Alberta Politics
Andrew Scheer: Not particularly concerned about your rights, apparently (Photo: Public Domain).

The Dougtatorship notwithstanding, what have you got to fear, Mr. Scheer?

Posted on September 13, 2018, 1:19 am
7 mins

What have you got to fear, Andrew Scheer?

Is there a single office-holding Conservative in this country who is willing to stand up for the fundamental rights of Canadians as they are assaulted by Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his unrestrained Dougtatorship?

Ontario Premier Doug Ford (Photo: Doug Ford Flickr account, Creative Commons).

What an opportunity this could have been for Mr. Scheer, supposedly the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and thereby ex officio leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition (sic), to speak up on behalf of the Canadians from coast to coast to coast who are deeply troubled by Premier Ford’s repugnant assault on the principles of our Constitution.

What an opportunity for Mr. Scheer to demonstrate real leadership – and benefit from it – by showing a little spine.

There was certainly more to gain than to lose for Mr. Scheer, 39, leader of the federal Conservatives since May of 2017, by saying something like this to Mr. Ford: “C’mon, bro! I love ya, and I’m glad you won, but this is outta line! Be a real Conservative, man! Show a little respect for the Constitution!”

Lots of Canadians who may not be very committed to voting Conservative but don’t like the Trudeau Government for one reason or another and aren’t prepared to vote for the NDP would not only be impressed by something like this, they’d be relieved as hell.

Ontario Attorney General Caroline Mulroney (Photo: Caroline Mulroney Leadership Campaign).

By calling out Mr. Ford, Mr. Scheer would even be offering Canadians a relatively painless way out of the roiling constitutional crisis the Ontario premier seems to be determined, Donald Trump style, to foment.

Mr. Scheer might well also be saving his own bacon, since the most likely victim of Mr. Ford’s frivolous use of the Notwithstanding Clause is likely to be the Conservative Party of Canada in the next federal election. Can’t you just imagine what the Liberal TV ads are going to look and sound like?

So what does Mr. Scheer have to say in defence of the fundamental rights of Canadians? He sent out his spokesthingy, Brock Harrison, to say Mr. Ford’s antics are within the law.

Interestingly, you couldn’t actually find a direct quote in any of the news coverage last night posted by the time this post was filed.

But what courage! What principle! It’s OK for Mr. Ford to frivolously use the Constitution’s Notwithstanding Clause suspend your fundamental rights for five years because … no laws were broken!

Mr. Scheer was quoted by CTV saying, in effect, don’t ask me – this is your problem. Again, though, we have no actual direct quotes.

Here’s how CTV explained it: “Scheer would not say whether he thinks Ford’s decision this week was an appropriate use of the measure, saying it is up to the people of Ontario to make that call, not pundits, academics or politicians from other levels of government.”

Alberta Opposition Leader Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Of course, the people of Ontario will just have to wait quite a while. In the mean time, this reminds me of what a friend of mine used to call the First Law of Politics: We made a mistake. We’ve given it to you. Now it’s your mistake and we won’t take it back!

Mr. Scheer may be so used to reporting to Stephen Harper – who used to be his boss in law, and may still be in fact – that Mr. Ford may seem like a boss too.

Or he may be dropping hints to his social conservative followers he’s not about to pay attention to any lines drawn by the courts on topics like LGBTQ and abortion rights.

There was very little risk for Mr. Scheer to do the right thing. He chose not to.

Indeed, reading between the lines of one of the few things Mr. Scheer said that was actually properly quoted last night, it’s hard to escape the feeling he’s trying to give a nudge and a wink to his base that he’d do the same thing in Mr. Ford’s shoes, no apprehended insurrection required.

We’re working on our platform right now and we’re confident we’ll be able to implement the types of proposals that we’re working on right now through the normal legislative process.” (Emphasis added.) And if you can’t implement them through the normal legislative process? No answer provided.

This tells us everything we need to know about the man.

That he must be considered a potential prime minister makes him more dangerous than Mr. Ford, despite his pipsqueak presentation style.

As Conservative Brian Mulroney famously said to Liberal John Turner in the 1984 English-language leaders’ election debate: “You had an option, sir!”

And where is Mr. Mulroney now that we could use him? Speaking out against Mr. Ford, as a matter of fact, even though it would probably be easier for him to keep his lip zipped to help his daughter Caroline, who once vowed to defend the rule of law but as Mr. Ford’s attorney general now apparently lacks the old man’s steel.

Then there’s Jason Kenney, leader of the Opposition in Alberta, another social conservative who famously demanded Alberta use Section 33 to prevent the courts from enforcing gay rights because, well, because he felt like it.

