democrat values, Scheer laughed cheerfully.
“Conservatives believe that there’s more to society than just government,” he said.
“Where I would challenge those on the left — the NDP — is that their answer to everything is more government. It’s more government programs, it’s more spending, it’s more redistributing of wealth.”
Scheer said he believes Conservative policies do more to help people, but because they’re more focused on results, they’re misunderstood.
“We often forget to show what our motives are, and I believe that those on the left are very, very good at highlighting their compassion,” he said.
“They’re called bleeding hearts for a reason, you know? Because that’s what they’re showcasing.”
In recent years, the Conservative party has struggled with a perception of xenophobia and intolerance, most notably with leadership candidate Kellie Leitch proposing “values screening” for immigrants during the leadership campaign.
The party also proposed a “barbaric cultural practices” hotline during the last federal election, and a senior member of Scheer’s leadership campaign staff was linked with the alt-right website Rebel Media. When asked about how the Conservative party needs to tackle xenophobia in its own ranks, Scheer turned the question onto the other parties.
“First of all, I’ll say that there are elements on the radical left — very odious elements of the radical left — that find a home in the NDP and the Liberals, that have outrageous positions on everything from the right of Israel to exist to free market economics,” he said.
Scheer said the Conservatives have a long history of leading on human rights and diversity issues.
“Under my leadership the Conservative party will always be a party of inclusion that welcomes and celebrates diversity,” he said.
Conservative Party of Canada Leader Andrew Scheer is in St. John’s trying to reconnect and rebuild the party after years of deep animosity within the province.