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politics

Why Conservatives Voted for a Boring Harper-like Leader

Andrew Scheer is just Diet Brad Trost, tbh.

by Drew Brown
May 31 2017, 12:00pm

Photo by Fred Chartrand, The Canadian Press

Look, I'm going to level with you folks. I am late to the game of the Andrew Scheer hot take and there is not all that much to say.

There was never really all that much to say, really. Hindsight is always 20/20, but it's not completely outrageous that Andrew Scheer would narrowly beat out Maxime Bernier after 13 rounds of voting. Bernier was alienating to marginally more Conservative voters and caucus members than Scheer, who was able to sneak up through the ranks behind an overcrowded field of also-rans despite being Diet Brad Trost. Defy the Quebec dairy lobby at your peril, I guess.

In terms of what it means, I would guess probably not much. Scheer has been pegged by many as a relatively safe bet for the party, which is not an unreasonable position. He didn't grab many headlines for saying and doing ridiculous, extreme, or deliberately outrageous stuff, which fell mostly to Kevin O'Leary, Kellie Leitch, or the Trost/Lemieux Sad Haircut Comedy Duo, respectively. Bernier was the Green Day to the Libertarian Party's GG Allin, which was clearly very popular. But there's only so much you can do when your colleagues in caucus don't really care about you—or when the only name recognition you have with most Canadians is "that guy who liked fucking bikers."

Then again—is Scheer a safe bet? His team quickly purged his policy website after his victory, but we have a reasonably good idea what he's about. He was definitely the more chill of the Saskatchewan leadership candidates, but that's only because Brad Trost always seemed two drinks away from telling you about how The Homosexuals are using chemtrails to make your children genderqueer jihadis. Otherwise, Scheer is a firmly religious social conservative from the prairies. The pro-life coalition gave him a B and he's still hung up on same-sex marriage.

Then again, so was 2005-era Stephen Harper, and his secret agenda to usher the country back to the early 1950s that never did materialize. Not that Harper didn't do many awful things—like brutalizing parliamentary democracy, muzzling scientists, scrapping the long-form census, persecuting political opponents through the Canada Revenue Agency, making people think Danny Williams was good, etc., etc., etc.—but the hardcore social conservative vision was not one of them. Scheer has similarly said on a number of occasions that he won't attempt to impose his personal religious convictions on the public and has no plans to reopen either the abortion or same-sex marriage debate in Canada. The extent that he'd follow in Harper's footsteps—deliberately or through the constraints of governing in the Canadian system—remains to be seen.

We may not ever find out, of course. Scheer faces a formidable political opponent in Justin Trudeau and the Liberal party, especially if he ends up tackling the prime minister from a more socially conservative angle. Trudeau simply being "not Harper" has in all likelihood bought the man at least one full term in office, especially if his opponent is being billed by some as the "Harper continuity." There is always the off chance that a revitalized NDP could challenge the Liberals from the left allowing a Scheer-led CPC to surge up the middle, but that's a bit of a long shot and there are too many moving parts to between now and 2019 to say how that would actually play out.

But sure: Andrew Scheer. The new Conservative leader is a quote-unquote safe bet who opposes the carbon tax, plans to slash the deficit, and feels weird around openly gay people. Can you feel the #ScheerExcitement of it all?

Yeah, me neither.

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