Listen Up! Why is it that Conservatives are so quick to knife their leader?



Hugh Mackenzie
Huntsville Doppler

Scheer Nonsense

I am well aware that politics is a blood sport, but I am still startled at the rapidity and the viciousness of the long knives that are out for Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, less than two weeks following the federal election. Lorrie Goldstein, a senior journalist with the Toronto Sun and a self- confessed Conservative, summed it up better than I can. He said this on Twitter (@sunlorrie):

“This is why Conservatives lose elections and send out a message to the public that they are just not ready to govern: Scheer facing a new kind of civil war within the Conservative Party.

“Based on all this hysterical disloyalty to a rookie leader who improved his party’s fortunes in this election and held Trudeau to a minority, you’d think Andrew Scheer had appeared in blackface, repeatedly violated conflict-of-interest laws and interfered in a criminal case.

“That’s the difference between Liberals and Conservatives. Liberals understand the discipline of power. Conservatives run around like chickens with their heads cut off, knifing each other in the stomach. If a party can’t manage itself, it certainly can’t manage the country.”  

I have seen this time and time again over my years involved in the political process. The Liberals are no slouches at it either but without question, when it comes to knifing the leader, the Tories are the grand master. Names like John Diefenbaker, Bob Stanfield, Frank Miller, Ernie Eves and Patrick Brown jump out at me.

So, let’s take a look at this latest federal election.

Justin Trudeau came within a whisper of taking his Liberal government into opposition after only one term in office. He lost 27 seats and more importantly, he lost the popular vote. Are you hearing any of his Liberal supporters calling for his head? Because I have not.

In spite of being a media darling during the election campaign, Jagmeet Singh, leader of the NDP, took his party from 39 to 24 seats. As a reward for this accomplishment, have you heard any real noise from his party faithful about giving him the boot? Because I have not.

Contrast this with Andrew Scheer. He finished this campaign with 22 more seats than the last election. He leads the largest opposition party in recent history. He also won more votes for the Conservatives than Justin Trudeau won for the Liberals. He is heading into a minority Parliament where the government could fall at any time. He is now nationally better known than any other Conservative, including Peter MacKay. He is clearly the alternative to Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister. That is the way the system works.

And yet, the Tory buzzards and wannabes are circling. They want Andrew Scheer out and they may wear him out to the point where they get their way. Nothing can be more debilitating than being turned on by your own people. And at this particular point, nothing can be worse for the Conservatives if the naysayers succeed.

With a strong, united and disciplined opposition, the Conservatives should be in a better position now to hold a Liberal minority government to account and to bring them down in due course than they would be after a bitterly fought and divisive leadership campaign. In my view, those who are pushing for an early change in leadership are simply thinking more about themselves and their ambitions to grab power, than they are about the party to which they play lip service.

Of course, there is no question that mistakes were made during the election campaign. Social issues, for example, were badly handled, but Scheer was correct in not resolving them by caving into populism and the unprecedented pressure of the left-wing media. He paid a price for this, but it is not one for which he should be crucified. He ran on a sound policy platform that was largely ignored and in my my view he has not only earned the right to try again, but it is in the best interest of the party he serves that he do so.

But true to Conservative history, the buzzards will do everything they can to unseat Andrew Scheer; perhaps because they never supported his leadership in the first place and were just waiting for a misstep. It all started well before the election campaign was over.

I actually laughed when John Capobianco, a Conservative mover and shaker I have known for years, backtracked after telling the Globe and Mail that Peter MacKay should be gearing up for a leadership race. Nonsense. It was a classic move and he knew exactly what he was doing and so did MacKay. They were undermining the leader during the election campaign. It was almost like they wanted Scheer to lose.

Do you remember Peter MacKay? He was for a short period leader of the federal Conservatives and the person who caved to the conditions of the Manning and Stockwell Conservatives when the two parties merged. He has, in my opinion, had his day and his disloyalty to the current leader is palpable. His recent comment that he supported Scheer, while at the same time using the hockey analogy of him missing a shot on an open net, was not only hypocritical, it was intended to undermine him, and it was wrong. There was no open net. MacKay in his ambition underestimated the power and effectiveness of the Liberal establishment even under the worst of conditions.

It will be interesting to see in the coming weeks those who want to unseat Andrew Scheer, now that they smell a chance of victory for the Conservatives at the end of this minority government. In spite of his imperfections, I for one think our best chances are with the current leader. Many of my Conservative friends will not be happy with me for what I have written but I truly believe mutiny at this stage in the game will make things worse, not better.

Do not blow it.

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  1. Hugh:
    I have been wondering lately that if Alberta and Saskatchewan wish to get their oil to tidewater, and the Federal Government remains with their heads in the sand (or elsewhere), why are they not considering Manitoba and Hudson Bay?…Hudson Bay is open from freeze-up for seven months (plus) of the year and seems to be longer with Climate Change…it would seem reasonable to me that shipping Alberta and Saskatchewan tar sands bitumen to New Brunswick for processing would have a huge advantage over oil from Saudi Arabia with all its human rights challenges and Venezuela with its dirty oil and that would be a welcome alternative to the Irving Oil bringing in dirty oil from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. And in the process avoid the hypocrisy of the Quebec Government position and still provide our friends in Quebec with the winter heat they depend on.

