I will predict at this time that Andrew Scheer will remain leader of the Conservative Party of Canada until such time as he may be forcefully ejected.
While Scheer said after the election that he would make a decision on remaining as leader, recent actions indicate that his decision has been made. He’s clinging to the leadership. At least until the review vote in April at the Conservative Party convention.
The latest excuse for his poor showing in the October federal election is “communicating the party message needs to be improved”. Then, last Saturday, Scheer fired his chief of staff and director of communications, ostensibly for failing to communicate the Scheer message clearly enough.
I have to say, I don’t think a lack of communicating the message was the problem.
Scheer needs to address the fact that a lot of Canadians simply didn’t connect with him. He needs to address the fact that his views on LGBTQ people, while honestly based on his religious beliefs, are out of step with most Canadians’ feelings on the subject. His refusal to attend any Pride events may not have even been remarked upon ten years ago. But pubic opinion has changed rapidly on the issue, and Scheer is marching steadfastly against the flow.
And is it that the Conservative climate plan was not communicated properly, or is it that the Conservative climate plan did not seem to take the issue of climate change seriously enough to satisfy most Canadians?
Scheer also vowed to take a “listening tour” of Canada and find out what people really think. He may not like the answers.
He was in Montreal this past Monday to meet with Quebec Conservative candidates, many of whom failed to gain a seat. When the writ dropped, there was some hope in Conservative quarters that they were poised to make gains in Quebec. Those gains did not materialize.
Critics point to Scheer’s performance in the French-language debates, described by most as shaky. I can sympathize somewhat. Debating in a second language would be most difficult. Still, the other candidates also debate in a second language, whether French or English.
One Quebec candidate, Maikel Mikhael, flat out said that Scheer cannot win in Quebec. Another said that the Liberal minority was unlikely to last four years, and the Conservatives had best give Scheer the boot in order to be prepared for a snap election. Another said his positions on social issues “torpedoed” Conservative chances in Quebec.
It doesn’t help him in La Belle Province that the chief of staff he just fired, Marc-Andre Leclerc, was also his chief adviser on Quebec.
But some Quebec candidates are willing to give him a chance and let him learn from his mistakes.
Stephen Harper’s former communications director also had some advice for Scheer, and to me, it makes the most sense.
Kory Teneycke says that if Scheer wants to continue as leader, he should quit. He can then run for the position again. If he wins, the party will have no choice but to back him unequivocally. And he can certainly take it as a solid endorsement.
Teneycke also thinks firing top staff was a mistake and questions who would take the job now.
“Being asked if you want to be Andrew Scheer’s chief of staff right now is probably like asking someone if they want to be captain of the Titanic,” he told CBC News. “It’s a great honour if it’s before it hits the iceberg, but after the iceberg, it seems like less of an honour and more of a hardship post. I think the iceberg was the election.”
Still, another Harper loyalist, Rachel Curran, said Scheer should be given time to prove that he is listening to caucus concerns. She thinks he’s trying.
However, Scheer is between a rock and a hard place on social issues. If his faith genuinely won’t allow him to change his views, he remains out of step with a lot of Canadians. If he does change his views, he bends his faith. Not a great position to be in.
But on social issues as a whole, it’s possible the mistake was made well before Scheer’s time as leader. Was the mistake made when it was decided to take Progressive out of Progressive Conservative?