What You Need to Know About New Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer

New Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer

On Saturday night, Andrew Scheer was elected as the next leader of the federal Conservatives.

At 38 years old, Scheer was the youngest of the 13 candidates in the race (he’d previously served as the youngest Speaker of the House of Commons in the country’s history, as well as a short-lived Opposition House Leader).

Despite his age, Scheer sported some of the most traditionally conservative policies of the bunch, including on the environmental and climate change front.

Here’s a quick rundown on some of the things that Scheer plans to do if his Conservative Party wins the 2019 election, as well as some other key facts to know.

Scheer Wants To Repeal Carbon Pricing

There’s a good reason that Clean Prosperity gave Scheer a ‘D’ in its pre-election “environmental policy report card.”

The main reason for this is his commitment to repeal mandatory carbon pricing, which will hit $50/tonne in 2022 under the federal Liberal plan.

Scheer’s website — which has since been taken down, but can be accessed via the WayBack Machine — argued that carbon pricing “raises the cost of everything and puts jobs at risk while doing little for the environment.”

This contrasts the positions of conservative economists and politicians such as Gregory Mankiw and Preston Manning, as well as a recent analysis of the B.C. carbon tax that indicated the policy had reduced emissions by between five and 15 per cent since implementation in 2008.

Instead of carbon pricing, Scheer pledges to “support a sector by sector approach to reduce greenhouse gases in cooperation with industry and the United States.” It’s rather unclear what that means.

Scheer’s Ties to Ultra-Right Conservatives

Scheer’s campaign team includes some famous faces from the Stephen Harper era.

That includes campaign manager Hamish Marshall — who created and hosted websites for Ezra Levant’s Ethical Oil website, which his wife served as head of — and digital director Stephen Taylor, former director of the National Citizens Coalition (a job Stephen Harper also once held).

As noted by Sean Craig of Global News, Scheer also has associations with The Rebel, a far-right media outlet headed up by Levant, which Marshall serves as a director of.

Scheer has granted The Rebel three one-on-one interviews since late 2016.

Scheer also holds strong anti-abortion views.

Campaign Life Coalition released a statement congratulating Scheer on the win, noting that it demonstrates the “strength of the social conservative movement and importance of pro-life and pro-family voters.” He scored the second-highest ranking from the group after Brad Trost and Pierre Lemieux, both “unapologetic pro-life/pro-family candidates.”

Scheer has promised not to reopen the abortion issue. While he didn’t vote on the 2012 motion to do exactly that, he’s received support from former MPs who did, including Jason Kenney and LaVar Payne.

The Campaign Life Coalition also celebrated Scheer’s commitments to cut federal funding to post-secondary institutions that “do not respect freedom of speech” and “supporting the rights of parents as first educators of their children,” including tax credits for home schooling and independent schools.

As former Sun News pundit Michael Coren noted in a column for NOW: “This is all pretty harsh stuff, to the right of Harper and arguably even Preston Manning and Stockwell Day.”

Scheer has also voted against recent pieces of legislation to enshrine trans rights in the Canadian Human Rights Act and protect Muslim people from Islamophobia.

Scheer Is Very, Very, Very Pro-Oil Industry

As Prime Minister, Scheer pledges that he would approve TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline, which would carry 1.1 million barrels of oil from Alberta to Quebec and New Brunswick.

That’s unqualified support — support he’s pledged regardless of any issues that could be uncovered via environmental assessments or consultations with Indigenous nations.

That same approach is featured in his promise to “prioritize federal infrastructure projects that enhance access to natural resource reserves.”

He’s also pledged to eliminate corporate welfare, including bailouts and subsidies. The obvious example is Bombardier, which has received billions in public dollars in recent decades.

However Scheer has not promised to end the annual awarding of $3.3 billion in subsidies and tax breaks to oil and gas companies in Canada.

In another twist, Scheer pledged to “show Canadians where their oil comes from,” including requiring gas stations to display at the pump when oil comes from “foreign countries.”

According to Scheer, “this would allow Canadian consumers to make the choice to purchase Canadian-sourced, ethically produced oil.”

Sound familiar?

Scheer Has Strong Caucus Support

Unlike other high-profile leadership candidates like Kellie Leitch and Michael Chong, Scheer concluded the race with significant caucus support.

A month before the vote, Scheer sported formal endorsements from 24 current MPs and eight senators, as well as dozens of provincial MLAs and former MPs. Only Erin O’Toole, who placed third in the race, boasted more in total.

This matters a great deal when it comes to successfully leading the party. After all, we’ve seen plenty of examples of what happens when a party dislikes its leader, often resulting in fierce infighting and the creation of huge opportunities for other parties to fill the gap. If Scheer can build on his current caucus support, he could present a strong challenge to Trudeau in 2019.

Funding Massive Projects While Somehow Eliminating the Deficit

A major Conservative attack point against the Liberals is that they’re increasing the country’s deficit beyond what they promised during the election.

It’s a fact. The Liberals promised three years of “modest short-term deficits” of less than $10 billion for the first three years, and a balanced budget in the fiscal year of 2019-2020. But as of the last federal budget, it’s predicted that Canada will hit a deficit of $23.4 billion in 2019-2, dropping to $18.8 billion in 2021-22.

While the verdict is still very much out on whether that even matters given record-low interest rates and a huge infrastructure deficit, it seems a reasonable thing to point out that the Liberals are planning to break another major promise.

So what’s Scheer’s solution? Well, to balance the budget in two years. Unless he plans to raise income taxes or reverse his former leader’s controversial decision to cut the GST from seven to five per cent (which cost the country around $14 billion per year), the only option would be to cut close to $20 billion in annual government spending.

Yet Scheer has consistently pointed to the exporting of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology as as a means to reduce global emissions, a process which costs billions in public funding.

Also left unacknowledged is the fact that Canada’s only operational “clean coal” plant, SaskPower’s Boundary Dam Unit #3, relies on a patented Shell scrubbing system — a privately owned technology that can’t be sold off by the government.

In other words, Scheer’s plan to publicly fund the design and retailing of CCS technology would require billions in public funding, rather than making private large polluters pay via carbon pricing.

That sure sounds like picking winners and losers.

He’ll Need To Build Broad Support To Have A Shot

A pre-convention poll conducted by Nanos Research on behalf of the Globe & Mail found that only 4.1 per cent of the general voting population thought that Scheer would make the best prime minister out of all the candidates.

That’s right, 4.1 per cent.

That's compared to Maxime Bernier, who received 17.4 per cent, and Michael Chong, who received 10 per cent. A massive 33 per cent of people polled answered “not sure.” When asked if they were more likely to vote for the Conservatives if led by Scheer, only 16.6 per cent responded “somewhat likely” or “likely.” That's almost half as much as Bernier received.

Of course, there’s plenty of time left until 2019, meaning plenty of opportunities for the Liberals to break more major promises or the NDP to pose a challenge from the left. Nothing is set in stone.

But such numbers suggest that Scheer’s got a lot of work ahead of him to convince ordinary Canadians to vote for him.

Image: Andrew Scheer. Photo: Senado Federal via Flickr

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