ANDREW SCHEER LEADER TO FOCUS ON TORY STAPLES
Newly minted Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is a well-known commodity among those paying attention to Ottawa, but is very likely a fresh face to many Canadians. So you might be wondering just who is this longtime Saskatchewan MP who will take on Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in 2019?
Well, who is he then?
Scheer is one of the longest-serving Conservative MPs in Ottawa, first elected in his Regina riding in 2004. While never rising to prominence as a cabinet minister in the Stephen Harper era, Scheer became Speaker of the House of Commons in 2011 — the impartial referee during Commons debate.
Scheer made some controversial rulings as Speaker, but was generally known as a friendly and collegial MP. He was also the chair of the powerful and secretive Board of Internal Economy, which has jurisdiction over the operations of Parliament.
OK, that’s the politics. But who is he really?
A 38-year-old father of five who grew up in Ottawa, but he’s lived in Saskatchewan for much of his life.
Scheer spent most of his adult life in politics. In the partisan grind of Ottawa, Scheer was known as a nice guy, approachable even during the tensest moments of the Harper years.
He’s also deeply committed to the conservative movement in Canada, and a religious man. He’s also a big Roughriders fan.
Why didn’t I hear much about him during the leadership race?
Scheer didn’t exactly set the race on fire with his policy proposals, but to be fair there were 14 candidates and the media coverage was dominated by a guy who dropped out.
Scheer consistently fundraised and performed well in public polling — behind erstwhile candidate Kevin O’Leary and Quebec libertarian Maxime Bernier, but ahead of the rest of the pack heading in the final months of the campaign.
Unlike some candidates, his leadership team was focused less on headlines or eye-grabbing policy and more on data and organizing.
So you’re saying you didn’t see this coming?
Sure, fine, we didn’t see it coming. But that’s what makes politics interesting! That’s why they play the game, etc. etc.
Early reports call him a “social conservative.” What does that mean?
It’s complicated. Scheer didn’t run as an explicit social conservative. Brad Trost and Pierre Lemieux did, wanting to reopen the abortion debate and opposing same-sex marriage.
While he’s thought to personally oppose abortion and recent legislation granting human rights protections to transgender Canadians, he says he won’t be reopening those debates if he becomes prime min- ister. Still, social conservative support seemed to be the clincher on Saturday night, allowing Scheer to upset front-runner Bernier. And you can expect the Liberals to attack him on this front.
So what DOES he stand for?
Essentially the same approach to conservatism that Stephen Harper brought to Ottawa. Scheer has repeatedly said he wants to focus on the common ground that all conservatives share. Things such as balanced budgets, low taxes, free speech and the like.
He campaigned on balancing the budget within two years if elected in 2019, axing the Liberal plan to price carbon to reduce GHG emissions, and to re-commit Canadian warplanes to the coalition bombing campaign in Iraq.
He opposed Motion M-103, condemning Islamophobia, because he felt it limited free speech, which it does not. He also would ban federal funding to universities that “limit free speech,” although how he’d determine that remains to be seen.
Scheer’s policy webpage was wiped off the Internet Saturday night, but is still available through Internet archive tools. Expect it to get a lot more scrutiny leading up to the 2019 election.
Andrew Scheer and his wife, Jill, celebrate his win in the Conservative Party of Canada’s Leadership race at Saturday’s party convention in Toronto.