05.28.2017 05:08 PM

Column: Introducing the Smirker™

TORONTO—Smirk.

The economy. Justin Trudeau. Free speech. His deceased mother. ISIS.

On every subject, no matter how sad or serious, Andrew Scheer would smirk. It was, well, weird. His rictus was so off-putting, we started to forget what he was actually saying.

Which, for him, was pretty fortunate. Minutes after he won the Conservative Party leadership last night, Scheer took to the stage at the Toronto Congress Centre, and proceeded to give a speech that was so stilted, so stiff, it made the worst high school student council contestant sound positively Churchillian.

The only time Scheer stirred the crowd was when he promised to withhold funding from universities where “free speech” isn’t protected.

Never mind that universities are wholly the jurisdiction of the provinces. Never mind that there are indeed instances where universities are perfectly entitled to object to Holocaust denial or the sexualization of children. Never mind all that.

“Remember J. Philippe Rushton?” I shouted at my TV set. “The Western University professor who taught that blacks had smaller brains, and who asked his students about their genitalia for his ‘research?’ You okay with that kind of ‘free speech,’ Scheer, you perpetually-grinning harlequin?”

It got worse. At one point, he talked about how important it was to be able “to have a debate about any subject.”

Any subject. Smirk.

We all knew what he must be talking about. The shockingly large social conservative contingent—the ones who had propelled anti-gay, anti-abortion candidates like Brad Trost and Pierre Lemieux to near the very top of the Conservative leadership ballot—wanted abortion and gay marriage banned again. And Scheer was saying: “I’m your guy. We’ll have a ‘debate’ about any subject, including that stuff. Wink, wink.”

Knowing smirk.

Before he exited the sprawling convention centre in Toronto’s west end, Scheer—who had voted against gay equality whenever the subject came up in the House—claimed that abortion and gay marriage weren’t up for debate “under my leadership.” But the damage had been done.

Everyone knew what he truly meant, however, because everyone knew who had put him over the top. So said Postmedia’s John Ivision: “If Scheer wins, it will be because of social conservatives.”

Other media were on to him too. A while ago, the indefatigable Rosie Barton went after The Smirker on her CBC show. Here’s a segment:

Barton: “But do you, yourself, believe [in gay marriage]?”

Scheer: “I, it’s, look, I don’t—it’s absolutely—our party dealt with this issue in Vancouver and, you know, there was a specific policy plank in our platform, and I think members decided, a lot of social conservatives who, you know, have differing views on that decided, look, if it’s not something that’s ever going to be changed, it’s been this way for 10 years—I have my own personal beliefs and, you know, my own faith background, but at this point in time with the Conservative Party of Canada trying to build a national viable coalition, it’s not something that—”

Barton: “But that sounds like, you’re just going to, you’re going to live with it. You’re going to live with the fact that gay people can get married; it’s not, but it’s not something you believe in.”

Scheer: “Look, it doesn’t matter, like if people have personal views on things, there’s a lot of things that divide us as Conservatives and there’s a lot of things that unite us. This is one of those issues that—it’s a—it happened in 2005, you know I was a Member of Parliament at the time, I voted my conscience.”

Get that? “It doesn’t matter.” And: “I voted my conscience.” And: the most weaselly, slippery answer any politician has given since Brian Mulroney was returned to the salons of the Ritz-Carlton.

“His conscience.” Smirk.

The shorthand on Andrew Scheer, when anyone paid any attention to him at all, was that he was “Stephen Harper with a smile.” You’d hear it a lot.

How, exactly, is that a winning formulation, pinstriped Tory boys and girls? Stephen Harper was beaten, soundly, by that guy you all mostly hate but whom Canadians mostly like. Did you think it was because Harper didn’t smile nearly enough, and Justin Trudeau smiles a lot? Seriously?

To the Conservatives, Scheer, however, was the least objectionable of an objectionable lot. Chong liked carbon taxes and had become a bit player in a psychodrama about breastfeeding. Bernier angered the lobby representing millionaire Quebec dairy farmers. Raitt was, well, a woman—just like Hillary! Emails!—So they picked Scheer, the grinning former Speaker of the House of Commons.

Not that it matters now, but here’s one thing to consider: Andrew Scheer was the worst Speaker in generations. He was pathetic.

One time, Scheer refused to let the opposition ask questions about—wait for it—the Harper government’s spending of taxpayer dollars. NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, flabbergasted, put it best: “If the Speaker of the House of Commons is going to try to shut down questions about government business from the leader of the official opposition before he even hears the end of the question, then we’ve entered new territory, and I’m telling you right now I’m not going to be told to sit down on questions that have to do with the public and that have to do with government business.”

That was the dimpled Andrew Scheer: quite alright with cutting off the “free speech” of those he opposed. Mr. Free Speech, only in favour of free speech for those with whom he agrees.

Anyway. The SoCon multitudes have made their choice. They wanted Trost or Lemieux or—failing that, per John Ivison—they wanted Andrew Scheer.