What about other prominent Conservative office holders? So far, all we hear is crickets.

16 Comments to: The Dougtatorship notwithstanding, what have you got to fear, Mr. Scheer?

  1. Bill Malcolm

    September 13th, 2018

    Where are the Conservatives and Scheer? Keeping mum hoping to get into power, because being in power is the only thing that matters these days, not ethics or morals or country-building. The Repugs in the USA are the same and have also buttoned their lips on the egregious behaviour of Trump, even defending it and trying to piggyback on his actions to get or remain in power themselves.

    Getting into power and bathing in bux and or glory is now all that matters to the right and in truth most everyone else too – it’s not limited to the right by any means. Once in, the exercise of power seems to have hypnotic effect, and all politicians want is more, witness Notley abandoning social democratic principles on the biggest file, oil. And petulantly bashing her nextdoor neighbour over the head with likely unconstitutional trade barriers. There’s no honour left in the political class, only winners and losers, and who cares about the public or the country? None of them. It’s all about themselves.

    Yesterday we witnessed Ontario Cons defending the Fraud’s use of the Notwithstanding Clause as if it were the most natural thing. Decency turned on its head while small-minded lower-level Con pols read the clause on live TV to hosts, absent any feeling for history or orginal intent, merely junk justification that it’s legal to use. No, there are few gentlefolk pols left – those who exhibit such traits rarely get elected. For those in power – just do the unthinkable and develop tortuous logic to defend it afterwards it is the order of the day.

    With such blinkered in-it-for-themselves-only actions, politicians are now openly scraping the lows of self-interest both in this country and everywhere else too. Prior they at least attempted to wrap themselves in flags and were still excoriated by the public as unworthy of much respect. So now they don’t bother with even the pretence of being selfless do-gooders. So much easier to tear down than to build up. A useless class of humans as things presently stand, happily stoking divisions for personal aggrandizement rather than compromising in the public’s interest.

  2. Ryan Spinney

    September 13th, 2018

    Trudeau could stop Bill 5 right now by using disallowance, but he doesn’t have the guts to do it, so he has no business going after Scheer when he himself refused to act when he could have. I hope the NDP and Greens go after Trudeau for not using disallowance.

    • Simon Renouf

      September 13th, 2018

      The general view of constitutional lawyers and scholars is that the Federal power of disallowance has effectively disappeared through desuetude (non-use).

  3. Farmer Brian

    September 13th, 2018

    So Justin Trudeau’s response was that the government was disappointed in Ontario Premier Doug Ford using the notwithstanding clause to overrule the Charter, but said he would not be weighing in on the size of Toronto city council and yet you attack Andrew Scheer? The guy that is taking votes from the NDP is Trudeau not Scheer. He picks some of the NDP’s favourite platforms like electoral reform and after getting elected throws them in the dumpster. Look at his initial position on NAFTA, he was worried about gender equality, indigenous rights and climate change, how many of those are on the table now? David if you want to be mad about something be mad about why not get pissed off at all the bullshit that comes out of Trudeau’s mouth that he has no intention of delivering on!

    As for Doug Ford, I think he should have waited until after the municipal election and enacted the law, doing what he is doing just looks petty. Enjoy your day

    • Lars

      September 13th, 2018

      Trudeau is probably giving Ford enough rope to hang himself. When an opponent’s engaged in an activity that will weaken his position, the clever strategist will do nothing to dissuade him.

      Scheer, if nothing else, is a fellow traveller of Ford’s. Ford is making conservative politicians across the country look bad. Sorry, look worse. Scheer is demonstrating his lack of principle by saying nothing.

  4. tom in ontario

    September 13th, 2018

    “…easier for him (Mulroney the Elder) to keep his lip zipped to help his daughter Caroline, who once vowed to defend the rule of law…”
    There she was, the Attorney General, on parliamentary tv spouting the party line as if Dougie himself had written the script.

    • Simon Renouf

      September 13th, 2018

      Excellent point. The Attorney-General is not just a cabinet minister. She has a duty to intervene to uphold the rule of law and, incidentally, proper respect for the Courts. It’s perfectly OK to disagree with a Court decision – I do frequently – but it is not OK to attack the Judge as a “political appointee”. Ms. Mulroney has an obligation to step in and correct Ford on these matters, and if he won’t listen to her she needs to resign.

      I’m a bit surprised by Mulroney for another reason: she seems to have a promising future as a politician. She must be hearing from people around her that she will be badly tainted for enabling Ford. She needs to listen to that advice.

  5. Sam Gunsch

    September 13th, 2018

    Today’s ‘office-holding Conservatives’ are making mockery of the political ethos of previous generations of Conservative leaders, e.g. Bill Davis’s assumption that ‘politicians would abide by political norms’.

