Con party of Canada elects Andrew Who? leader : how much does he know about the original sunny ways, 1896–1911?

May 29th, 2017 | By Counterweights Editors | Category: In Brief

Andrew Scheer and his family at his swearing-in after the 2015 election. (Facebook : Andrew Scheer.)

What can anyone say about the Conservative Party of Canada leadership charade this past Saturday evening (May 27), at the Toronto Congress Centre?

The first  paragraph of  John Ibbitson’s report is the best short summary we’ve seen : “Conservative voters concluded, by the narrowest of margins, that Andrew Scheer’s sensible conservatism was a safer choice than the dogmatic libertarianism of Maxime Bernier. They are probably right.” (The final result was Scheer 50.95% and Bernier 49.05%.)

From here a lot of the fellow citizens we know best relate to the headline on an Alexandra Jones article in the (of course Liberal-leaning) Toronto Star : “Canadians ask: ‘Andrew Who?’”

One short answer is that Andrew Scheer was born in Ottawa in 1979 to a good Roman Catholic family. He married Jill Ryan, a girl from Saskatchewan he met at the University of Ottawa (where he also worked on his French).

NDP leader Jack Layton and PM Stephen Harper lead new Canadian House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer to Speaker’s Chair, June 2, 2011. Photo : Chris Wattie, Reuters.

He first won the Saskatchewan federal seat of  Regina—Qu’Appelle in 2004, at the age of 25, and has held it ever since (through the elections of 2006, 2008, 2011, and 2015).

Scheer served as Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons from 2011 to 2015. (He became the youngest Speaker in Canadian parliamentary history at 32.)

He is a right-wing dinosaur according to NDP critics. And one side of him reminds us a little of the Stephen Harper who grew up in Toronto and moved to Alberta. On another side he may have more popular potential — as a gregarious and likeable guy with five young children.

The best longer introduction to the new Conservative leader we’ve run across is Althia Raj’s “Andrew Scheer, ‘Consensus Candidate,’ Hopes The Nice Guy Finishes First In Tory Leadership.”

Justin Trudeau and new French president Emanuel Macron compare socks at recent G7 summit in Sicily, beside flags of France, European Union, and Canada. Reuters.

As for his political future, Janyce McGregor at CBC News notes : “Scheer is a cheerful warrior who had a lot of caucus support … he inherits a party … with potential to win again — it has more money, more members and its long, grassroots-driven leadership race appears a success.”

Yet just how well all this will finally play against Justin Trudeau (or the NDP with its own roots in Saskatchewan) certainly remains unclear to us.

Mr. Scheer has a bit of a reputation as well for sometimes not connecting exactly with real-world details. (As in “Scheer raised eyebrows during one of the leadership debates when he seemed to misunderstand the term carbon pricing.”)

Janyce McGregor at CBC News also reported : “‘Sunny ways don’t pay the bills,’ Scheer said, after pledging his party would be ‘looking for new ways to make life more affordable’ as it ‘represents taxpayers, not connected Ottawa insiders.’”

This left us wondering how much Mr. Scheer really knows about the original “sunny ways”  history of the Liberal Party of Canada. And we had just been reading about all this ourselves in the latest installment of Randall White’s work-in-progress, Children of the Global Village — Canada in the 21st Century : Tales about the history that matters.

Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier (centre) on whistle-stop railway tour of Canadian West in 1904 election.

If you go to “Long Journey to a Canadian Republic” on the bar above (or just CLICK HERE), you will find a short introduction to the democratic Dr. White’s project, along with the “Prologue : too much geography.”

This is followed by links to the currently completed six chapters in Part I, four  chapters in Part II, and the first two chapters in Part III on the old Dominion of Canada. You will now find as well a link to Part III, Chapter 3 : “Sunny Ways : Imperial Preference, New Boom, and Last Best West, 1896–1911.”

Yet again we caught up with Dr. White and his irresistible business manager at the Tim Horton’s across from Kew Gardens in Toronto. And he explained :

“To say ‘sunny ways don’t pay the bills’ is to completely misunderstand Wilfrid Laurier’s 15 consecutive years as prime minister of Canada, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. We’ve arguably never had a period of quite this much growth and prosperity again. Laurier invented ‘sunny ways.’ And the whole point about them was that they paid the bills better than anything anyone else had tried — including the Conservative John A. Macdonald.”

Dr. White went on : “I also think you’re right to call what happened at the Toronto Congress Centre this past Saturday night a ‘charade.’ There weren’t really 13 ballots — just one ranked ballot for 13 contestants. Party officials could have announced the result right away. Instead they put us through too much phony suspense, mimicking the old convention system they abandoned. It’s a kind of fake news that gives democratic politics in our time too much of a bad name.”

And then the doctor paused, sipped some coffee, and concluded : “In any event, congratulations to Mr. Scheer — and everyone else (all 141,341 of them) who voted in the quite democratic Conservative Party of Canada leadership election of 2017.”

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