Waterloo Region Record

The campaign has started — just ask Scheer and Bernier


Even though the election campaign isn’t officially underway yet, it has been an eventful week or so, at least for People’s Party of Canada Leader Max Bernier and Conservati­ve Leader Andrew Scheer.

First, the Liberals released a 2005 video in which Scheer speaks out against legalizing gay marriage. He says legalizing same-sex marriage would be like saying a dog has five legs if its tail is called a leg instead — in other words, same-sex marriages are fake. Even more offensivel­y, he says the main reason for marriage is having children, and same-sex couples cannot, so must not be considered legally married. Apparently, the much younger and visibly uncertain Scheer didn’t stop to think that his pronouncem­ent would also apply to any couple that chose not to have kids, or could not for any reason. He basically pronounced their marriages invalid.

It’s an embarrassi­ng performanc­e. But the Liberals were playing in the sleaze pit by releasing it. So much for Justin Trudeau’s sticking to the high ground in the election campaign just around the corner.

However, the Conservati­ves are no better. Their recent attack ads aimed at Trudeau are actually dominated by a photo of Donald Trump, a clear attempt to portray Trudeau as being more like the unpopular American president than anyone knows. Hardly stuff of the moral high ground.

Reacting to the video, Scheer’s office quickly deflected, pointing out that many Liberal MPs had also voted against legalizing same-sex marriage.

That’s true. But it’s also true that many of them, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale included, have changed their views and now support same-sex marriage.

Scheer’s response is not so forthright. His office says he supports the law that protects same-sex marriage. That’s fine, but it’s not the same as saying he supports LGBTQ rights. This is especially notable in the context of Scheer’s refusal to take part in Pride events. Together, the two things combine to suggest that while he wouldn’t try to change the law, he’s not personally supportive.

That’s significan­t, and it’s something that voters have a right to know. Maybe they have no problem supporting a leader and potential prime minister who holds antiquated and offensive views. Regardless, it’s unlikely Scheer can put this behind him without being more forthcomin­g. Granted, he’s in a difficult spot. If he expresses support, it will cost him among some of his base, possibly pushing some of them on the far right to Bernier’s more openly prejudiced party. If he says nothing, he risks his personal views haunting him on the campaign trail. Regardless, Scheer and his brain trust need to come up with a more thoughtful response than has been shown to date.

As for Bernier, his week got interestin­g when antiimmigr­ation billboards began sprouting around the country featuring Bernier’s smiling mug. Defenders were quick to point out the ads were sponsored by a third party in an attempt to suggest they didn’t have Bernier’s blessing. If you believe that, we’ve got some real estate for sale ...

What Bernier didn’t bank on was the company that owns the signs getting spooked by the overwhelmi­ngly negative public response. At first, Pattison Outdoor Advertisin­g deflected blame to the third-party group running them, True North Strong & Free Advertisin­g Corp. Then, as pressure mounted, Pattison reversed course and ordered the ads removed.

Bernier was left to complain that he is being censored by a “totalitari­an leftist mob.” Many others, we suspect, are happy to see so many Canadians loudly object to advertisin­g for the sort of institutio­nalized bigotry Bernier and his party stand for.

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