September 23rd, 2019

National Affairs: Easy-going, eloquent Scheer saves fire for attack on PM

By Medicine Hat News Opinon on September 9, 2019.

@tomwalkom

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer visited the Star this week. He sounded like a normal human being.

I note this because the Conservative leader’s political opponents insist he is anything but.

Scheer has been slammed for consorting with anti-immigrant racists. He is said to be anti-gay.

There are suggestions that if he became prime minister, he would allow the divisive abortion debate to be reopened in Parliament.

Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that if Scheer’s Conservatives form government, they will savagely cut spending that benefits the broad middle class.

New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh says that he wouldn’t prop up a minority Conservative government should Scheer try to form one after the Oct. 21 election. The reason, says Singh, is that he finds Scheer’s past opposition to gay marriage odious.

But at the Star, the focus of all this vitriol was – mostly – all sweet reason.

He said he was a big fan of immigrants of all races and colours. Sure, some anti-immigrant radicals tried to hijack a march on Ottawa last February by disgruntled oil workers – a march he famously addressed.

But he wasn’t pandering to the racists, Scheer said. He was supporting hard-working people who had lost their jobs in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

And while his Star inquisitors were too polite to raise the abortion issue, Scheer has an answer for that too. He has vowed not to raise it if he wins office. Should his backbenchers try to do so, he has said, they will get no support from him.

Yes, he has refused to take part in any gay pride parades. But that doesn’t mean he’s down on gay families. He told the assembled Star journalists that he supports all types of families, no matter what their gender makeup.

Throughout the hour-long session, Scheer was calm, polite and knowledgeable. He argued, convincingly, that a Liberal government plan to subsidize young homebuyers would do little to increase the supply of affordable housing.

He was less convincing, however, when he claimed that simply reducing the regulations facing private developers would suffice.

He eloquently captured the mood of a younger generation seemingly doomed to a precarious future in the gig economy.

But other than reiterating Conservative orthodoxy on the merits of low taxation and balanced budgets, he offered no solutions.

On climate change, he noted – correctly – that even with its carbon tax strategy in place, Trudeau’s Liberal government is not on track to meet Canadas modest greenhouse-gas reduction targets.

But other than expressing a somewhat naive belief in the power of technologies that do not yet exist, he was unable to explain how his Conservatives would do any better.

His position on universal public pharmacare was clear and straightforward: He doesn’t hold with the idea.

Like Liberal Finance Minister Bill Morneau, who articulated his position back in 2018, Scheer believes government should limit itself to filling in the gaps left by the current, largely private pharmaceutical system.

All of this is the easygoing, reasonable Scheer.

Where the Conservative leader shows signs of passion, however, is in his animosity toward Trudeau.

Scheer has accused the prime minister of “corruption” and called on him to resign. At the Star, he blasted Trudeau for practising what he called crony capitalism.

He routinely dismisses Trudeau as a child of privilege who has little experience in the real world of middle-class Canada. He has called him a liar.

Calculated populism? Perhaps. Resentment can be an effective political tool.

Scheer may be simply appealing to the crowd when he slags Trudeau personally. Or perhaps his attacks are understandable reactions to the perennial Liberal strategy of trying to paint all Conservatives as troglodytes.

Still, there is a bitter edge to his tone that suggests more is at play. Scheer is a personable man with a classic Conservative critique of the Liberals. But beneath those dimples, he is also an angry one.

Thomas Walkom writes on national affairs for Torstar Syndication Services. @tomwalkom

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