Conservative antics let PM Justin Trudeau off the hook for India debacle and show why Andrew Scheer is not fit to govern

Posted on March 26, 2018, 1:06 am
9 mins

PHOTOS: What Canadians will soon see in their minds when they think of Conservative Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer (Photo: Andrew Scheer’s Flickr stream). Below: The actual grown up Mr. Scheer (Photo: Andre Forget, Andrew Scheer’s Flickr stream), Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper (Photo: Wikimedia Commons), and federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

Regular readers of this blog will know its author is no fan of Stephen Harper, who quit politics, if not politicking, after his well-deserved election loss in October 2015.

Still, to give the man his due, the Conservative Party of Canada under his leadership would never have indulged in an undignified gong show in Parliament like the recently ended “filibuster” – which was not technically a filibuster but something more akin to a protracted public temper tantrum by a group of overgrown children bent on proving they are not capable of running a student council at a community college, let alone governing a country.

It was, in other words, Scheer idiocy.

The former prime minister – by contrast to the party’s current leader, the lamentable Andrew Scheer – would have had too much dignity and too good a strategic mind to engage in such pathetically childish shenanigans.

The backstory to this foolishness was Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s trip to India in February, which didn’t go exactly as planned thanks to objections in some quarters to his and his family’s eccentric apparel and the fact a man once found guilty of attempted murder in what can fairly be described as an act of terrorism on Canadian soil managed to wrangle an invitation to an official reception.

This turned out to be a significant embarrassment for the Liberal government and a good issue for the Conservative Opposition, which has been led by the obviously not very capable Mr. Scheer, 38, who previously was an undistinguished social conservative backbencher from Saskatchewan and for four years the somewhat biased Speaker of the House of Commons. Like Joe Clark in 1976, Andrew Who? had not been expected to win the CPC leadership contest in September 2016.

The Liberals had apparently expected the Trudeau Family’s India junket to be a triumph that would help them woo back wavering Indo-Canadian voters from Jagmeet Singh’s NDP. When the visit went south, the Liberals were put on their back foot and Mr. Trudeau, who has been consistently popular since becoming PM, suffered a serious drop in public approval.

Mr. Scheer and the Conservatives, understandably, wish to exploit this. They were doubtless emboldened by a couple of polls suggesting the PM’s hitherto consistent approval ratings were showing signs of the sort of cracks that can cause an airliner to disintegrate in mid-air and fall from the sky in pieces.

Alas for the Conservatives, as predicted in this space, the issue that had so engaged the public for a few days was beginning to slip away as our short attention spans were engaged by the latest depredations of US President Donald Trump and similar online clickbait.

That was, apparently, when Mr. Scheer’s strategic brain trust hit upon the scheme to revive the prime minister’s embarrassment by demanding a chance to grill his national security advisor before a public meeting of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, which has Liberal, Conservative and NDP members. When the government predictably said no, the Conservatives decided to tie up Parliament in the 20-hour “filibuster.”

Now a filibuster as normally defined is a Parliamentary technique by which a bill a party or a parliamentarian objects to is delayed through protracted debate. As such, it has both dignity and legislative legitimacy. Surely we all remember Jimmy Stewart’s performance in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington?

There being no bill to delay on principle, however, the Conservatives opted instead to introduce more than 250 amendments to the budget with the goal of creating what was rather-too-neutrally described by the Globe and Mail as “a procedural standoff.” The situation would more accurately be termed infantile antics intended to halt the business of Parliament.

Who knows, maybe the Conservatives forgot they weren’t Republicans in Washington and imagined they could close down the government like President Donald Trump, their obvious inspiration?

Seriously, though, even a group of pot-addled teenagers could have come up with a better scheme to keep a Canadian government’s feet to the fire!

I’d like to be able to tell you that cooler heads in the Conservative Caucus eventually prevailed. They could, under the rules of Parliament, have continued this nonsense until yesterday. But the latest evidence suggests the Opposition gave up Friday after only 20 hours – bleary eyed and exhausted – because the party brain trust has had another brainstorm.

Only God and Mr. Scheer (who in certain social conservative quarters are presumed to be in constant communication with one another) presumably know what kind of foolishness they will come up with this week. It likely won’t have anything to do with fact some Conservative MPs seem to have had their own embarrassing dealings with the same fellow.

As the traditional party of voter suppression – which could never be elected if Canadians turned out to vote in the numbers that, say, Russians do – there is a strategic case to be made for Conservatives trying to make Parliament look foolish. If Liberal and NDP voters can be persuaded politicians are all imbeciles, perhaps fewer of them might turn up on election day. That way, Mr. Scheer’s nutty but committed social conservative base might have some hope of carrying the day.

