Can Andrew Scheer lead conservatives to success?


Bob Plamondon is the author of The Shawinigan Fox: How Jean Chrétien Defied the Elites and Reshaped Canada and Full Circle: Death and Resurrection in Canadian Conservative Politics.

Maxime Bernier was cruising to victory in the 2017 Tory leadership contest. Then Andrew Scheer aligned with dairy and poultry farmers, which – along with a quiet nod to social conservatives – created a narrow path to victory. Mr. Bernier, who had called for an end to agricultural cartels while advocating for enhanced personal responsibility and greater freedoms, led on the first 12 of 13 ballots.

Mr. Scheer shrewdly cozied up with the agricultural lobby to win. But in the aftermath, he needed to find some common ground with Mr. Bernier, who had the majority of the party with him minus some special interests. Had Mr. Bernier won, the traditional conservative universe would have instinctively embraced his proposal to equitably dismantle state-sponsored price fixing in the agricultural sector.

After months of trying to move Mr. Scheer on a range of policies and receiving nothing but disdain, Mr. Bernier felt he had no choice but to establish a principled conservative alternative on his own.

Predictably, Conservative MPs rallied behind Mr. Scheer. But the Bernier blow is hard to ignore. Two polling companies over the past week have revealed that 16-17 per cent of Canadian voters are open to or would likely vote for a Bernier party. Conservative MPs facing tight races in 2019 will become increasingly anxious if Mr. Bernier’s party holds anywhere near that level of support going forward. And Mr. Scheer will find it difficult to attract quality candidates in the ridings they need to form government.

Mad Max not only has ideas on his side, but charisma and that rare political quality of authenticity. If Conservatives in Ottawa doubt its importance they have only to look at the election of Doug Ford in Ontario, where he began the leadership race with virtually no support in caucus or among party apparatchik.

It is inevitable that conservatives will once again come together for the sake of power as they have done many times before, but when? Preston Manning wrote that the current rupture might only work itself out after the next election.


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