News Canada

'Conservatives motivated by compassion': Scheer

By Antonella Artuso, Queen's Park Bureau Chief

Andrew Scheer speaks after being elected the new leader of the federal Conservative party at the federal Conservative leadership convention in Toronto on Saturday, May 27, 2017. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his new foe in the House of Commons, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, spoke by phone today. Trudeau called Scheer from Italy, where the prime minister is currently on a state visit following the G7 summit. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)

Andrew Scheer speaks after being elected the new leader of the federal Conservative party at the federal Conservative leadership convention in Toronto on Saturday, May 27, 2017. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his new foe in the House of Commons, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, spoke by phone today. Trudeau called Scheer from Italy, where the prime minister is currently on a state visit following the G7 summit. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)

New Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is running out of hours in the day to do all the work that needs doing.

Scheer answers “time management” when asked about his biggest surprise since returning to Ottawa after his big win at the leadership convention over more high-profile candidates.

“It’s amazing how quickly my day flies by and it is something that I’m working on,” Scheer told the Toronto Sun.

Not only does he have new duties as leader of his caucus and as leader of the opposition in parliament, Scheer said he has to work on an election apparatus that includes rebuilding a campaign team and identifying key people as staff and candidates.

“That’s a tremendous amount of work and there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day,” he said. “I knew I was going to be busy but the scale and the scope certainly was beyond what I may have expected.”

On his most pressing priorities...

“We’re going to be pointing out the impact of these massive deficits that have blown way past the Liberal campaign promises. I need to find a way to make the Conservative message resonate with electors, Canadians, across the country, and especially in Toronto, and talk about how this is all borrowing that will have to be paid back by future generations. One message that I found really strikes a chord with Canadians — whether it’s Canadians who have been here for multiple generations or new Canadians — is the idea that what the Liberals are doing goes against kind of the Canadian culture and history of working hard so our children have better opportunities...People say why should my teenager have to pay all this back for the Liberals political spending.”

“We’re really trying to raise the alarm on the proposed infrastructure bank. This is something that is a massive boondoggle just waiting to happen....They’re allowing private sector companies to enjoy the benefits and reap the profits, when there are profits. And when there aren’t, they’re asking taxpayers to foot the bill.”

On divisiveness, and nice guys finishing last...

“It really speaks to a phenomenon that’s happening in politics in several countries where the polarization of the debate is occurring because of the intolerance of those on the left to accept any different point of view. If I criticize the Prime Minister’s tax hikes on the middle class, he comes back and uses very extreme language — ‘You know, if you are opposed to our agenda you must not care about people the same way we do.’ Well, there’s a lot of room on the spectrum. I think most Canadians don’t have extreme positions on either end of the spectrum. And when politicians use that very divisive language and try to shut down the debate using personal attacks or extreme characterizations on either side of the debate, I think that that’s what creates the polarization. But what I sensed during the campaign is that there is a market out there for a positive approach. A naturally pleasant person — I try to be anyway — I finished first in the leadership campaign. So I’m hoping that I can repeat that in the next election.”

On winning over GTAers who like to vote Liberal and distrust Conservative policies...

”I have deep connections to the GTA. My mother’s family came from Mississauga and I have fond memories of taking the GO Train in from Port Credit to a Blue Jays game or the Ex, so I have regular contact with close members of my family that have a lot of concerns — urban issues are top of mind for them, whether it’s traffic and transit or safe communities. I believe part of it is in some cases just showing up. In a lot of the ethnic communities they share our values, they share principles of hard work and entrepreneurism and they want their kids to be able to go to good schools in safe neighbourhoods. When you talk to them issue by issue, you can get them to suddenly realize that they are Conservatives. And I think the same is true for Torontonians in general. It’s a low tax regime that attracts investment that will create opportunities for people to find work. The Conservative government had an excellent record on infrastructure projects that did improve the quality of life for people in Toronto and I want to continue that. And I want to do that in a way that leverages that private sector involvement and speaks to the issues that are facing Toronto. Public transit’s important but so is vehicular traffic too. We need to address things like congestion and make it easier to drive around the GTA. We can’t just focus on one side, so I want to bring a balanced approach that will really improve the quality of life in a non-ideological way, but in a way that will really impact people’s day to day lives.”

On tough lessons learned during the last federal election campaign...

“The number one lesson I learned is that the Conservatives have to find a way to articulate a positive message and explain how it’s Conservative policies that improve the quality of life for all Canadians. So a more positive approach, one that speaks to the aspirational concerns that Canadians have both in large cities and across the country...I think we failed to communicate that in the last election.”

On what he would to differently...

“I had a few (policies) that I announced during my leadership campaign that I’ll be asking my caucus to get behind and help me promote — all of those are positive policies — removing the GST and HST off of home utilities, showing Canadians where they’re buying their energy from, so that motorists in Toronto know if part of that litre of gasoline came from a barrel of oil from Algeria or Saudi Arabia. I want to protect free speech. I want to make mat leave and paternal leave tax free. Those are all positive policies that will improve the lives of Canadians. But beyond that it’s the explaining the why and showing Canadians that Conservatives are motivated by compassion, they’re motivated by a desire for a better quality of life...We have to make sure when we’re talking about issues that we’re not just going to dollars and cents and black ink versus red ink, but that we’re saying it’s our policies that create opportunities for young people, that help people in low income situations. It’s more about how we communicate.”