In early July, the usual Stampede routine unfolded. Calgarians let loose for a while and politicians used the event as essentially free publicity. However, there was a curious political (non) event involving Andrew Scheer. Mr. Scheer showed up, did the usual flipping of pancakes and made a few speeches. Like most politicians, Mr. Scheer used a lot of words, dragged out a few political clichés, but said very little of anything important. Sometimes I think he is copying the Justin Trudeau model. The problem is that Mr. Scheer is much sincerer than Mr. Trudeau, so he does not add the false passion. Sincerity is an admirable trait but showing some real passion for the issues he believes in would be beneficial.
Meanwhile, Mr. Kenney was doing his own politicking, inviting the premiers from Ontario, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and the Northwest Territories to join him. What these premiers have in common is a distaste for the polices of the Trudeau government, and a special dislike of the carbon tax. Now it seems to me that this is part of the federal Conservative platform. The problem is that Mr. Scheer seemed to distance himself from these premiers. This is all the more curious, as he actually said in one speech, “I know the people of Alberta know what it’s like when the Conservative movement is divided. You elect governments who are not friendly to the resource sector, are not friendly to the free market.” So, here is Mr. Scheer pleading for Conservative unity, while showing some potential Conservative divisions.
Mr. Scheer is on record as saying that, if the Conservatives are elected, they will scrap new standards that will force cleaner-burning fuels in addition to eliminating the federal price on carbon. This is exactly what Mr. Kenney and the four other premiers are calling for. The important question becomes, why wasn’t Mr. Scheer there with the five premiers, showing Conservative unity. These five premiers govern a large proportion of the population of Canada, and this would have been a perfect opportunity to show a united Conservative front on a very important issue.
A well-connected Conservative friend of mine recently commented that he voted for Mr. Scheer in the race for the Conservative leadership because Mr. Scheer seemed to be young and dynamic, with a lot of good ideas. Now he says that Mr. Scheer is not behaving the way he did previous to being elected Conservative leader. The Conservatives may be (at least at the time of writing this article) ahead in the polls, but it is still close. In order to win the upcoming election, Mr. Scheer is going to have to come out of his protective shell; start taking a strong, passionate stance on the issues that matter; and stop avoiding the other Conservative leaders. I can see a potential terrible scenario here where, during the pre-election debates, Mr. Trudeau shows his usual non-grasp of the issues with a great deal of fake passion. At the same time, Mr. Scheer shows a grasp of the important issues with no passion whatsoever. If this happens, it will be four more years of the Junior.
Frank Atkins is a senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.