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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