Thu | Nov 21, 2019

Canada’s Conservatives a bland option to Trudeau’s star power

Published:Monday | October 21, 2019 | 12:15 AM
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer speaks during a campaign rally in Vancouver yesterday.
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer speaks during a campaign rally in Vancouver yesterday.

Toronto (AP):

Even members of his own party say Canada’s Conservative leader is bland.

They tout it as a virtue, the antidote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s flash and star power, and they’re counting on this very quality to help Andrew Scheer defeat Trudeau’s Liberal Party in national elections on Monday.

“Andrew is what I call a severely normal Canadian,” said Jason Kenney, Alberta’s conservative premier and the godfather of one of Scheer’s five kids. “His personality is the opposite of Justin’s. Andrew is not at home naturally preening for the cameras.”

In the words of Canada’s former Conservative Foreign Minister John Baird: “He’s not the sizzle, he’s the steak.”

Polls show Scheer has a chance to defeat the Liberals after a combination of scandals and high expectations damaged Trudeau’s prospects.

“His entire career he’s been underestimated, and I would never underestimate Andrew Scheer,” Baird said.

Hurt by scandal

Trudeau faces an uphill electoral battle after old photos of him in blackface and brownface surfaced last month, casting doubt on his judgement. The handsome son of liberal icon and late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau also was hurt by a scandal that erupted earlier this year, when his former attorney general said he pressured her to halt the prosecution of a Quebec company. Trudeau has said he was standing up for jobs, but enough damage was done to give the Conservatives an opening.

Scheer also has had a bumpy ride. He has been criticised for embellishing his résumé by saying he had worked as an insurance broker when, in fact, he was never licensed. He also has taken heat for holding dual US-Canadian citizenship – something he and his party had blasted other Canadian political figures for and never mentioned until the Globe and Mail newspaper revealed it earlier this month.

Scheer said he began the process of renouncing his American citizenship in August, just before the election campaign started, but it could take 10 months.

Still, the young Conservative leader is well positioned to become prime minister. No party is likely to get a majority of Parliament’s 338 seats, so a shaky alliance may be needed to pass legislation. If Conservatives win the most seats — but not a majority — they will probably try to form a government with the separatist Bloc Quebecois party. Trudeau’s Liberals would likely rely on the leftist New Democrats to stay in power.

Trudeau reasserted the country’s liberal identity in 2015 after almost 10 years of Conservative rule. Scheer ran for the leadership of the Conservative party two years ago after more obvious candidates figured Trudeau could not be beaten in this election — that a second mandate was all but a forgone conclusion for the charismatic, young prime minister.