Conservative Party of Canada Leader Andrew Scheer, when he was a starship captain … really! (Photo: Flickr/Andrew Scheer).

Mark Twain, the renowned American author and one of the great raconteurs of the 19th Century, counselled: “When in doubt, tell the truth. It will confound your enemies and astound your friends.”

Excellent advice, it turns out, in this political season.

Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, in 1907 (Photo: Library of Congress).

The author’s advice was not just about lies of commission, though, but also about what to do when your lies of convenient omission suddenly turn out to be inconvenient.

But who knew that Bland Andy — by which I mean Andrew Scheer, leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and aspirant for the prime ministership of our boreal dominion — would turn out to have a trunkful of dirty little secrets, with the emphasis on little?

Of all people! This is a guy so bland he worked as an insurance broker, for heaven’s sake!

Except, of course, he didn’t.

Indeed, this turns out to be one of those dirty little secrets. He wasn’t even an insurance salesman. He was barely the guy who ran the till at the insurance store. Maybe he got to sweep up sometimes just before the broker with the keys locked the doors.

Look, you can almost forgive a politician without much of a resume in an age that’s cynical about politicians who haven’t held “real jobs,” especially when they’re promising to drain the swamp, for wanting to make whatever jobs they had before getting elected sound more important than they really were.

But insurance broker? Obviously Mr. Scheer, at least until recently, was a man of small ambition. I mean, OK, nobody would have believed him if he’d said he used to be an astronaut, but surely he could have claimed to have been a chief executive officer or an institutional entrepreneur?

The latter job description is a coinage of Jason Kenney, another Conservative politician who never had a real job outside politics and who was still living in his mom’s basement when Mr. Scheer was raising five children in subsidized housing, albeit pretty nice subsidized houses. I heard Mr. Kenney say that with my own ears. He was talking about being the CEO of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. But, je digresse.

Michael Ignatieff the Liberal leader the Conservatives said was “just visiting” (Photo: Creative Commons).

Mr. Scheer could have said that he actually wanted to study molecular physics when he was in college if only he could have afforded the tuition for the PhD. Now that would have been a crackerjack political fib. Who could prove it wrong, after all? Plus, it would have played right into a great narrative working class guy who was really smart.

I mean, if you’re going to lie, you might as well lie with ambition, with imagination!

It’s when the truth is out, though, that things get sticky. And that’s where Mark Twain’s advice comes in.

Consider Justin Trudeau, the real prime minister who did have a real job, even if Conservatives as a class don’t seem to think very highly of schoolteachers. When he was discovered to have worn blackface and not told anyone about it, he owned right up to it, apologized convincingly, and the scandal seems more or less to have gone away even as new videos kept popping up.

When cornered, Mr. Scheer’s instinct, by contrast, was to fudge. We had seen this already with his mumbled refusal to apologize for his views on same-sex marriage, and the light taps on the wrist he delivers to Conservative MPs and candidates who utter racist or homophobic comments.

About that insurance broker’s licence he never got, he said, he was working on it, could have finished the course, but just didn’t have time. Or something. Not very memorable. Not very convincing.

But no biggie. After all, he graduated from the University of Regina … or maybe it was the University or Ottawa, or maybe …

Thomas Mulcair, the NDP leader the Conservatives excoriated for having dual citizenship (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Wait! Apparently the jury’s still out on that one. Maybe he does have a university degree. Maybe he doesn’t. Maybe it’ll turn up in the files.

While we were waiting for the verdict, though … this just in! Mr. Scheer, the man they call Stephen Harper with a smile, has dual Canadian and U.S. citizenship!

And Mr. Harper, of course, is the politician who went after Michael Ignatieff, the Liberal leader in 2011, for “just visiting” because he’d held prestigious posts at the universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Harvard, and who ripped Thomas Mulcair, the NDP leader in 2015, for having … wait for it … dual citizenship.

This was never quite said aloud by the Conservatives, but it may be Mr. Mulcair’s problem with a lot of English Canadian voters was that his dual citizenship was with France, not with the United States.

Regardless, while this was happening, Mr. Scheer seems to have just sat there wearing that nice smile of his.

And what does Mr. Scheer do when he goes to tell the truth about his dual citizenship? He says that, ummm, no one asked about it.

This is like telling your girlfriend that, yeah, you have a wife… “But why are you mad, honey? I never mentioned it because you never asked!” This is not a formula for success, people.

Anyway, Mr. Scheer said, he was going to renounce his U.S. citizenship but the dog ate the paperwork. Or maybe it was that he hasn’t heard back from the U.S. consulate in Regina. Whatever, he’s working on it, OK?

So, now, we’re all waiting on the edge of our seats to see what the next little Andy Scheer fib to be exposed is.

This is what Mark Twain, AKA Samuel Clemens, had in mind when he talked about telling the truth to astound your friends and, more importantly, confound your enemies.

Mr. Scheer may still be in the game, but at the moment his enemies are far from confounded.

