Who is Andrew Scheer? That is what many Canadians are likely Googling today, after Scheer’s 0.95% margin of victory in yesterday’s Conservative Party leadership vote. And this was not the first time Scheer beat out fellow Conservative MPs in an election. There are many reasons why Scheer won, but what happened on June 2, 2011 is the key to it all.
That was the day a young, 32-year old Member of Parliament from Regina—Qu’Appelle was elected Speaker of the House of Commons. He was elected as the youngest Speaker in Canadian history, just as yesterday he was elected the youngest Conservative Party leader ever.
And, similar to yesterday’s leadership vote, Scheer was elected Speaker of the House after a long drawn-out voting process that took 6 ballots. As a 32-year old, he beat many parliamentary veterans and those with more experience than him. But, Scheer was described at the time as “friendly“, “easy going“, and had the ability to speak French.
Scheer had no enemies. He started no fights. As Speaker, these are two vital qualities. The Speaker of the House is like the referee in a hockey game. Impartial. Fair. Just. Respected. Few Canadians likely pay attention to the role of the Speaker (Quick: Can you name the current Speaker of the House of Commons?), yet it is an incredibly important and powerful position. And it is the only one that requires election by Members of Parliament.
Andrew Scheer showed early on, six years ago, that he was capable of earning the respect and admiration of those who represent a diverse cross-section of Canada, across both geography and ideology. Just like his election as Speaker, his election as Conservative Party Leader drew support from both extremists and moderates, from the Prairies, Ontario and Quebec and Atlantic Canada.
The “Safe Harbour” Choice
In yesterday’s leadership vote, Conservatives faced stark choices for their party. Avowed social conservatives such as Brad Trost and Pierre Lemieux. Progressive candidates such as Michael Chong. The populist, Kellie Leitch. The extreme libertarian and fiscal conservative, Maxime Bernier. Or, party members could vote for Andrew Scheer, who offended none and offered a home for all Conservatives. And, that is exactly what they did.
It was not a decisive victory, with runner up Bernier winning 49.05% of the vote. It took all thirteen ballots. And Scheer was never considered the front-runner. But, just like his election as Speaker on June 2, 2011, that is exactly how an easy-going, friendly, French-speaking former political staffer from Saskatchewan tends to win elections.
And, he’ll have to keep it up. As of today, the Conservatives are polling behind their 2015 election result. To have any hope against the governing Liberals in the 2019 election, Scheer will have to use his easy-going ways to win the respect of all Canadians over the next two years.
Mike Chopowick – Toronto, May 28, 2017