But surely last week’s idiotic non-filibuster filibuster has had the effect of making the governing party look like exasperated grownups and the Conservative Opposition like little children who have eaten too much sugar when Mommy wasn’t looking. Presumably the Liberals will make this point.

If Conservative Parliamentarians think otherwise, it is likely because they are too close to the trees, metaphorically speaking, to see the forest. (So many of them being from Alberta and Saskatchewan, of course, it is possible some had never seen an actual forest before they got to Ottawa.)

By behaving like children, the Conservatives will likely discredit their own case in a good argument that was working for them.

Not incidentally, though, the resulting attention to Indian politics of which most Canadians were blissfully ignorant and claims about Mr. Singh’s supposed past sympathy with Sikh separatists in that country may have contributed to weakening the NDP as a potential progressive vote splitter that could help the Conservatives wrest power from the Liberals.

Above all, they have proved Mr. Scheer is no Stephen Harper, who still enjoys some residual support among the Canadian electorate, and indeed that he is not much of leader at all.

They have proved, in other words, they are not fit to govern.

Unless the Liberals drop the ball again, we can expect Mr. Trudeau to return to his now-normal level of support in the next round of public opinion polls.

Thus endeth the lesson.

17 Comments to: Conservative antics let PM Justin Trudeau off the hook for India debacle and show why Andrew Scheer is not fit to govern

  1. Farmer Brian

    March 26th, 2018

    Couple of quick thoughts David. Global news just released a new Ipsos Reid poll this morning Cons 38% Libs 31% NDP 23%. What I found particularly interesting was the level of support in Ontario for the Cons at 42%, I believe the NDP in second at 26%. It appears that the last 6 months of blundering is catching up with Mr. Trudeau with his India debacle being the catalyst lol.
    The big question for me is why won’t the Liberal’s allow the national security adviser to be questioned about the India trip? What have they got to hide? And from my stand point I thought the Conservatives did the right thing by bringing attention to this.

    Reply
    • March 26th, 2018

      Unless there is a big issue coming down the pike the Liberals will have the India trip well behind them around the next election.

      Any polls taken now are a snapshot based on a government half way through its mandate…those polls reflect a common pattern for most governments we’ve had at the same time period.

      The Liberals are not going to sit around by 2020 either and I expect them to turn on the taps and take advantage of a CPC party in disarray and with a poor leader.

      While I agree that the CPC did the right hting bringing up the India trip, the manner and method they chose to do so was pure Mickey Mouse.

      Reply
    • Expat Albertan

      March 26th, 2018

      This happened in the last two elections as well…what you are likely seeing is the non-Conservative vote testing different options before coalescing behind either the Liberals or NDP. The non-Con vote is still 62%.

      Reply
  2. jerrymacgp

    March 26th, 2018

    Here’s the thing about the Atwal affair… was it properly within the purview of our security apparatus, to bar him from attending these events in India, if he has (1) served his sentence, as he apparently has, and (2) is not a physical threat to the PM’s safety? There has been no suggestion that Mr Atwal had any intention to harm the PM, so this is really about the fact his presence in the PM’s vicinity was only diplomatically uncomfortable, not actually dangerous. I, for one, don’t want our non-partisan protective services to be engaged in protecting politicians from political embarrassment; that’s the role of political staff.

    The blame, then, goes to the PMO and/or the Liberal Party, not the protective services.

    Reply
  3. J.E. Molnar

    March 26th, 2018

    I can just picture the Liberals and NDP print and TV ads in the 2019 election. With your last name as “Scheer” the possibilities are endless. “Would you vote for Scheer lunacy?” “Would you vote for Scheer incompetence?” You get the drift. It’s quite likely that not since Mike Crapo (Idado Senator) was elected has there been, shall I say, a more unique political name. Fun and games for sure come 2019.

    Reply
  4. Ron

    March 26th, 2018

    Failed limerick…..

    It would be Justin’s just reward
    To get hoist on his own petard
    He would not perform
    on voting reform
    …..
    so his legacies are a CON majority w 36% of the vote and bitumen spills in the Salish Sea.

    Reply
  5. March 26th, 2018

    At the time the PM’s India trip was made into a major debacle. Like so many headlines these days, it was way overblown.. After all, how many Canadians gather aroud the kitchen table at night engaged in heated debate over the merits of Sikh separation? About zilich.

    Reply
    • Expat Albertan

      March 26th, 2018

      I’d have to agree…it’s not a pocket book issue (despite the cost), so it’s likely to subside.

