The uninspiring personality of Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer has inspired buckets of unflattering commentary from Canada’s chattering classes, all the attention rendering his invisibility, well, visible.
Scheer’s rumpled blandness and over-sized awkwardness stand in sharp contrast to the swash-buckling, wavy-haired, rock-star figure cut by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the man he hopes to replace at the helm of the country next month.
Scheer’s seeming inability to properly stand up for himself and to articulate a coherent and positive vision for Canada has given the Liberal smear machine carte blanche to paint him, not only as boring and ungainly, but – far worse - as intolerant, misogynistic, hateful, and an imminent threat to Canadian values.
It’s a caricature as false as it is despicable; but it’s one that nevertheless is gaining purchase with the Canadian electorate, if the latest polls indicating steady revival of Liberal fortunes are accurate.
That the Libs have any prospect at all of returning to power is astounding, given the litany of blunders crowned by outright ethical violations compiled by Trudeau, the thespian leader who straight-facedly blathers in the very same breath, “The buck stops with me: I take full responsibility for mistakes that were made” and “I refuse to apologize". (Rumour has it that modern hipster dictionaries have replaced written definitions of “sorry not sorry” with the smiling mug of Canada’s 23rd prime minister – no further explanation required.)
The Flying Spaghetti Monster could go up against this clown in October and win in a cakewalk. And yet Scheer is in deep, deep trouble.
The blame lies as much with him as with the “brain trust” surrounding him. Consider, for instance, the recent bone-headed decision to hide the Conservative leader away for eight straight days while a dated video in which he compared same-sex marriage to a dog’s tail looped endlessly on social media. By the time he surfaced last week to address the controversy, average Canadians were seeing his mangled take-down of gay unions in their unsettled sleep.
A degree in political science isn’t needed to appreciate the serious damage done to Scheer and the Conservative brand, or to grasp that it will be a tad difficult to recover. Politics, like boxing, is a blood sport. This is the heavyweight title fight, but it’s pretty hard to land punches if you’re hiding in the locker room.
Clearly, a reboot – rather, a full-on rescue operation – is in order.
With that as impetus, here is some unsolicited advice for you, Mr. Scheer, distilled from water-cooler conversations with people in my orbit, ordinary citizens who have watched with growing dismay as you fritter away your golden chance to turf the poseur Trudeau from office.
Do with this what you will, Andrew, but bloody well do something. You’ve got oodles and oodles of ammunition: please – please(!) - start swinging.
Own your persona, sir.
Harness the power of authenticity and the art of self-deprecation, and say something like the following to the Canadian people:
I may be boring.
You won’t find me on the cover of RollingStone or GQ; my family and I will not be splashed across the pages of Vogue.
You won’t find me sashaying across India decked out in all the costumery of that fine country.
You won’t find me snapping selfies with every human being on the planet.
You won’t find me exchanging lusty air kisses with an adoring Melania Trump.
You won’t find me lounging on the private island of the Aga Khan.
You won’t find me tweeting millions upon millions of your hard-earned tax dollars to comedians like Trevor Noah.
You won’t find me jogging shirtless through the streets of Toronto - or any other city for that matter. Believe me, you don’t want to see me with my shirt off. (I doubt that Winston Churchill doffed his shirt in public either, by the way, and he was a pretty good leader.)
But nor will you find me undercutting and browbeating female members of my cabinet for standing on principle and abiding by our laws. You won’t find me shamelessly advocating leniency for corrupt companies that bribe murderous foreign dictators and supply their brutal sons with cash and prostitutes in exchange for construction contracts. You won’t find me destroying the careers of decorated military leaders like Vice-Admiral Mark Norman to further naked political self-interest. You won’t find me demonizing our great Canadian energy industry, the wellspring of so much of our wealth and prosperity. You won’t find me openly admiring China’s “basic dictatorship” or the illustrious career of Fidel Castro.
Where you will find me, should you elect me as your Prime Minister next month, is working tirelessly, with my shirt on, to help all Canadians get ahead.
I’m no Winston Churchill. But nor am I Stephen Harper, or Doug Ford. I am my own man. I may not be exciting, or hip, or “woke”, but I am honest, competent, and transparent, and I have great love for our country.
I want the very best for Canada. I want to restore sanity to our public finances, to return civility to our political discourse, to put an end to public corruption. I want to provide responsible stewardship for our environment in a way that makes sense for all of us. I want to restore Canada’s standing in the eyes of the world as a serious, honourable, and respected democracy. I want all Canadians, not just the wealthy and well-connected, to finally get ahead.
None of those goals are boring. They are, I think, quite exciting, and I’m betting that you think so too. I’m betting that you’ve had your fill of ethics violations, divisive identity politics, fake feminism, and empty virtue signaling.
Don’t buy into the Liberals’ ridiculous fear-mongering on social issues. I’ve said clearly and repeatedly that I will not re-open public debates on same-sex marriage and abortion. And I’m a man of my word.
But nor will I muzzle my caucus, as Justin Trudeau has done with his own. We live in a free and democratic country, and freedom of expression and freedom of religion lie at its foundation.
I find it a bit rich that I’m being taken to task for my Roman Catholic faith by a Prime Minister who is himself Roman Catholic and who is on record as both staunchly opposed to abortion and affronted by those who would question his faith.
Like many, many other Canadians I hold personal religious beliefs. But they are my own. I am running to be Prime Minister of a democracy, not a theocracy; I will be Prime Minister for all Canadians, regardless of colour or creed or background or sexual orientation.
Fellow Canadians, on the 21st of October you have a clear choice. If having a celebrity Prime Minister is important to you, if glitz and glam trump ethics and competence, then choose to move “forward” with the Liberals.
But if, like me, you care deeply about our country; if you care about capability in governance; if you care about the rule of law; if you care about getting ahead: then choose differently.
Choose “boring not boring”. Choose Conservative.