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Opinion
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Federal Politics

Andrew Scheer, Political Klutz

Canada’s big race on the line, the Tory keeps tripping over chances.

By Michael Harris 4 Feb 2019 | TheTyee.ca

Michael Harris is a writer, journalist and documentary filmmaker. He was awarded a Doctor of Laws for his “unceasing pursuit of justice for the less fortunate among us.” His work has sparked four commissions of inquiry, and three of his books have been made into movies. His book on the Harper majority government, Party of One, was a number one bestseller.

Unless Doug Ford campaigns for him in a thong, things couldn’t get worse for Andrew Scheer in the 2019 federal election.

Polling poorly in Quebec, British Columbia and Atlantic Canada, this is a man without a vision leading a party without a narrative.

And now without a fundraising ad, yanked offline by the Conservatives who put it there and now admit its claims are false.

After a year and a half in office, people can be forgiven if they think Scheer is still Speaker of the House of Commons. Leaders lead, and by doing that, gain recognition.

Scheer merely lurks with that silly smile on his face, a political non-entity who acts like he’s gunning for the doorman’s job at Walmart.

Ouch! FN face plant

Is it any wonder that chiefs from the Assembly of First Nations booed the Conservative leader lustily at a special meeting in Ottawa last December? They had a simple question, and it could hardly have caught the Tory leader by surprise. If he became prime minister, how would Scheer be different from Stephen Harper?

Yes, First Nations had a big beef with Scheer’s former boss, and for good reason. The only thing Harper didn’t do to Indigenous peoples was bring back Indian Agents. He humiliated leaders like Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat First Nation, cut national funding, ignored problems and tried to run a federal bulldozer over native constitutional rights.

Scheer’s answer? The one thing you can’t say to people who have been waiting for decades for social justice — you’ll have to be patient.

If First Nations wanted to see how he would be different from Harper, Scheer said, they would just have to stand by until the Conservative leader announced his platform for the 2019 election.

That is just another way of saying that Scheer doesn’t know what his policy is. And he won’t know, I would guess, until someone hands him a piece of paper. Probably Stephen Harper.

It is not the first time Scheer has face planted on native issues in the Harper tradition.

Back in 2017, one of his Tory senators, Lynn Beyak, gave a speech promoting “a wiser use” of federal spending on Indigenous peoples.

That speech, and the letters it inspired, proved to be racist code for later claims that residential schools did an “abundance of good,” and that survivors benefited from the unsung benefits of their education.

Unsung benefits like getting “shock treatments” for wetting the bed, or being strapped bare bum in front of the whole class for trying to run away from these hell holes.

By January 2018 even Andrew Scheer got it, kicking Beyak out of the Conservative caucus, ostensibly for posting a “racist” letter on her Senate website and then refusing to take it down. (For the record, Beyak denies that Scheer or anyone else from his office asked her to remove the offensive material.)

The point is that the wake-up call for Scheer on Beyak should have come in 2017, when the senator first began her dubious musings on Indigenous issues. Instead, Scheer was dozing at the wheel.

Yecch! Bad sexts

The Conservative leader exhibited the same slow motion lack of judgment in the Tony Clement affair. While Clement was busily cyber-sharing his private parts hither and yon, eventually ensnaring himself in a web of extortion, Scheer acted like a coach whose player had missed practice.

His reaction was to have a heart-to-heart with Sexting Man. The leader told his MP that it was a “poor decision” to send his body parts to the digital devices of strangers. Now there’s breaking news.

Remarkably, Scheer’s first instinct was not to fire Clement, but to relieve him of a few perks — some committee work and his role as shadow justice critic. And to take Clement at his word that he showed his junk to someone yearning to see it. And that, why no, he’d never done that before.

Scheer actually thought he could keep the former cabinet minister in caucus as the MP for Parry Sound-Muskoka. So much for Conservative party family values. And this from a man who refuses to march in Pride parades.

But the facts swiftly exposed Scheer’s awful judgment.

Soon it became clear that Clement’s adventure in cyber-flashing was no one-off. Several women came forward to say that they too had received creepy communications from the man who sprinkled his riding with gazebos during the G8 and G20 meetings in Toronto and Huntsville.

Using the pathetic fig leaf that Clement had lied to him to explain his initial under-reaction, Scheer was finally forced to kick Clement out of caucus.