Join the Conversation


  1. Regarding the Liberals use of two airplanes during the election campaign, CBC News quoted Andrew Scheer. “I don’t buy Mr. Trudeau’s excuse that somehow purchasing more credits excuses him—gives him the privilege to burn more fuel.”

    This argument is not new. Years ago when Justin and his brothers were children, his parents flew the family to Europe, included on the flight was their nanny. During question period a Tory member criticized Pierre for bringing along extra staff, thereby requiring the aircraft to burn more fuel. Pierre responded by suggesting that if the honourable member were to blow into the gas tank for the duration of the flight, the plane would save more than enough fuel to offset all passengers on board.

    Justin could make the same offer to Andrew, thereby increasing the likelihood that only one aircraft would be needed for rest of the campaign.

  2. I’m fairly sure that in this era of Star Trek, gold uniforms were for “operations” people, and the “command” people wore red. It’s probably safe to say he’s just not ready.

  3. Lies? Half truths? Innuendo? Why that’s the ticket! Once I frack the nubbins off Canada, I’ll need a new home don’t you think?

  4. Yeah, it’s actually kind of shocking how bad Scheer is at Politics 101 when he’s essentially a professional politician.

    He writes a blog in 2005 or 2006 criticizing Michaelle Jean’s dual citizenship when she’s about to be chosen Governor-General. He watches his boss and mentor, Harper, criticize Mulcair for his dual citizenship and Ignatieff for having the audacity to work abroad as an academic in some of the world’s most prestigious universities.

    Through all of that, Scheer never clues in that, should he have any ambition to climb out of the backbenches, he might want to do something about the dual citizenship. Quietly.

    He becomes Speaker of the House. He runs for the party leadership and wins. Still nothing. By the time he clues in that maybe he should do something about it, it’s the August before an October election. One can only hope that whatever clerical work he performed at the insurance bureau was done with more dispatch and urgency than he handled his own personal affairs (and pre-political career).

    And the thing is … there’s obviously nothing wrong with dual citizenship. In fact, in a lot of people, it’s the sign of an interesting family heritage, or an interesting life lived. Not in Scheer’s case, however. He’s not only not-interesting, he’s so not-interesting that, as Dave notes, he actually chose to brag about being … an insurance agent … to build up his private-sector street cred (kind of like Harper’s bio always included mention of his tour-of-duty Calgary oil company mailroom). And then it turned out he wasn’t really an insurance agent, but more like the front-counter person who hands you your new pink slips when you renew your policies once a year. Honest work – nothing wrong with it at all – but federal politics is quite a step up from that. He should have thank his lucky stars when he was on the backbench. Ask some house questions. Serve on a few committees. Vote when Harper tells you to. Fly back to Regina in time for Rider games on the weekend. Ten years later, retire and live off the pension. But that damn Speaker’s Chair has a way of feeding the ego.

    Now? He’s an underqualified insurance clerk with an unremarkable 15-year legislative record running for PM who’s now got to talk about … in the middle of a damn election … signing up for the U.S. armed services draft and, probably, show us some tax returns he would have had to have filed in the U.S. as a condition of citizenship (that reason alone is one a few of my friends with U.S. parents have never bothered to get dual citizenship – it’s a paperwork hassle).

    Again – all things he should have dealt with years ago. Unfinished homework assignments, essentially. I haven’t made up my mind on Trudeau, but I’ll take a teacher over an insurance clerk anytime.

    1. The idea of “dual citizenship” is fine in theory, but when the crunch comes, where are your loyalties? This is especially pertinent when it comes to defending Canadian national interests as a political leader. Almost the entire history and practice of US government and citizenship (and most other countries for that matter) is an insult to every basic Canadian value. As has been observed, nations have no friends, only other countries with shifting common interests.

  5. Ah, the affinity of some Conservatives for MAGA hats, it all makes more sense now! It turns out Mr. Scheer is a closet American, which coincidentally at one time also had an official policy of don’t ask, don’t tell. I guess Scheer would fit right in with that.

    I have a feeling this will not affect his popularity with the base too much, as many Conservatives seem to have an affinity for the US, although some not as much for Mr. Trump. However, at least it wasn’t revealed that Mr. Scheer was a secret close relative of Mr. Trump, although at this point one can never be sure what surprising revaluations might yet come out. In any event, Mr. Scheer was quite good in keeping secrets at least until now. However, I have a feeling this might have more impact on the 5 – 10% of voters who tend to waver between the Conservatives and the other parties and in a race this close that could be very damaging to their chances.

    Its not so much that this revaluation is bad, many Canadians are ok with dual citizenship and it is not unheard of, however there are three troubling questions in this case. First, Mr. Scheer was planning on telling us this when – after the election? While it might not be the worst revelation, it is something that some might consider relevant and we should know about him. Second, it shows Mr. Scheer as not being very transparent. If he is keeping this from us, one wonders what else is he not revealing or trying to hide? Third, there is a Conservative hypocrisy on display here. The previous Conservative government (of which Mr. Scheer was a part of) made a big deal about the dual citizenship of two previous leaders of other parties and one former head of state. I suppose it played well to xenophobic elements in the party at the time. As far as I can tell not much has really changed in the Conservative Party. After the niqab debacle of the last campaign they probably learned to be a bit less overt about it, but with the departure of Mr. Kenney they probably are now focused a bit less on getting the votes of ethnic minorities. Perhaps some Conservatives will say this is different this time – the other dual citizens were with France, this is with the US. If that is the argument they make, that also says a lot about the Conservative Party.

