Kelly McParland: The election is Scheer’s to lose — and here’s why he just might

Kelly McParland
Kelly McParland

The Tory leader has to produce a reason for people to choose him, other than a desire not to vote Liberal

Andrew Scheer is probably aware that the Liberal party has handed him a gift: it’s the next election, all wrapped up in bright, shiny paper, with ribbon around it and a bow on top.

It’s not his yet. The gift is there, alluring in its availability, sitting on a pedestal waiting to be claimed.

He just hasn’t quite figured out how to seize it.

If Trudeau sinks, the entire operation goes with him

So everything depends on Trudeau somehow cleaning away enough of the stain produced by his rancid performance of the past two months, and crafting a platform that can convince voters to give his gang another chance. It won’t be the hope and change campaign of 2015 (because it’s not 2015), but maybe with enough spending, some artful subterfuge and a poor performance by his opponents, the badly wounded prime minister can pull it off.

He’ll need help, however, and Scheer will have to play his part in that. Thus far, the shift in public support for his Conservatives probably derives mainly from disgust at the Liberals rather than affection for the Tories. Some of that may last, but not all of it. Scheer has to produce a reason for people to choose him, other than a desire not to vote Liberal.

There’s no indication he’s figured out to use that opportunity. Pounding away at the government’s daily pratfalls is useful enough, but the Liberals can’t be counted to keep providing new material. It’s hard to believe they could top the spectacle they produced on Tuesday, when they evicted Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott from the party for the crime of revealing just how craven a group of frightened careerists they’d become.

Until the Lavalin affair came along, the Tories were banging on about immigration, the carbon tax and overspending. All are fair topics and legitimate concerns, but with finite potential as campaign issues. They may also have limited shelf life: talks are underway with the U.S. on a means to close the loophole that has allowed thousands of migrants to enter Canada illegally, with signs U.S. officials are willing to co-operate; the carbon tax is in place and represents material change in only four provinces, where outrage is tempered by the fact everyone has long known it was coming. And while the Liberals shrugged off their pledge of limited deficits ending in a balanced budget, voters seem resigned to the fact governments of all stripes learn to love living on their credit card.

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