What is going on with Canadian Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer?
In the summer of 2017, Scheer, then newly minted as the party leader after a very close victory over runner-up Maxime Bernier, visited Langley on the summer barbecue fundraising circuit.
“The Conservative Party of Canada is the most inclusive and welcoming party that’s ever had the good fortune to govern,” Scheer told the crowd.
He emphasized the diversity of the party’s existing MPs, and talked about reaching out to new Canadians.
It was clearly an attempt to course correct from the disastrous burst of borderline xenophobia that infected the Tories during the last stages of their election loss to Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.
The Conservatives now largely hold rural and exurban ridings, ones mostly populated by white, native-born Canadians. In a country where 20 per cent of all citizens were born elsewhere, it’s impossible to win a mandate that way. Scheer knows – or knew – that his party needs a diverse group of voters, donors, and candidates to win.
But this month, Scheer steered hard towards the populist, conspiracy-minded fringe when he raised “concerns” about the UN’s new migration compact.
Like any UN document, the compact is mostly a bunch of good wishes and best practices, and completely unenforceable.
Yet Scheer popped up to say it could “open the door to foreign bureaucrats telling Canada how to manage our borders.”
Scheer is either badly misinformed, or he’s lying to shore up the anti-immigration wing of the Conservative base.
As for why he’s swung from diversity to paranoia in a year, the answer may lie in Maxime Bernier’s split with the Tories and his creation of a new People’s Party of Canada.
Scheer is clearly terrified to being outflanked on his right. Bernier’s PPC is more libertarian on the economy and more suspicious of immigration and multi-culturalism.
Yet Scheer’s plan seems short sighted. Perhaps he can hammer the PPC into irrelevance in the 2019 election.
But at what cost? Alienating a good chunk of the voters he’ll need in less than 10 months?
The NDP, poor disorganized folks, don’t even have a leader in Parliament. Trudeau’s term has been a mixed bag, at best. But Scheer looks to be squandering his opportunity to win power by moving to the paranoid right.