  6. Andrew Scheer is even less a dual citizen than was Ted Cruz. This whole controversy depends on the inability or deliberate ignorance in the electorate to understand the difference between holding dual citizenship and actually living as a dual citizen. Scheer passively gained American citizenship as a child, never held an American passport as an adult, never lived in the US, never worked in the US, never owned property in the US, never voted in the US. Presumably, he filed American taxes as the US is unique in requiring all citizens to file taxes even if they earned no income in the US or in a jurisdiction without tax reciprocity. Jean, Dion, Mulcair, Ignatieff etc. actively acquired dual citizenship as adults, pledging loyalty to other countries, and in some instances lived, worked or owned property abroad. Previous Conservative attacks were surprisingly not specific enough in differentiating between active and passive citizenship. They were part of bigger narratives such as portraying Ignatieff as “just visiting”, or Jean, Dion, Mulcair as beholden to Quebec nationalism. Of course the Liberal hate machine will portray Scheer’s parentage as proof of his links to Trump, Republicans, the NRA, private healthcare etc. Scheer’s only misstep, a stupid one, was not coming clean earlier. Yes the Conservatives appear as hypocrites, but nowhere near at the magnitude of the greener and woker than thou PM who fires women who don’t follow his corrupt direction, blames societal racism for his own blackface performances and travels with a bigger carbon footprint than the Rolling Stones.

    1. Loyalty is generally expected of all citizens, whether born or naturalized. This is exactly why dual citizenship is a concern especially for those that aspire to high political office. As a child, Scheer may not have realized the implications of it, but once you are an adult you can no longer hide behind your parents actions or choices and Mr. Scheer has been an adult now for many years.

  7. Could anyone enlighten me on this.
    Is the C. T. F. taxpayer funded through tax write offs aquired by it’s Patrons?

    1. I’ve probably paid more attention to the CTF than almost anyone on the left in Canada and the simple answer is, no, they are not a taxable charity. So, donors do not get a tax break for donating directly to the CTF. This also enables the organization to keep the identities of its contributors secret. However, some donations likely come their way from charitable foundations associated with right-wing funding, and there is a revolving door of former CTF staffers moving back and forth through several organizations closely associated with the CTF. As far as I know, unlike the Manning Foundation of which their former CEO is now president, they do not have a separate charitable foundation. I would keep an eye out for a development of that sort, however. DJC

  8. Any vote for Sheer, or any party that might split the vote in favour of Sheer is a vote for a US Republican-style government.

    I find it sad that Hong Kong residents are fighting a losing battle to save what little democracy they have, and some Canadians are pissing away their democratic freedoms by voting for these fascists.

    Sheer = Ford= Kenney= Harper = Trump.

  9. Two points:
    1) As any hard-core Trekker would know, in the picture, Mr Scheer is clearly wearing a Next Generation-era Starfleet uniform, at a time when command-level officers wore red, not gold. The collar pips also appear, blurry though they are, to correspond to the rank of Lieutenant-Commander, not Captain. So, he wasn’t what he claimed to be in Trek fandom either lol.
    2) On a more serious note: the US citizenship oath calls upon the person to swear to “absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen”. But Members of Parliament, Senators, Cabinet Ministers and PMs have to swear an oath of allegiance to “be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors.” Last time I checked, the Queen, being a direct descendant of that self-same King George III against whom the 18th-century American Insurrection was fought, is a “foreign prince or potentate”; so, these two oaths would seem to be in direct contradiction to one another, and one cannot honour one without breaking the other. So, there’s that …

    1. I doubt our American cousins pay much attention to this any more. They simply assume, probably rightly, that their oaths trump all others. DJC

  10. Regrettably, the biggest problem with Justin Trudeau is that he lacks his father’s ability for being proud of his extraordinary ass-HO-lery. PET always had an amazing retort for any assault, personal or otherwise. Like time that, in the HofC, PET sexuality was questioned by one of those Western Canadian Tories. (The ones that are painted blue.) This was before his sensational marriage to wild-child Margaret, PET had to endure many catcalls about his manliness. Considering he actually believed that “the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation”, and that there were throngs of young women chasing him everywhere, one can see all those frustrated Tories getting their collective knickers in a knot over sexy Pierre. After one challenge too many, PET stood in the HofC and responded to that Tory’s demented inquiry that, “I strongly believe that your wife would find me far more entertaining than she finds you.” (And “fuddle-duddle.) I mean the dude dated Barbara Streisand, Liona Boyd, Margot Kidder, and Christine LaGoude. (Her name escapes me but she was the stunning Radio-Canada journalist that PET really wanted to marry.)

    Anyway, Justin may not be his father because he wants to be liked too much. PET was a jerk and proud of it.

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