So what do we have to look forward to with new Conservative leader Andrew Scheer?

, the new leader of the Conservative Party of Canada was chosen: Andrew Scheer. Andrew who?

[Photograph of Andrew Scheer.]

Andrew Scheer

If you don’t follow Canadian politics, Scheer may be new to you. (I was actually considering putting Brad Trost’s picture up, and pulling a John Oliver: “In fact, you may know so little about who Andrew Scheer is, you may not have realized that that isn’t actually a picture of Andrew Scheer.” But when the story goes on social media, if the Trost pic got auto-detected at the Scheer pic, it would have probably created a ton of confusion.)

Andrew Scheer is actually been a pretty big player in the Conservative world for a number of years, and it’s really no great surprise he took the crown. If you’ll permit my boasting, I actually predicted his victory (though, I have to admit I got the second and third place finishers mixed, and did not predict it would go the full 13 rounds). While Erin O’Toole got the most endorsements by far, Scheer was #2, and had more than 3 times the support of the next in line: Maxime Bernier.

Scheer was Speaker of the House for the Harper era () – in fact, he was the youngest Speaker ever – and after the Fall, he was appointed the Opposition House Leader (which he stepped down from to run for party leader). So he’s got the background and the wide support base that a party leader really needs, which is what likely gave him the edge over the greater celebrity status of Maxime Bernier.

The important question for readers here is where Scheer stands with respect to the issues we care about. To that I have to honestly answer: I’m not sure.

Here’s the problem: During the Orwellian Harper years, Scheer was largely removed from the worst of the party antics by virtue of being the Speaker. While the Harper goons were brazenly stomping over our democracy, science, and the environment, Scheer was playing-acting at the non-partisan role of treating all sides fairly. There is some justifiable criticism over how well he did that job, but the bottom line is that it now leaves us with a thin track record.

We didn’t get to learn much during his leadership campaign either. Clowns like Kevin O’Leary, Kellie Leitch, and Brad Trost sucked all the air out of the room, leaving little coverage for the other candidates. With the Conservative establishment behind him, all Scheer really had to do was stand quietly back and not make a blazing ass of himself. Indeed, the only thing about his campaign I remember was his ridiculous gas flags idea (which I mentioned in a previous Weekly Update), but that never became much of a story.

From what little I do know, it seems like Scheer is a far-right social conservative. We’re talking anti-abortion, anti-gay, the whole nine yards. The only difference between Scheer and straight-up bigots like Brad Trost is that Scheer knows to keep his damn mouth shut.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. Let’s face it: backward, bigoted asshats exist in Canada, and they’re not going to stop pushing their backward, bigoted agenda if we tell them to. However, if one of their own steps up and manages to convince them that’s totes on their side, he just needs to be smart about it, that may be an effective way to get stupid ideas like making abortion illegal off the agenda, so real work can get done.

And that seems to be the game Scheer is consciously playing. He has a quote (which I can’t find now) where he says something like “social conservatives have 50 issues they care about… well 30 of those are just too out there, we’ll never get anywhere if we even try to put them on the table… so let’s just focus on the 20 we actually have a plausible chance of getting done”. That kind of willingness to compromise is admirable in a leader, and if he sticks to it, it would be the primary difference between him and Harper.

But, of course: Will he stick to it? And if he does, will he stick to it as an actual road map for compromise, or just as a way to subtly shift the Overton window toward crazy town.

I suppose here’s the takeaway: It could have been worse. It could have been much better… although let’s face it, Michael Chong never really had a shot. But it could have been worse. Scheer doesn’t represent progress for the Conservative Party, but then, what would? “Progress”, unless defined in tortuously self-serving ways, is kinda antithetical to the Conservative Party.

I suppose he could be Stephen Harper 2.0, though a less dictatorial, more politic version of Harper – some kind of transitional fossil between Harper’s and Justin Trudeau’s platitudinous doublespeak. He sure seems to have the same kind of rubber-mask-android face that Harper had… though at least the reptilian aliens have made the smile more believable on this model.

Sheer is a backward-ass social conservative in all the worst ways, but he’s also a cagey politician who – at least for now – seems smart enough to keep a check on his dumber side. Given what else was lurking in the Conservative leadership wings, that may be the best we could hope for.

We’ll have to keep a close eye on Scheer to make sure he doesn’t get seduced by his kookier leanings.

[Logo of the Conservative Party of Canada.]

Conservative Party of Canada

There is another, darker, takeaway from ’s election. Sanity didn’t really win – that would have meant a Chong victory – but at least normalcy reigned this time around. But just below the surface are some concerning observations about the mentality of Conservative voters.

The #1, #2, and #3 results were relatively sane – Bernier was a bit of a hard-core libertarian, but not really a nutter. But with 14 candidates on the ballot (O’Leary’s name was still on the ballot despite his resignation), the crazies started coming in at position #4, with Brad Trost!

And it gets worse. Chong came 5th… which wouldn’t be all that bad, except for the fact that Brad Trost came ahead of him. And Kellie Leitch came just behind. What did Chong advocate to get him grouped into the loony section with Brad “fuck the gays” Trost and Kellie “fuck the Muslims” Leitch? He was Michael “climate change is real” Chong.