They got him.

Smirk.

32 Comments

  1. Pierre D. says:

    I was hoping, beyond hope, that Chong or Bernier would ascend.
    Instead, we have a younger version of Stephen Harper, to no doubt offset the younger version of PET?
    The Conservatives have learned nothing of their defeat. They didn’t elect PMJT because he’s a pretty boy, but because the CPC brand had become so toxic, inward-looking and xenophobic that it actually defended policies that led to the death of a child immigrant.
    The CPC needs to take a look at itself and move away from the rabid social conservative base to a more centrist approach that has served it well in the past.
    As it is, I cannot vote for the leader of a party that voted against right-to-choose, gay marriage, transgender human rights recognition and so much more.
    NDP or Liberal again, until there is a progressive conservative alternative.

    • Howard says:

      Which policies led to the death of a child immigrant?

      • Matt says:

        What?

        You didn’t know Harper and the CPC murdered Alan Kurdi?

        • Howard says:

          Oh I knew exactly which incident he was referring to. I just want to hear it directly from the HDS patient which policies specifically led to the boy’s death.

          Pierre – can you help us which policies were the deadly ones versus the non-deadly ones?

  2. Luke says:

    I really like this column.

    • fdoconnor says:

      Separate but equal was the bases of segigation in the US. It is a discredited philosophy.

      Judging by this map, most the the progressive countries do have same sex marriage.

      • fdoconnor says:

        I guess it depends how you would define “oh-so-progressive European countries” I certainly would exclude for former Soviet bloc. Many of them are barely even democracies any more.

        I would consider France, The Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries as the most progressive ones and they all have gay marriage.

    • Kevin says:

      Good idea for a t-shirt: “Equality but…”

  3. Howard says:

    “Did you think it was because Harper didn’t smile nearly enough, and Justin Trudeau smiles a lot?”

    Yes. Granted a party in power 10 years would always have trouble winning again. But if voters wanted a cerebral, competent alternative, they had Tom Mulcair. The fact is that the majority of people of any political stripe are low-information voters and the Liberals figured out best how to reach them. The smiling selfies helped among university-aged voters.

    Andrew Scheer’s biggest problem is that Ontario’s Tories are likely to win a majority government next spring and I do believe Ontario’s historical alternation will hold up in the 2019 federal election.

  4. Phil says:

    “Andrew Scheer was the worst Speaker in generations. He was pathetic.”

    Completely agree!

    He was a wretchedly partisan lightweight.

    His CPC leadership victory reminds a lot Canadians why they voted for Trudeau in the last election.

  5. the salamander says:

    .. Scheer looks like he underwent cosmetic surgery to permanently paste that smirk on his moon faced jughead. Very much like Dr Kriistin Kellie now sports a new neverending smiley happy face to go with her truly serious Kouvalis electoral makeover and extreme wardrobe update, with or without flag wrapping.. plus Minnie or Mickey Mousekateer squeaky lisp. She’s so happy with asbestos exports to 3rd world customers she positively gushes.. whilst insulting immigrants and pimping for more cheap disposable Temporary Foreign pipeline workers

    I may be mistaken, but do believe a twisted bigot named Trost beat her for Party faithful votes which should seal the deal with her riding constituents.. aka voters wondering how or why they elected a parachuted ‘star’ candidate from uh.. Alberta.. who uh.. actually resides in Ottawa eh!

    Smirker th Scheer of course did the reverse.. vacating Ottawa for the hinterlands of Saskatchewan – a fine province full of hardy Canadians willing to overlook the smirk of a Harper handmaiden for his faux evangelical posturing.. and tough on crime partisan prickliness. Ugh but he’s a wondrous replacement at Stoleaway for RodeoBoy th bullrider stock market savant and the anti-selfie Rona Bwana from Alberttawa.

    Scheer will jump into his 8 years minimum, wandering in the desert, mannishly smirking from centre of the Alliance cum Reform cum Conswervative or ReformerTory benches.. and wail or wank endlessly for Energy East or BC tidewater to somehow deliver a pre-ordained miracle.. that being how dilbit & fracked shale, supertankered to Asia is actually ‘energy security for Canadians’ .. hell what a miracle ! The radiant heat from India and China’s economy will heat Canadian homes, praise th lord & fuel our cars and.. well uh.. put a smirk on all Canadian faces who.. truly believe in unicorns and jeebuzz .. Halleluja eh !

  6. lou says:

    I totally understand the liberal amunition. The liberal idea of a leader is a bald faced liar with a silver spoon. Scheer has no chance. His wife and himself somehow manage to raise 5 children with less than 7 nannies!! How can that be! Asshole Butt-Head will have him for torn to pieces. If there is one thing ontrarians have learned, it is having a butts in charge means bend over and except it.

  7. Howard says:

    “Raitt was, well, a woman—just like Hillary! Emails!—So they picked Scheer, the grinning former Speaker of the House of Commons.”

    We’re still waiting for a female leader of the federal Liberals.