    • An interesting concept Brian. It has been looked at before, and warrants monitoring. Getting Canadian oil to eastern Canada and on to energy-hungry European markets should be a high priority of the Canadian government. Sadly, it is not, as pointed out.

      However, there are big challenges with going through Hudson Bay/Strait. Shipping traffic is restricted to a shoulder season lasting roughly 3 months today. Outside of that window, shipping fuels is too risky. Climate change may grow that window over time, but not very quickly (hopefully). Servicing carbon-energy markets generally requires 12 months a year of guaranteed supply. Here is an excellent article on the topic of shipping in Hudson Bay, from a Manitoba based researcher, for those interested.

      Building pipelines to and tanker terminals in the north is extremely capital intensive. The risk/reward remains far too high to consider seriously today. That said, it is very likely within a decade US fracking/tight oil & gas will be in decline, bringing an end to the US short run of energy independence. Then the power equation changes dramatically in Canada’s favour. Alberta and Sask. can negotiate with the US from a stronger position for not only meeting their growing domestic energy needs, but also to export Canadian imported oil and natural gas (in LNG form) at a profit to both Asian and European markets. They will have all of the costly pipeline transport, terminal and port infrastructure in place, with excess capacity, essentially forming a North American energy alliance, countering the OPEC/Russia blocks.

      We just need the Alberta and Sask. energy sectors to survive the next decade or so. Sadly, in the face of current political ineptness/stupidity, this looks to be a much bigger challenge now …

  2. I would give Andrew Scheer my vote if I had one just for sticking to what he believes is right even thou it was not popular. He promised he would not try to enforce his view on anyone. It would be a awful thing if everyone thought the same we all have are own opinion on different things and I think we all should stick to out guns as the saying goes.

  3. Jacquie Howell on

    I agree Hugh that Conservatives always throw their leader under the bus. Unfortunately, Mr. Scheer needs to have a party that supports him, mentors him and get their act together. Stop worrying about the Liberals and start showing the policy. You claim they have a strong policy – it was presented too late and Scheer could not- would not push it. He was more interested in making an issue out of a costume party to raise funds and hoping that the 5 Conservative Provincial Supporters would carry him through. I hope that he can learn some serious presentations and appear like a leader.

  4. This is a hard one for me as I admit that I have had thoughts very critical of and have been disappointed in Sheer. At the time of the leadership convention when Sheer was selected I was not pleased.
    I watched Sheer approach the election and was fearful of his adequacy. He simply did not exhibit the agressiveness and comand of the electoral battle territory and the ability to counter the attacks comimg his way as the election unfolded.
    Many of us longed for a more assertive and agressive presentation to overwhelm and stomp on Trudeau’s trendy, patronistic and jargonistic ways. I am not a political genius (unlike our friend, Mackenzie) but I have a good ear for trends in the coffee shop. I will state with authority that Sheer needed to exhibit 300% more passion and be very much more aggressive in stating his positions. The dimpled, smiley guy Sheer, just didn’t convince the electorate that he had the royal jelly to prevail and dominate.
    Has what I have said lacked reference to policy? That is because I think policy is a secondary consideration to personality in the mind of an average voter.
    First you have to grab their respect as a contender. Then they’ll pay attention to what you are saying.
    Politics is a blood sport and nice guys or girls can win but only if their teeth are sharp and visable when they smile.
    Can Sheer remake himself in this mould?
    If not the party must look elsewhere.
    Jim Boyes

    • Even as a lifelong Liberal (Canada’s natural governing party), I totally agree. Andrew Scheer managed to consistently look like everyone’s next-door neighbour.

      How can you support a leader, after you just borrowed his lawnmower?

  5. Well, I think this proves that Canadians are not all happy recipients of a Republican style election, where Conservative policy is less important than personal attacks. For the most part, Canadians didn’t care about the personal issues the Conservatives tried to leverage. Until they start running a clean campaign, based on the issues, they’re doomed to stay in opposition, or less. As I’ve written before, come on boys, play nicely in the sandbox, and just tell me what you stand for – with integrity!

    As far as the energy discussion goes, it’s time we realize that carbon fuel is not the way of the future, for so many reasons. We need our leaders to show us their vision of the future of Canadian energy and how we can participate in this future to further our economic growth. Once we move from being energy dinosaurs to innovators, we will be a stronger country.

  6. Separation of Church and State. That was the first thing Scheer’s ‘handlers’ forgot. He spent far too much time on the issues of Gay marriage and abortion rights. One statement pointing out that the issue was not renegotiable.
    To read your speech word by word or not ? Not!
    Scheer showed his inability to speak ‘from the heart’. He couldn’t even thank his supporters and caucus without reading from a script.
    His inability to think on his feet was a tell. His body language gave him away as weak and indecisive.
    Waste of a good chance here! He missed the damned Net! His loyalty to his campaign staff who let him down badly and failed him in every way, was a factor. AS was the failure to tell everyone he was an American too, was stupid. Not an issue? Maybe?
    Lastly, he showed an amazing inability to think on his feet and that slight shoulder shrug and bending his head sideways as if in apology was likely telling us, Damned if I know.
    It’s a blood sport and once you’re down, you’re out!

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