And it gets still worse as you keep going down! Pierre Lemieux – another hard-right anti-abortion, anti-gay nutter – beat Lisa Raitt. And Deepack Obhrai, whose platform was all about inclusiveness… guess where he ended up. Dead last. Yep, he came in behind Andrew “I’m so boring” Saxton. He even lost to Kevin O’Leary, who wasn’t even running! That’s how little Conservative voters think of that whole tolerance thing.

1 Andrew Scheer
2 Maxime Bernier
3 Erin O’Toole
4 Brad Trost
5 Michael Chong
6 Kellie Leitch
7 Pierre Lemieux
8 Lisa Raitt
9 Steven Blaney
10 Chris Alexander
11 Kevin O’Leary
12 Rick Peterson
13 Andrew Saxton
14 Deepak Obhrai
Results

So here’s where are, Canadian atheists. Andrew Scheer, the new leader of the Conservative Party, is a hard-right social conservative who doesn’t think much of gay people or a women’s right to choose… but at least for now he seems politically savvy enough to pretend to be a compassionate and intelligent human. At least for now. We will have to grind on him hard before the next election to suss out where he really stands, and what he’s really willing to do as leader, if we’re going to take him seriously as a contender. For now, he remains an enigma.

But the ugliness just under the big tent sheen of the CPC is roiling and festering, and Scheer’s “unite the right” idealism may just be a quaint echo of a bygone era. Hard as it is to say, Harper’s authoritarian dickishness may have been the best thing that could have happened to the right, and unless Scheer can manage to be more iron-fisted Harper and less warm-and-fuzzy Trudeau, the seething bigotry and ignorance his party is sitting on may just explode under him like a backed up sewer.

2 thoughts on “So what do we have to look forward to with new Conservative leader Andrew Scheer?

  1. I read an interesting article about a anti-abortion activist who tried to convince her mother to support Scheer even though he sounds like he won’t push an anti-abortion agenda. Many anti-abortion activists are worried he will be a Harper/Brown turncoat. She insists he is speaking deliberately. His government won’t open up the abortion debate. But backbenchers could, he might not order the government MPs from voting against it like Harper did, and he might even vote for it.

    It’s hard to tell if it’s wishful thinking or not. But it’s very interesting in any event. There are a few other good links over at the left-wing site PressProgress. Just watch their bias.

    • I’m inclined to chalk it up to wishful thinking. I’d bet if we went back to the early days of Harper, we’d see the same things being said.

      Let’s say Scheer allows backbenchers to push a private member’s bill and reopen the debate. I don’t think he will, for reasons I’ll explain in a moment, but let’s just assume for now that he won’t be as dictatorial as Harper. Even if you assume a Conservative landslide in the next election (the *opposite* seems more likely now), there’s just not enough people in the party who support the issue to guarantee it will pass. Too many either don’t care, or are pro-choice. And because it’s not a slam dunk, and it’s such a third-rail issue, the cagey politicians won’t want to touch it, even those that do support it. If they don’t have the backbone to actually vote against it – even using a nonsense excuse about some procedural nuance – they’ll probably just arrange to not be there that day.

      If the bill can be arranged in a way that a vote for it won’t have any actual political consequences (for example, it’s written in such a way that even if it passes, it can’t possibly become law), then sure, you’ll see Cons falling over themselves to make a show of supporting it. But if the bill actually has the potential to deny women choice, no sir, most won’t go within a league of it.

      And it is because of all that that I think Scheer won’t allow a private member’s bill on the matter.

      You see, even if the bill is doomed, it would be a political sinkhole for most Conservatives. The only winners if such a bill were tabled would be the hardass anti-choice politicians, and *every* openly pro-choice politician. For the hardasses, it will be a perfect way to trumpet their position, then play the martyr complex when the thing inevitably gets stomped down. For the pro-choicers, it’s a free point given by the other sides – they can fulminate about how backward it is that the bill is even being *allowed*, and point disdainful fingers at the backward-ass attitudes of everyone who doesn’t make a show of being pro-choice. The losers in this game will be anyone who doesn’t want to wave the pro-choice flag, but also doesn’t want to lumped in with the hardass social conservatives… which is like 90% of the Conservative Party, who have to play the fine line between the social conservatives and the fiscal conservatives. So basically, if Scheer allows an anti-abortion bill to be tabled, he’ll be allowing a massive own-goal against his own people. They won’t let him do that, and I don’t think he’s either dumb enough to tyrannical enough to do it anyway.

      What I think Scheer gets, but those anti-abortionists don’t, is that the issue really is closed in Canada. Depending on the poll, anywhere from 2 in 5 to just over half say there should be *NO* restrictions on abortion *AT ALL*. Then there’s another 20-25% who will only accept bans on things like third-trimester abortions or sex-selective abortions. So you’re already at 60-75% who just won’t have any truck with most anti-abortion shit.

      I suppose there’s an outside shot if the attempt is to ban something like third-trimester or sex-selective abortions. But even there, Canadians prefer alternative approaches, like banning ultrasounds that give the foetus’s gender until after it’s too late in the pregnancy. (Remember, Harper cracked down on an MP just for suggesting a *MOTION* condemning sex-selective abortion – not even a bill.)

      The whole thing is just too much hassle, with too little chance of too few gains. I can’t see Scheer wanting that wound reopened, even in the name of MP autonomy. If he doesn’t outright ban his caucus from raising the issue, he’ll probably make it clear that it won’t be without political consequence.

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