Well folks, one of the most-watched things in Canadian politics was the fate of Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer. What would come of him? Would he remain or walk away? Would he fight it out right to their April convention and a leadership review vote? How would his caucus and members react to such a fight? A lot of digital ink had been spilled talking about him and his leadership, so it’s naturally been a point of discussion around Ottawa and across the country. Well today we finally got an answer to the question, and folks, it’s not one that I think anyone saw coming:
Wow…. Wow, wow, wow….. WOW!!!! The fact that Andrew Scheer has resigned is not really the shocking part of this, although it seemed like he was going to fight for his leadership until the bitter end. But this report from Global News about allegations of using Conservative Party funds to pay for his kids private schooling is just gobsmackingly stunning. I mean, wow! This is the kind of story that you simply don’t survive as a politician these days, especially when you consider the context around it.
Firstly, the whole idea of using party funds, money raised from donors and government rebates to parties, to pay for your leaders’ kids private schooling is a terrible look by itself. It would be bad enough if that had been done through regular channels, but it’s even worse when the allegations are that the party didn’t know about it. It’s one thing for the party to make a choice to spend its money that way, but it’s another level to have it allegedly happen this way.
Secondly, it’s amazingly hypocritical for a guy like Mr. Scheer to do. He tried to portray himself as this every-man, middle class, minivan driving dad. The idea that you send your kids to private school already works against that imagine, but if you’ve got means, you could make the argument that you could defend it. Between being Speaker of the House of Commons and Leader of the Official Opposition, Mr. Scheer has earned over the past eight years a salary well over $250,000 and had very nice housing provided to him by the taxpayers of Canada at no cost to him.
For that long he earned over a quarter of a million bucks a year and lived in mansions for free. You’d think that would give you a lot of disposable income to pay for private schooling for your kids. But when you add to this story the allegation that he used party funds (partially funded by taxpayers) to pay for that schooling, that just increases the level of hypocrisy exponentially. It’s a very bad look and opens him up to all kinds of justified attacks for that move. It also opens up questions about the ethics of doing such a thing and openly ask questions about the legality of such a decision on his part, all things that Mr. Scheer spent the last two years attacking Justin Trudeau for. That’s a lot of hypocrisy.
Thirdly, Mr. Scheer’s own recent past history can’t go ignored when it comes to the context of this story and the allegations. Mr. Scheer refused to answer questions for weeks about his views on LGBT rights and same sex marriage, to the point of doubling down on refusing over and over again. He didn’t disclose for over a decade that he was also an American citizen, and that was after Mr. Scheer attacked other leaders like Stephane Dion and Tom Mulcair for having dual citizenships like him. And all the while, he attacked others for being evasive and hiding secret agendas.
Canadians rightfully had some big trust issues when it came to Mr. Scheer because of his unwillingness to be fully transparent with his views and past. So when you add another case of that, like the allegations that Global News is reporting, it seems impossible that it could be overcome. At what point do you stop giving someone the benefit of the doubt and believe that the person they keep showing publicly is who they actually are? Given the nature and size of the allegations reported on by Global, that by itself would be enough to sink a leader. When you add to it his recent history, that just makes this all the worse.
Finally, the fact that a story like this from Global came out tells you a lot about the situation that some inside the Conservative Party were facing. This is a damning story, not only for Mr. Scheer but for the party itself and is one that can have long term damage for them long after Mr. Scheer would be gone. This story was a nuclear option, and to see it brought out tells me that Mr. Scheer was giving off signals that he wasn’t going to go anywhere. I don’t have any inside info, but this seems like the kind of thing that happens when those who are trying to push out a leader feel like they have no other options. This is a move of last resort, because of the long-term impact it could have. That speaks volumes and will have strong reverberations for a time to come.
We’ll see over the next little while just how todays turn of events affects what happens with the Blue Team going forward, but with his resignation, the race to lead the Conservative Party of Canada now begins. As for life in this minority Parliament, this should lower the temperature in the House as the Conservatives will go out of their way to not take down this government, giving the Liberals almost a year to get a lot done if they so choose. All the drama and excitement now moves to the Conservative Leadership campaign and we’ll see how that plays out. But if it goes like this resignation did today, it will be explosive and will leave many to wonder if the Conservative Party of Canada will even survive.