Andrew Scheer is not planning to lose next year’s election

Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer believes he will be prime minister by this time next year, after defeating Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to lead his party to a majority government.

If he only holds Trudeau to a minority government, Scheer believes Conservatives will be happy for him to stick around as leader and try again in 2023, if not sooner.

And if he loses the 2019 federal election outright?

Scheer insists he hasn’t thought about that prospect. At all.

In a wide-ranging conversation with the Star at a holiday reception he hosted at Stornoway, the official residence of the Opposition leader, Scheer did allow that one factor he’d weigh if he does lose is the toll of public life on his family.

The 39-year-old father of five will have been in office for 15 years by then, with all of his kids born since he became MP for Regina-Qu’Appelle in 2004.

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So he has thought about it.

Yet Scheer insists he’s not planning to lose. Not to Trudeau, nor to Jagmeet Singh, the embattled NDP leader.

Scheer openly wishes Singh was doing better, and frequently encourages New Democrats to focus their political fire on the Trudeau Liberals — their common enemy — rather than take shots at his party.

Left-wing vote splits are important in ridings where strong Conservative candidates can come up the middle to win.

At the reception where he invited journalists to mingle with his shadow ministers (as he calls them), senior staff and Conservative commentators, Scheer also said he won’t lose ground to Maxime Bernier, the high-profile party defector and rival for Conservative voters.

Bernier went out in August with a bang, declaring the Scheer-led Conservatives were driven solely by polls and “too intellectually and morally corrupt to be reformed.”

Bernier created his own political vehicle: the People’s Party of Canada.

“Max is not going to win one seat, including his own,” Scheer predicted.

Scheer won the support of social conservatives and dairy farmers during the leadership race in which he beat Bernier, and now he’s nominated a popular local mayor and a former president of an association of Quebec municipalities to run against Bernier in 2019 in his home riding of Beauce.

The only irritant, Scheer says, is Bernier could pull away some bedrock libertarian conservative support in Western ridings where the traditional Conservative vote might splinter, but “there’s nothing I can do about that.”

And if Scheer is worried after a couple of internal critics were granted anonymity to subtly undermine him recently in the National Post, the Conservative leader does not show it.

Still, the politician who should be the centre of attention in a room is not a person around whom a crowd naturally gathers, even at a party in his own house.

According to the most recent poll from Nanos Research, Scheer lags Trudeau by about 10 percentage points as the preferred choice for prime minister.

Charisma is not his strong point. Scheer himself jokes about his dad jokes, his dad body, and his dimpled smile.

On the upside, the NDP leader is in a much worse place, with Singh trailing Green Leader Elizabeth May, both languishing in the single digits, and Bernier barely registering, at 2 per cent. A full 25 per cent of Canadians were unsure of whom they preferred.

Bob Plamondon, an author who has written extensively about Canadian conservative politics, says “if you look at the polls, most people haven’t formed an impression of Andrew Scheer one way or the other.”

Plamondon, who wrote a chronicle of successful Conservative party leaders in his book Blue Thunder, says Scheer ought to take note of the lessons of history: there is not a great track record of party leaders losing an election and coming back to fight another one, unless the results are really close or another election seems around the corner.

Although Scheer says he is looking forward to a holiday break with his wife Jill and the kids in Regina, where they still keep a home near her parents’ place, he says he’s ready for the 10 months of hard campaigning that lie ahead.

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