Scheer never apologizes for anything. Not for his dual citizenship hypocrisy, his homophobia, lying about his résumé, lying about carbon pricing, pandering to Yellow Vest bigots, or anything else.
By Ryan McGreal
Published October 18, 2019
In late 2016, I did a strange thing: I joined the Conservative Party of Canada. The party was in serious danger of electing a paranoid, xenophobic extremist as its leader, and I felt a moral obligation to do my part to stop the global wave of neo-fascist right-wing populism from washing over Canada.
While I disagree sharply with much of conventional conservative politics, I recognize that it represents a legitimate perspective in a liberal democracy and that a significant plurality of Canadians identify as conservatives. To put it bluntly, Canada can't afford for one of its major parties to spiral down the rabbit hole of bigotry, nativism and conspiracy theories.
My first choice for leader was Michael Chong, a principled conservative who spoke consistently and forcefully against xenophobic populist fearmongering and openly challenged his own leader's concentration of power in the Prime Minister's Office. Chong also supported carbon pricing, a quintessentially conservative approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions that economists broadly support.
Meanwhile, the other candidates were blowing the racist dogwhistle with a "Canadian values test" or grinning nervously as followers in Alberta chanted "lock her up" about then-Premier Rachel Notley, or threatening to eliminate agricultural supply management.
Enter Andrew Scheer, a nondescript socially conservative MP who was first elected in 2004 at age 25 and served under Prime Minister Stephen Harper as the Speaker of the House of Commons from 2011 to 2015. In 2016, he announced his candidacy to be leader of the Conservative Party after Harper stepped down.
Everyone's second or third choice, the bland career politician secured the nomination on the 13th ballot, where he finally edged past 50 percent support against runner-up Maxime Bernier, who lost the leadership with 49 percent for his aggressive libertarian platform.
Bernier, of course, was until then best known as the disgraced former Cabinet Minister who accidentally left secret documents at his girlfriend's apartment. As soon as Scheer won the leadership, Bernier rage-quit the Conservatives and formed his own People's Party of Canada to advance a more radical agenda of privatization, deregulation, regressive taxation and xenophobic white nativism.
While less overtly racist than Bernier's People's Party, Scheer's Conservative Party is playing the same xenophobic, nativist game, albeit using politer language. Scheer keeps repeating the false claim that there is some kind of refugee crisis on the border, a claim that has become such an article of faith among Conservatives that facts no longer matter.
Likewise, rcognizing that Canadian conservatives are suspicious of immigration, Scheer shamelessly panders to xenophobic paranoia about the United Nations Global Compact on Migration, claiming falsely that the non-binding agreement somehow cedes Canadian sovereignty on immigration (it does no such thing).
Earlier this year, Scheer heaped uncritical praise on the Yellow Vest "United we Roll" convoy, a contingent of angry conservatives ostensibly in support of new oil pipelines and opposed to carbon pricing, but also suffused with conspiracy theories, anti-environmentalism, science denial and violent white nationalist bigotry.
Prominent sign in the 'United We Roll' Yellow Vest convoy
Scheer extolled his Yellow Vest supporters on the same stage that infamous white supremacist Faith Goldy also spoke to them.
As part of his fearmongering about refugees, who represent a tiny proportion of annual immigrants to Canada, Scheer recently vowed to close the "loophole" in the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the USA, which states that refugees who enter Canada have a right to apply for asylum.
This is not a "loophole" but rather a fundamental human right that Canada has promised to protect for refugees who come to Canada looking for safety from violence and oppression. The real problem is that the Safe Third Country Agreement assumes the USA is a safe country, and that is no longer true under Trump.
We already know what happens when free countries close their hearts and their doors to refugees, and history will not be kind to Scheer's shameless fearmongering, but he knows that nearly half his party voted for the openly racist Bernier and he needs to shore up the white supremacist wing of his party.
Undaunted by decency, Scheer dog-whistled the Yellow Vest movement again this week with a particularly diabolical campaign poster showing him shaking hands with a man in a backwards ball cap, golf shirt and khaki pants and wearing a yellow vest.
