Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Free of Baggage from Harper's Conservative Era, Scheer Seeks to Replace Him

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Free of Baggage from Harper's Conservative Era, Scheer Seeks to Replace Him

Article excerpt

Scheer strives to be consensus candidate


OTTAWA - When Andrew Scheer first started telling people he was considering a run for the leadership of the federal Conservatives, he'd often get a raised eyebrow in response.

Scheer served four years as Speaker of the House of Commons, following several years of serving as deputy Speaker. In that gig, he was in charge of defusing partisan fights; why now, people wondered, would he want to start them?

Now, as he finds himself bumping elbows with the front-runners with just two weeks to go, Scheer acknowledges that being Speaker freed him from some of the previous Conservative government's excess baggage.

"There are some things that we might want to start a new chapter on, and not having been in cabinet, there's a certain sense of separation from that era," he said in an interview this week.

In other ways, though, Scheer's approach mirrors that of his would-be predecessor. He favours, for instance, Stephen Harper-style targeted tax breaks, like allowing parents who home-school their kids to claim a tax deduction of up to $1,000.

The issue, he said, is more of tone. "We just need to do a better job of making our policies resonate with everyday Canadians on a more practical level."

Born in Ottawa, Scheer finished his undergraduate degree in Saskatchewan and stayed, first running for Parliament from there in 2004. In the field of 13 leadership contenders, Scheer is the only Westerner who tops fundraising and poll numbers.

For a time, there was speculation that Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall would enter, but Wall instead has subtly thrown his support behind Scheer, praising his opposition to federal carbon pricing and charging GST on home heating bills.

Even Wall acknowledges Scheer has faced an uphill battle.

"I think he was underestimated going into this thing," the premier told radio station CKRM last month. "By all accounts, he's built a national campaign and he's actually doing well in Quebec."

Scheer's campaign also claims dozens of endorsements from sitting Conservative MPs and senators, though some have since decamped to rival Erin O'Toole. While Scheer had more donors in the first quarter of 2017, O'Toole raised slightly more money, seen by some as a sign they are evenly matched. …

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