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‘You’ll just bring her on the plane’: Baby on board during Scheer’s campaign

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, right, and his wife Jill, left, pose with Principal Secretary Kenzie Potter and her 9-week-old baby Georgia Hubick on the campaign trail in Mississauga, Ont., on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. .
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, right, and his wife Jill, left, pose with Principal Secretary Kenzie Potter and her 9-week-old baby Georgia Hubick on the campaign trail in Mississauga, Ont., on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. . THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Not yet two months old, Georgia Hubick is already a frequent flyer.

Georgia is travelling with her mother, Kenzie Potter, on the Conservative campaign tour. In just seven days, Georgia has been to more than a dozen cities and towns in seven provinces, while her mom continues as Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s chief political adviser.

Principal Secretary to Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, Kenzie Potter and her 9-week-old baby Georgia Hubick are shown at a rally in Toronto on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019.
Principal Secretary to Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, Kenzie Potter and her 9-week-old baby Georgia Hubick are shown at a rally in Toronto on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

“A lot of people see her get off the bus and they’re quite surprised, or they ask ‘You have a baby on tour?'” Potter says, sitting for an interview with The Canadian Press during a rare down period on a campaign swing through Toronto last week.

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“I’m not sure if they’re weirded out by it or if it’s cool.”

As far as Andrew and Jill Scheer are concerned, it’s more than cool.

“I couldn’t imagine the campaign without her,” Andrew Scheer says.

Bringing a baby along for a campaign tour is unusual for a political staffer. But the Scheers have five kids of their own — Thomas, 14, Grace, 12, Madeline, 10, Henry, 8 and Mary, 3 — and Scheer likes to joke that for each campaign he’s fought since 2004, Jill has either been pregnant or just had a baby.

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“Kenzie did it this time to keep the streak going,” Scheer jokes.

Still, Potter, 37, didn’t want to tell Scheer she was pregnant and due two months before the federal election campaign would begin.

“This is everything we’ve worked for, right? This is the Stanley Cup for us,” says Potter, cradling Georgia in her arms, seated on a couch in an airport hotel between the Scheers.

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Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s wife Jill, right, holds Principal Secretary Kenzie Potter’s 9-week-old baby Georgia Hubick on the campaign trail in Kelowna, B.C., on Monday, Sept. 16, 2019.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s wife Jill, right, holds Principal Secretary Kenzie Potter’s 9-week-old baby Georgia Hubick on the campaign trail in Kelowna, B.C., on Monday, Sept. 16, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

“This is the time in life they’re going to need me the most. I just felt like a terrible friend, like, ‘I’m failing you. I’m so sorry.'”

But she says Scheer didn’t miss a beat. He simply said children are the greatest thing, “and then pivoted to, ‘You’ll just bring her on the plane.’

“And that was the extent of our discussion.”

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Scheer’s identity as a father is a big part of who he is as a politician and families are at the centre of his platform. From tax credits to help families pay to put their kids in sports and arts lessons or to offset the federal income tax paid on maternity leave benefits, to an increase in federal matching contributions to registered education savings plans, Scheer is constantly talking about family budgets. He says he knows firsthand how much kids cost and he just wants to make raising them a little bit easier.

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Potter is toting a nursing pillow and a diaper bag along with her briefing books, and Georgia has her own seat in the front row of the campaign plane.

Principal Secretary to Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, Kenzie Potter holds her 9-week-old baby Georgia Hubick as she talks with Press Secretary Dan Schow, right, and another staffer on the campaign trail in Sherbrooke, Que., on Wedesday, Sept. 18, 2019.
Principal Secretary to Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, Kenzie Potter holds her 9-week-old baby Georgia Hubick as she talks with Press Secretary Dan Schow, right, and another staffer on the campaign trail in Sherbrooke, Que., on Wedesday, Sept. 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Jill Scheer, who has become one of Potter’s closest friends, takes over baby care when Potter needs to do a briefing or take a meeting and the baby can’t be there.

“Not because I have to, but because I want to,” Jill Scheer stresses. On plane journeys, she can often be seen cuddling Georgia in the aisle, bouncing up and down to keep her happy. Over breakfast at the tour hotels, she reaches in for a baby snuggle, giving Potter a chance to eat.

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Potter refers to her as “Auntie Jill” and said she has learned a ton about parenting from her friend.

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When asked how old Georgia is, Potter says she’s eight weeks. Jill cocks her head and says, “I think she’s nine weeks.”

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, right, looks on as Press Secretary Dan Schow, centre, leads birthday celebrations for Principal Secretary Kenzie Potter, holding her 9-week-old baby Georgia Hubick, on the campaign plane on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, right, looks on as Press Secretary Dan Schow, centre, leads birthday celebrations for Principal Secretary Kenzie Potter, holding her 9-week-old baby Georgia Hubick, on the campaign plane on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Potter looks briefly stricken, then shrugs it off.

“I tell my friends she is an extreme mom,” says Potter, noting how Jill puts together fun gifts and treats for her kids for holidays and other special occasions.

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Andrew Scheer is less meticulous than his wife about those types of things. When Jill was away one Valentine’s Day, she asked him to put some sprinkles on some cupcakes she had made for the kids.

When asked if he followed through, he looks sheepish and says a drawn-out “Yeeesss.” He clearly means there’s no chance he did.

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Another time, on Halloween, Jill left him a bag of candy to give out. He said he was busy with work and looking after their youngest daughter, so he just dumped the candy in a bowl and put it on the front step with a sign saying, “Take one.”

“I asked him how many kids came and he goes, ‘Either one, or 200,'” Jill says.

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Andrew shrugs.

“The system worked.”

Georgia is just one member of a small baby boom in the Conservative party in the last few months. Hamish Marshall, Scheer’s campaign manager, has a four-month-old boy. Scheer said young Alexander was issued credentials for the Conservative war room in Ottawa last week.

As well, two Conservatives seeking re-election — Garnett Genuis in Alberta and Rosemarie Falk in Saskatchewan — welcomed babies in July.

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Potter says finding the balance between work and mom life is the same for her on the campaign plane as it is for any mother.

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“You’re supposed to work like you’re not a mom and be a mom like you don’t work,” she says.

She credits an understanding boss and a helpful and understanding husband for being able to do what she does. He is at home with their older daughter, Sloan.

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She met her husband during the last election campaign, when she was helping Scheer get re-elected in his Regina-Qu’Appelle riding. They went to visit a local bar in the town where her now-husband, a Saskatchewan farmer, lives.

Four years later, she has two babies and Scheer is running for prime minister.