John Ibbitson, who cannot be described as a Libera shill or as someone in thrall to Justin Trudeau’s celebrity status, writes some harsh words for and about Andrew Scheer in the Globe and Mail. Mr Scheer, Mr Ibbitson writes, “has wasted seven months. The next election is less than two years away. Entrenching a positive political brand takes a great deal of time. Entrenching a negative one (such as the “just visiting” label the Tories slapped on Michael Ignatieff) can take almost no time at all. Time is not Mr. Scheer’s friend … [and] … The latest Nanos poll shows him to be the least popular national party leader, behind Mr. Trudeau and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.” That’s harsh bit, in my opinion, it is also true.
Mr Scheer has been criss-crossing the country meeting people and talking about issues and he’s been using social media quite well, I think … but it is not clear to me that he is gaining any “traction.” People I know, people who want to see the end of Prime Minister Trudeau, are not sure that Mr Scheer is an acceptable alternative.
We can be sure that the Liberals will portray Mr Scheer as a closet but dedicated social conservative who wants to roll back abortion access and gay rights.
Mr Ibbitson wants Mr Scheer “to define himself: his values, his priorities, his worldview. And he needs to make us believe that this is what he believes, that this is the core of him, not something cooked up with the help of focus groups,” to establish a “core” as Stephen Harper did, of “values defined him [because Canadians could see that] they were marrow deep.” Thus far, it seems to me, Mr Scheer has come across as nice and sincere and a dedicated family man and, and, and … but those are not the “values” that voters want to see.
What can he focus on?
First: the working family. There are a whole hockey sock full of issues that matter a lot to working Canadian families ~ issues that Justin Trudeau has fumbled. Those working families care about pocket book issues, not defence policy or free(er) trade. But they are social moderates, not instinctive conservatives except for fiscal conservatism.
Second: immigration. Mr Scheer, as a good Conservative, should be pro-immigration … within the rules. He should promise to shorten the queues for some would-be immigrants from some countries while, at the same time, strengthening controls at our borders.
Third: values. Canadians want honest and effective government. They dislike chicanery and waste in almost equal measure. Mr Scheer has to show that he, too, will not accept either and will accept only high ethical standards and good, fair government business practices. He can show that by the team he has around him … and by who is not there. He can show it by allowing fair, open contested nominations and by refusing to sign the nomination papers of candidates who, even if they are the lo cal choice, do not conform to modern, moderate, Conservative values. Mr Ibbitson notes that Mr Scheer is already being damned for doing or not doing things … he might as well accept that politics is not a binary, on-off, absolutely right-wrong business and he must be prepared to demonstrate ti Canadians that he has values that he will enforce on his political caucus.
Mr Ibbitson is worried about how the Senator Lynn Beyak issue was handled. He points out that it is “manna from heaven” for the Liberals. I cannot see, nor can John Ibbitson, how else Mr Scheer could have handled it. Senator Beyak’s original speech was, to be sure, ill conceived, but not racist and she has a perfect right to post whatever she wishes on her web site … until what she posted conflicted, as it did, with Conservative values. Mr Scheer acted promptly and properly when he needed to and when he could, and he needs to be able to explain that, clearly, concisely and convincingly, to Canadians of all political stripes when the Liberals use it against him.
John Ibbitson concludes by saying that “Justin Trudeau has been making plenty of mistakes lately, from angering Asia-Pacific leaders over trade to taking meetings and vacations he shouldn’t have. The NAFTA talks could collapse. He’s not the high flyer he once was … [but] … he will govern till the cows come home, unless the Conservatives can put forward a convincing, compelling alternative. Six hundred and fifty-three days until the election, Mr. Scheer. Six hundred and fifty-three days.“
Andrew Scheer has to work hard, flat out, for six hundred and fifty days, and work smart, too … the alternative is more of Justin Trudeau and the Laurentian Elites. The CPC cannot count on Canadians being ready and willing to vote against Team Trudeau in 2019. For Andrew Scheer it isn’t just a matter of getting out and meeting Canadians, it is also about giving Canadians a believable, principled and acceptable Conservative choice … someone to vote FOR.