Ooff! Aping Trump

An inkling of how completely Scheer is devoid of executive acumen is provided by his poor man’s imitation of the drooling baboon who temporarily runs the United States. Donald Trump has famously called the press the “enemy of the people,” a fallen profession who make their living by flogging “fake news.”

Scheer and his crowd were quick to embrace the attack line. Not only did the Conservative leader revamp his communications operations, the better to attack news stories and journalists they didn’t like, but Scheer himself said Canadians needed a PM who would stand up to the “media” and the “elite.”

What is he talking about? Since 2006, most newspaper endorsements during elections have gone to the Conservatives. Even the Globe and Mail was endorsing the Conservatives in 2015, though rejecting Harper.

While Scheer was firing the first salvos of this phony war on the media, nitwits in his caucus were accusing the Canadian Press of being a spin tool of the Trudeau PMO. The reliably silly Michelle Rempel, Conservative MP for Calgary Nose Hill, began putting out her own version of news on YouTube to counter the “fake news” Canadians were getting from you know who. Trump envy at its worst.

And did I mention Scheer has vowed to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel? More Trump. Could more coal mines for Canada be next?

Where's my fiddle?

The most compelling proof that the Conservatives have saddled themselves with an overachieving member of the board of trade who stumbled into politics posing as a leader?

Scheer has no policy answers on the great issue of the day — climate change.

Amongst other things, the Tory leader’s silence represents an immense, squandered political opportunity.

Although Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shone like Venus on the global stage in Paris, he lost resolve in the heat of action back home. The PM conflated rhetoric with reality, the time-honoured ploy of most politicians.

As David Suzuki has observed, Trudeau ignored all the “low-hanging fruit.” He failed to do away with subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, failed to champion electrification for all sectors, and continued to approve new exploration and drilling for yesterday’s energy source.

And if Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux has it right, at $4.4 billion Trudeau vastly overpaid when he made the dubious decision to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline from Kinder Morgan.

Despite the huge political opening created by the government’s own record, Scheer remains mum on his own climate plan.

All that Canadians know is what Scheer told his own party at the Conservative policy convention last August: dismantling the Trudeau government’s carbon tax would be his first act as prime minister. Meanwhile, Scheer wants Canadians to wait for the details of how he would bring down Earth’s fever. Patience from the patient, if you please.

Let’s see.

A few people agree with Scheer that there’s plenty of time. Only 19 per cent of 1,378 CEOs polled by professional services provider PwC thought that climate change was a serious risk.

On the other hand, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has given earthlings about a dozen years to get it right before we choke to death on our “prosperity.”

Earth has set a record, and perhaps surpassed a tipping point, for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

According to the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, there are now a daunting 409.23 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere as of December 2018. That is the highest recorded level in 800,000 years, judging from physical evidence gleaned from ancient ice cores.

The world has 150,000 glaciers that supply water to millions of people. The New York Times reports that these glaciers cover 200,000 square miles of Earth’s surface. Over the last 40 years, they have lost the equivalent of a layer of ice 70 feet deep.

The same thing is happening on the two largest ice sheets on the planet, Greenland and Antarctica. According to a report in the Guardian, the melting has become so rapid that scientists have detected “acceleration” in the rise of sea levels.

First California burned, then Australia, and now the American Midwest is in the deep freeze. A hotter planet is a planet featuring more extreme weather events. The storm of the century is now an annual event on CNN.

Even the Pentagon cites climate change as a “dire risk” to its assets, fearing that rising sea levels could inundate its coastal military bases, while massive wildfires in areas of drought could imperil those inland.

Yet Scheer asks Canadians to wait and see how he will reduce carbon emissions without a carbon tax. Nero’s fiddle.

In the meantime, Scheer has thrown in his lot with Doug Ford, the Ontario premier who killed carbon pricing, ended Drive Clean emissions testing, dumped the Green Energy Act, and is busily removing electric vehicle chargers from Go Transit station parking lots.

One good thing? Ford is now threatening to end all-day kindergarten. Nice. That would shut down Queen’s Park as we know it.

But it wouldn’t get rid of Andrew Scheer. Only voters exercising their critical faculties — and their votes — can do that.  [Tyee]

Read more: Federal Politics

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