    They’re talking and acting like extremists in the pursuit and application of power, increasingly like that narcissitic megalomaniac to the south. I think it isn’t much more complicated than they’ve noticed that it gets Trump good results with the republican/conservative base.

    EXCERPT: ‘In a rare intervention, Davis stressed that the notwithstanding clause was conceived as a compromise that assumed politicians would abide by political norms. Any override of the Charter’s protections was intended as an instrument of last resort to resolve difficult contradictions, not as a routine weapon in the premier’s “toolbox” (as Ford described it) that would put judges back in their box.

    As Davis told TVO’s Steve Paikin: “That it might now be used regularly to assert the dominance of any government or elected politician over the rule of law or the legitimate jurisdiction of our courts of law was never anticipated or agreed to.”

    Caroline Mulroney is not alone in her betrayal of the Charter.

    Other lawyers in the Progressive Conservative caucus, who should also know better, are displaying similar fealty to Ford instead of loyalty to the Constitution’

    • Jerrymacgp

      September 14th, 2018

      I’m about a third of the way into a book by former Stanfield- & Mulroney-era PC politician Tom McMillan, of PEI, called “Not My Party” (2016: Halifax; Nimbus), and it is an interesting reflection on how Canadian conservatism got where it is today. It’s a massive tome, not for the faint of heart—550 pages, not including end notes & index, an inch & a half thick—but a worthy read if you want to really understand the transformation of Canadian politics we have observed since the early 1990s.

      Mr McMillan asserts, with a good deal of credibility, that the modern Conservative Party is not truly “conservative” in the sense that had been traditionally used in Canada. To him, a conservative is one who values the shared community over the self-interested individual, and seeks to conserve communitarian values. He clearly dislikes the modern version of conservatism, which he labels as classic liberalism with its focus on the individual. I haven’t yet finished the book, so ‘m sure there are more insights to come, but it is still informative in terms of viewing the situation we are now in.

  6. Pwndchemist

    September 13th, 2018

    I’ve seen conservative memes being shared on facebook spinning the message that Ford is on point. He said he’d make the gov smaller and by golly he’s gettin’ ‘er done! Why would conservative politicians go against that spin when it’s right in their wheelhouse?

    • David Turnbull

      September 16th, 2018

      “He said he’d make the gov smaller and by golly he’s gettin’ ‘er done!”

      Any reasonable person would consider it the provincial government to which he was seeking to be elected to be the “gov” that he was referring. What he is doing has nothing to do with the government that he is supposed to be running.

  7. brett

    September 13th, 2018

    Andrew Scheer appears to be a little mouse. And I do not mean one that roared. Rather, one that looked out of his hole and then quickly went back in. Too afraid to even make a peep.

    Shame really.

  8. David

    September 13th, 2018

    Ha, ha, ha – the last thing in the world Scheer will do is speak out. This would require principled leadership and if you think Scheer is a principled leader just ask Maxime Bernier about that one. No, Scheer is probably taking his cues from the US Republicans who are trying to have things both ways with Trump. It is so funny to watch them dodge, weave and evade when they are asked about the latest ridiculous things. You see like the US congress Republicans and President both Ford and Scheer fish from the same pool of voters, so much of the Federal Conservative base probably thinks Doug Ford’s actions to “put judges in their place” is just fine by them. Therefore, Scheer wouldn’t condemn Ford’s action unless it really was a principled stand on his part. I’ve also noticed in the US, a few Republicans do speak out about Trump’s outrage, but they generally have one thing in common – they are not running again and therefore don’t seem to anything to lose by doing so.

    I think in November a lot of Republicans who were afraid to speak out will go down with the Trumptanic – those upper deck chairs might seem to be safe and comfortable right now and it might seem more risky to speak out, but in the end it will be both the more principled and smarter thing to do. So too here in Canada, Scheer is along for the ride in Ford’s passenger seat, but perhaps he is no too worried about getting injured when Ford crashes up, because apparently he is a national leader already without a backbone.

  9. brett

    September 14th, 2018

    This will not be good news for the federal Conservatives in the next election. Just think about where they ‘lost’ the last election. They lost, and lost badly, all major cities with the exception of Calgary. They did not get even one seat in Atlantic Canada.

    Scheer and team will not be happy. This can only hurt them in the next federal election. Plus, they are between a rock and a hard place on this, and on several other issues that have a high probability of being issues in the next election.

    This is before we ever get to the issue of a good portion of the NDP vote looks like it is headed for the Liberals (and some to Greens) or Maxime Bernier’s Make Canada Great Again Party which has the potential to siphon off some Conservative support.


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