    Given the current mediocre group of female Liberal ministers, we might have a while yet to wait. Enacting quotas based on biological traits is not the way to foster excellence, and it’s for that reason that I believe the first (elected) female PM will be a Conservative.

    • talltexan says:

      I won’t hold my breath for a woman conservative pm, as long as the party is based in the west IT WILL NAVER HAPPEN!

      • Matt says:

        It already happened.

        A couple decades ago.

        Kim Campbell.

        • Ted H says:

          That was the party of Joe Clark, the Progressive Conservatives. That party bore no resemblance to the current Regressive Conservative party of Canada.

      • Howard says:

        This comment is so laughable I almost think you’re spoofing Toronto Liberals. Research these names and where they hail from:
        – Christy Clark
        – Alison Redford
        – Rona Ambrose

        While we’re at it, and so that you can brush up on your international knowledge:
        – Margaret Thatcher
        – Theresa May

        Quotas equal mediocrity. Conservative women compete on merit and on an equal footing with men and are generally far more impressive figures than their progressive counterparts.

  8. David Sch says:

    @ Phil: Indeed, all their candidates reminded a lot Canadians why they voted for Trudeau in the last election.

    Great column. Could you please do an equally spot-on take-down of the equally perpetually grinning, hippy “act of love” airhead, anti-Semitic Al-Quds Day supporter, the NDP’s own (it seems inevitable) answer to Stockwell Day, Jagmeet Singh. Now there’s a guy getting alot of smoke blown up his backside.

  9. talltexan says:

    The Barton interview is what happend when you put a backroom boy in the blowtorch of press scrutiny. He will be a hunk of red meat for the wolves in the parliamentary press gallery.

  10. Lynn says:

    Spot on.

    And, I see a smirking Eddie Munster when I look at the man.

  11. Matt says:

    Re: Abortion and gay marriage.

    Watch his interview with Evan Solomon.

    He once again affirmed those debates will NOT be reopened under his leadership.

    What he said is people in the party can have their own opinions on those issues, which I took to be a shot at Trudeau’s “you must believe what I believe or you won’t be allowed to run for the Liberal Party of Canada” decree from before the 2015 election.

    Correct me if I’m wrong but you were critical of Trudeau for that weren’t you?

    The test of course will be the first time dipshit Trost tries to introduce a private members bill dealing with one of these issues. Scheer BETTER shut that shit down.

    I’ll get worried after the policy convention if the party reverts to the “one man, one woman” definition of marriage that was finally formally removed from the policy a year or so ago.

    • Mike says:

      Scheer can not dictate or control what his party wants to debate. And as this leadership has shown, a good chunk of that party whats to debate social issues.

      Harper was able to keep a lid on and muzzle the socons with the promise of power. Keep quiet until we get elected, keep quiet until we have a majority. So they did. And what do they have to show for their support of Harper? Zip, zero, zilch, nada. The socons won’t be so easily quieted this time, and certainly not by Scheer, they have nothing to loose.

      The socons are starting to feel their oats, and the collateral damage is going to be @brownbarrie and his hopes of becoming premier.

      • Matt says:

        Uh, no.

        The so-con backbench tried, on several occasions to reopen the abortion debate, both directly and indirectly, and Harper shut it down. Most recently a couple years into their majority when someone tried to get a motion passed condemning sex selective abortions.

  12. Michael S says:

    He looks like Diefenbaker. He sounds a little like Diefenbaker. He was born just before the old man croaked. Don’t underestimate him.

  13. whyshouldIsellyourwheat says:

    I don’t understand you comment on the Conservatives and Raitt.

    Raitt is extremely well-liked and thought of within the Conservative Party. But she is NOT bilingual, and it doomed her candidacy before it started.

    Could you imagine the LIberal and mainstream media snark if the Conservatives had elected a unilingual leader. Raitt lacked an essential qualification of any party leader. Stephen Harper learnt French, and he started every speech in French. One of his legacies is that the leader of the party has to be bilingual.

  14. Levi says:

    As a Conservative, I thought Andrew Scheer’s victory speech was great! I especially liked when he related the Carbon tax debate in a way that would resonate with the “average Joe” on the street when he turned it into a debate on whether we should tax Canadians for heating their houses in winter.

    Warren, the social conservative movement in Canada is motivated primarily because of columns like this that openly mock and restrict our right to even express our views in a rational and balanced manner (like what Pierre Lemiuex did). Do the millions of social conservatives in Canada have a right to free speech just like any other special interest group, or, as your column expresses, is any mention of their views “intolerant” and not fit for discussion in Canada?

    • Derek Pearce says:

      Please, discuss away. Discuss them ad nauseum. The Liberals will be delighted to see you discuss and discuss and discuss social issues. The electorate as a whole may not love it but the Liberals will by all means encourage you to discuss away.

  15. John Lawson says:

    The technical term for Scheer’s smirk is ” shit eating grin”
    Even CPC loyalists will get tired of it.

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