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The dimpled devil

September 12, 2019

When then Prime Minister Stephen Harper lost the 2015 general election, he quit politics. (As defeated party leaders usually do.) The Conservative party decided not to rush into the election of a new leader. Rona Ambrose took over as interim leader (and, to be fair, did a not bad job in Parliament as the leader of the opposition).

The leadership election eventually took place in May 2017. At the peak of the leadership race there were fourteen candidates. The list included television “businessman” Kevin O’Leary, who seem to think if Donald Trump could do it, he could, too. He didn’t make it to the home stretch. Say what you will about Canada, but that level of flim flam doesn’t have the same level of traction here.

Bigotry and intolerance? Oh, yes, there’s room for that in a no-longer-progressive Conservative leadership race.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Kellie Leitch, former Ontario MP and 2017 leadership contender. Amongst other things, Leitch proposed that immigrants be compelled to take a “values” test. She also refused to denounce her openly racist supporters. (No wonder O’Leary dropped out. Leitch trumped him on rabid populism at every step.)

The early front runner was Maxime Bernier, Quebec MP and former Harper cabinet minister. He’s a smooth looking, smooth talking character. Although he never got the more than 50% needed to win, Bernier came out first in every ballot except the last one, which he lost in the thirteenth (!) round with 49.5% of the vote. Having failed to win the leadership race he upped sticks and started his own Trump-style populist People’s Party. Bernier has recently distinguished himself by taking to Twitter (a Trump move if there ever was one) to slam Greta Thunberg as a mentally unbalanced fear monger,  leading the Globe and Mail to opine that he should under no circumstances be allowed to take part in the leadership debate.

Like the current Democratic leadership contenders in the US, the list of Conservative leader wannabes in 2017 included a number of candidates of whom no one had ever heard, whose names I could not remember. One of these was the guy who won the 13th round with 50.95% of the vote.


Look at this face. Look at those dimples. Isn’t he just adorable? For at least a year I still couldn’t remember his name. (Kept mixing his name up with the name of that ginger singer who turned up unexpectedly in Game of Thrones.) I just always thought of him as the Harper pixie.

I wish I didn’t know his name now, but I do: Andrew Scheer. There is a distinct possibility this dimpled devil could become the Prime Minister of Canada on October 22.

Why “devil”? Well, I suppose the use of the word depends on your perspective.

Some of his pitch comes straight out of the Conservative handbook. “Vote for us! We’ll save the middle class by cutting taxes!” Oh, yes, because that always works out well when the inevitable cuts come along in healthcare, education and the social safety net. (“Social safety net? That’s for poor people. We don’t give a shit about them!”) Yeah, yeah, whatever.

He’s pro-pipeline and anti-carbon tax. Well, he would be, wouldn’t he? Tax cuts and climate inaction are Tory trademarks these days.

The devil is in the details and it’s the details that fill me with dread.

As the Liberals have recently pointed out, Scheer voted against same sex marriage in 2005, saying: “Homosexual unions are by nature contradictory to this. There is no complementarity of the sexes. Two members of the same sex may use their God-given free will to engage in acts, to cohabit and to own property together. They may commit themselves to monogamy. They may pledge to remain in a loving relationship for life. In that sense they have many of the collateral features of marriage, but they do not have its inherent feature, as they cannot commit to the natural procreation of children. They cannot therefore be married.” (Full speech, including bringing Abraham Lincoln into it, here.) Okay, that was 14 years ago, but leopards really do not change their spots.

Scheer voted against Bill C-16, aimed at extending human rights protections for transgender people. (The bill passed without him.)

He is a well-known opponent of abortion rights. He keeps saying this is not an issue a Scheer government would set out to revisit, whilst in pretty much the same breath saying Conservative MPs would be free to vote their conscience on the issue.

He is known to be the great white hope of the anti-abortion movement in Canada. As Michael Coren pointed out recently in Maclean’s, “Opponents of abortion went on to support Scheer during the [Conservative leadership] contest, and their votes were – to the surprise and often chagrin of many – sufficient to catapult him above Maxime Bernier in the 13th ballot.”

Fun fact: Part of the Scheer leadership campaign platform was giving tax credits of $4000 to parents who opted to send their children to “independent” schools and $1000 to parents who home schooled. Although Scheer said last month that the Conservatives will not pursue this policy as part of their election platform because “reckless spending” by the Trudeau government would make its implementation unfeasible, I suspect the idea is still on the back burner. Perhaps he doesn’t know how disastrous a similar policy turned out to be for public education in Australia. Perhaps he doesn’t care. (I believe, although I cannot now find a reference, that Scheer’s children all attend a private religious school in Regina.)

I don’t know. Maybe, in a funny way, Kellie Leitch was on to something. Maybe party leaders should be forced to take a Canadian values test before the election. And be attached to a lie-detector while they do.

From → Columns

  1. krysross permalink

    I think there will be more on supporting private schools and starving the public system if he gets in. It’s an Alberta thing.

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