Scheer wants to re­con­nect with N.L. Con­ser­va­tives

The Western Star - - Front Page - BY JAMES MCLEOD SALTWIRE NET­WORK

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.

JAMES MCLEOD/SALTWIRE NET­WORK

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.

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