Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer. (The Canadian Press)

Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer. (The Canadian Press)

Painful Truth: Replacing Scheer won’t solve Conservatives’ big problem

What kind of a party are they going to have to be if they want to beat Trudeau?

Our just-concluded federal election seemed very peculiar to me. I woke up the morning after thinking that it was the rare election where everybody could claim to have won.

The federal Liberals lost their majority but clung to power. Considering Justin Trudeau spent the year leading up to the vote shooting himself in both feet with the SNC-Lavalin scandal, and was then walloped by his own past stupidity in the form of the blackface scandal, this is nothing short of a minor miracle.

The NDP lost seats, but considering how dire their situation was six months before the vote, and how little confidence there was in new leader Jagmeet Singh, the fact that he proved an able campaigner and staved off total annihilation could be spun as a win.

The Bloc returned from not-even-having-official-party-status oblivion, so that’s a win. The Greens got an extra MP. And When the People’s Party of Canada returned not a single MP, we all won.

But what of Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives? Surely, they were the second-biggest winners of the night. The Tories managed to increase the number of seats they held in Parliament, and edged out the Liberals in the popular vote, something that will no doubt be a useful rhetorical club with which to beat the Grits.

And yet, over the past month, calls for Scheer’s resignation have gone from quiet, off the record grumbling to angry, out in public grumbling.

It seems that while everyone was focused on western alienation, i.e. Conservative supporters in Alberta being cheesed off that they lost, Scheer should have been worried about eastern alienation.

Most of Scheer’s critics vocal are east of Manitoba, it turns out.

The problem is that the Conservatives actually lost votes in Ontario and Quebec, even as they ran up ridiculous majorities in a number of Alberta and Saskatchewan ridings.

How is it possible, some disgruntled Conservatives are asking, that with a nitwit like Trudeau at the helm, a lightweight, a bozo, a man saddled with multiple scandals that called his judgment into serious question, the Tories couldn’t win?

Peter MacKay, erstwhile leader of the old Progressive Conservatives and noted non-Albertan, started the abuse by declaring that losing the election was like “having a breakaway on an open net and missing the net.”

While MacKay is publicly supportive of Scheer – mostly – more and more Conservatives have been saying there must be something wrong at the top.

The problem is that the brewing campaign to get rid of Scheer isn’t a civil war between those who support him and those who oppose him.

It’s a potential war between factions of the Conservative party, between social conservatives and social liberals, between east and west, rural and urban.

What does the Conservative Party stand for?

Low taxes. Balanced budgets. Fiscal conservatism in general. Standing up for the middle class.

So far, so unified. You’d have trouble finding a Conservative in the country who opposed those values, not to mention they have a broad appeal for middle-income, middle-aged homeowners in every region of the country.

The problem is once you drill down past that.

Scheer’s been taking a lot of stick from his critics back east for failing to appeal to suburban, socially-liberal soccer moms and hockey dads. Folks who care about LGBTQ rights, wish they could buy an electric car because they’re worried about climate change, but also worry about paying too much in taxes.

Meanwhile, he’s got the red meat social conservatives arguing that he wasn’t conservative enough, darn it! If he’d stuck to his pro-life guns he would be PM right now! (Spoiler: no, he wouldn’t.)

This is the problem the Conservatives face. It’s not whether Scheer is a bad leader (he’s kind of average, I guess?) but what kind of party they want to be.

Do they want to be simply the standard-bearer for fiscal responsibility, accepting that Canada has moved forward on LGBTQ+ rights, abortion, women’s rights, and cannabis? Or do they want to represent the (significant minority) who would like to roll back some or all of those changes?

If the Conservatives give up their socially conservative ways, they could win parts of urban Canada where they’ve struggled of late, including much of urban Toronto, Montreal, and Metro Vancouver. A poll immediately after the election found that fully 43 per cent of Liberal voters had voted strategically. They’d rather have picked someone else – likely a Green, NDP, or maybe a now-mythical Progressive Conservative candidate. But they held their nose and voted Liberal, scandals and all.

Can the Conservatives afford to turn their backs on their socially conservative base – or will some political entrepreneur form yet another splinter party to turn those alienated voters into a force in Ottawa? Turning your back means leaving it open for someone to stick the knife in.

Remember, the PPC failed because Maxime Bernier was seen as a traitor and an egomaniac by most Conservative voters. The night of the election, I ran into a Conservative supporter who confided that actually, he really liked Bernier’s policies better, but couldn’t stomach the way Bernier had flounced out of the party, and anyway, who wants to split the vote?

If Scheer sticks with his alienated western voters, who are still furious about the National Energy Program, he’ll never win in the east.

If he abandons his Saskatchewan roots (note: he’s a transplant from Ontario, like Harper before him) he could find himself ambushed by the Reform Party 2.0.

It’s not a good position to be in. But it’s not a question of replacing Scheer. Whoever is sitting in the Conservative leader’s seat is going to have to deal with those tough questions before they stand a chance of becoming PM.

MORE PAINFUL TRUTH: To get a public transit utopia, stop subsidizing parking

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Andrew ScheerColumnColumnistfederal election 2019Jagmeet SinghJustin TrudeauOpinion

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Teacher Tracy Dionne’s Grade 2 students at Willoughby Elementary wrote letters to adults about COVID-19. (Special to the Langley Advance Times)
Langley students offer adults COVID advice and encouragement

Willoughby Elementary Grade 2 students wrote letters to adults at the one-year mark of the pandemic

An artist’s rendering of what the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain station would look like at 166th Street in Surrey. (TransLink)
Langley School District has issued a COVID-19 notification for Lynn Fripps Elementary School. (Langley Schools)
COVID-19 exposure recorded at Langley elementary school and No Frills grocer

There are currently five local schools on exposure list

Brookswood Bobcats celebrated their B.C. championship victory at the Langley Events Centre. The Bobcats defeated Richmond’s R.A. McMath Wildcats in the final of the B.C. high school senior girls AAA basketball championships in 2016. Past championship games are being replayed this month online by LEC. (File)
Langley Events Centre takes a look back at some classic basketball championship games

Matchups from past years will be rebroadcast online for free

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation, May 8, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C.’s weekend COVID-19 cases: 532 Saturday, 508 Sunday, 438 Monday

Fraser Health still has most, eight more coronavirus deaths

B.C. Attorney General David Eby speaks in the legislature, Dec. 7, 2020. Eby was given responsibility for housing after the October 2020 provincial election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends COVID-19 rent freeze again, to the end of 2021

‘Renoviction’ rules tightened, rent capped to inflation in 2022

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Face mask hangs from a rear-view mirror. (Black Press image)
B.C. CDC unveils guide on how to carpool during the pandemic

Wearing masks, keeping windows open key to slowing the spread of COVID-19

Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen takes part in an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on October 27, 2020. The City of Vancouver says it has purchased a former hotel at a major thoroughfare that can house about 65 units to accommodate homeless people. A joint news release by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and city says 2075 Kingsway, Days Inn by Wyndham Vancouver, will be ready for accommodation this November. The Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen also announced a $51.5 million Rapid Housing Initiative for Vancouver that is expected to create 135 new affordable homes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Former Vancouver hotel to be converted to 65 units for homeless people by the fall

The former Days Inn on Kingsway will be ready to house people in November

B.C. Court of Appeal in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Murder conviction upheld in case where Surrey mom was stabbed in front of her kids

Jury in 2017 found Tanpreet Kaur Athwal, aka Sonia Kaur Gill, guilty of first-degree murder in 2007 death of Amanpreet Bahia, 33

Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

Most Read