Andrew Scheer literally shaking hands with a Yellow Vest
Of course, the Conservatives tried to gaslight people who criticized this by suggesting that the man was just a worker wearing a safety vest, but no one can take this seriously. Indeed, it rather seems that being implausible just makes it a more ingeniously exasperating troll.
But Scheer isn't just pandering to white nationalists and climate denialists. He is also working hard to lock down the socially regressive wing of the Conservative Party. During his run for the party leadership, Campaign Life Coalition praised his "perfect voting record in the House of Commons" for their agenda and approvingly noted his refusal to march in Pride parades and his oppositon to gender identity rights and doctor-assisted suicide.
Indeed, anti-choice groups celebrated his election as party leader in 2017, despite his stated opposition to introducing new legislation to restrict abortion rights. Scheer still refuses to say what he would do if a private member brings forth such a bill.
Andrew Scheer at an anti-choice rally in Saskatchewan
In 2005, Scheer argued against Canada's civil marriage law, saying that accepting same-sex marriage was like "count[ing] a dog's tail as a leg" and that redefining marriage would have "ramifications" that were "far-reaching".
To this day he refuses to disavow this belief, let alone apologize for it, saying only that he wouldn't reopen the debate.
Meanwhile, Scheer has been consistently on the wrong side of history as social equity and inclusion have advanced. In 2016, he voted along with some (but not all) of his fellow Conservative MPs against Bill C-16, an act to extend the Human Rights Act to include transgender persons.
In 2017, Scheer voted against M-103, a non-binding Parliamentary motion condemning Islamophobia and all forms of discimination (Chong was the only Conservative leadership candidate who voted for it).
Last year, Scheer sat in protest and played with his phone when the rest of the House of Commons celebrated a successful private member's bill to make the lyrics of O Canada gender-inclusive by standing and singing the new lyrics, which changed "In all thy sons' command" to "In all of us command".
Challenged on why he sat for the National Anthem, Scheer argued that he was opposed to the change, which he called "a political statement."
In the lead-up to the 2015 election, the Conservatives tried hard to paint Liberal leader Justin Trudeau as a pretty-faced lightweight with the tagline "Just Not Ready" and flippant remarks about his hair. That strategy backfired badly in 2015, but the Conservatives have since shifted their attack to the new tagline "Not As Advertised" as Trudeau has stumbled through several scandals of his own making.
The "Not As Advertised" line is particularly unfortunate for Scheer, however, as voters have learned more about the man behind the bland smile.
First, we learned that Scheer lied about being an insurance broker before entering politics. It turns out he only worked in an insurance office for six or seven months and was never accredited as a broker, but that didn't stop him from lying about his qualifications for the past 15 years.
Scheer clings to the everyman persona his previous job gives him, since it allows him to pretend that he's some kind of small businessman and not just another career politician.
Then, we found out that Scheer has dual citizenship with Canada and the USA, despite a history of attacking political opponents by pointing out their dual citizenship and questioning their loyalty to Canada.
Having dual citizenship doesn't say anything by itself about a person's character. But attacking someone else's dual citizenship sure says something, and attacking someone else's dual citizenship while hiding one's own dual citizenship says even more.
The hypocrisy is that Scheer and the Conservatives attacked Michael Ignatieff for working in the US and attacked Tom Mulcair and Michaëlle Jean for their dual citizenship, suggesting cynically that they might not be fully loyal to Canada.
When Scheer was confronted about his own dual citizenship, he claimed he didn't mention it earlier because no one asked him about it. No apology, just deflection.
This goes to a deeper problem: Scheer never apologizes for anything. Not for his hypocrisy, his homophobia, lying about his résumé, lying about carbon pricing, pandering to Yellow Vest bigots, or anything else. He demonstrates no accountability or personal growth.
Every one of us has a history of stumbles, fumbles and failures. It's how we deal with them that reveals our character. Do we take responsibility, apologize, make amends and try to change? Or do we deny, deflect and defend?
Scheer has shown us who he is and, as Maya Angelou wisely advised, we should believe him the first time.
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