      Reply
  6. brett

    March 26th, 2018

    Could not agree more.

    So much to select from. NAFTA trade negotiations, CRA audits of Panama Papers folk, Trans Mountain pipeline, defense spending, immigration, pharmacare, etc…

    And what do Scheer and the Conservatives hone in on??? The PM’s trip to India.

    They are failing in their role as HM Official Opposition. They look like a bunch of school children at recess.

    Sad.

    Reply
  7. David

    March 26th, 2018

    In politics, as in life one should as the saying goes “pick ones battles carefully”. The Conservatives were so eager to keep replaying their greatest hits of the PM’s India tour they have ignored this. If one has any concept of numbers, they would know how this filibuster would end. The only hope for the Conservatives could be that they would so rattle the Liberals that they might say or do something very churlish and petty, like say what Harper’s Conservatives might have done in a similar circumstance, and therefore reignite this fading brouhaha. The Liberals did not and instead the Conservatives have had to defend themselves from headlines accusing them of wasting everyone’s time.

    The Conservatives missed a prime opportunity to highlight their real beefs with the recent Federal budget. Arguably, talking about things that would have a real and perhaps lasting impact on voters that they might remember in a few years, as opposed to the India trip which will be forgotten by then. Yes, they managed to waste the Liberals time, but one gets the feeling the Liberals didn’t mind so much as they know the Conservatives were aiming at the wrong target. By mindlessly opposing and obstructing everything in the budget, they are also giving the Liberals a lot of future election ammo, as in “they voted against … (fill in the blanks)”.

    Scheer comes across as the nicer version of Harper, but one wonders whether his front bench attack dogs have learned anything about being less mindlessly partisan and how that so turned off Canadians from the Harper government. They are putting the pieces in place to possibly overturn Trudeau’s national climate action plan with the help of Lieutenant’s Kenney and Ford. However, they don’t seem to to have any good alternative. They prattle on about the deficit, but don’t seem to be able to explain to Canadians how they will balance it – how much and what they will cut. I imagine they will eventually be forced to explain these things and hurriedly cobble together their own climate action plan, which will seem very cobbled together and probably seem like Harper’s discredited plan – say some nice words and do nothing.

    Now the Liberals will probably not run “just not ready” ads against Scheer, that is not their style and they probably will not have to. If the Conservatives continue on with such antics, Canadians will eventually come to that conclusion on their own.

    Reply
    • Scotty on Denman

      March 27th, 2018

      Great article and rejoinder. The ScheerCons are doing so-exactly the wrong things it almost seems studied. I’d say it’s safe to say by this point that Scheer is definitely not ready to govern. Or perhaps as ready as Peewee Herman.

      Reply
  8. brett

    March 26th, 2018

    At the very least the Conservatives should be picking a topic that has ‘legs’

    I do not think that this one does. It reflects poorly on Scheer’s political advisers. He clearly needs a refresh in the PMO staff.

    Reply
  9. Pogo

    March 26th, 2018

    Apart from being certain that that’s an adorable child of someone who has access to flags, my first thought was that it was Ottawa calling for Jason Kenney to return because the boys in short pants had been demoted to diapers and Canada might not survive!

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      March 27th, 2018

      The photo was found on Andrew Scheer’s Flickr page. I am pretty sure the child os one of Mr. Scheer’s own. I may be imagining it, but I was pretty sure I saw a family resemblance. DJC

      Reply
  10. Magda

    March 27th, 2018

    I think that the one demographic (if you want to dignify it by the term) where the India trip does play well is with the Rebel media twitter crowd. For this group of inbred lunatics, Trudeau is pro-terrorist, anti-white, probably gay and the kids aren’t his, and terribly, terribly elitist. (All used to describe Obama by alt-rightists, not coincidently.) They’re convinced the India trip was all part of some sooper-sekret plot to hand Canada over to..to…well, to someone or something really bad and evil and anti-white.

    If this is a result of having a Rebel founder as your campaign manager, then it’s going to be bad news for the CPC over the long haul.

    Also: anyone who’s observed Canadian politics for a few decades knows that many opposition parties lead in the polls until the writ is dropped and people get serious about who they’re voting for – and end up re-electing the government because the opposition forgets to act like a party to be trusted with government. I’m sure it’s what Kathleen Wynne is counting on.

    Reply
  11. ken

    March 27th, 2018

    I think we all know that the conservatives screwed up when they did not elect Maxime Bernier as leader. The rest, as they say, is history.

    Reply

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