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Politics

ANALYSIS: Scheer’s lack of experience in dealing with protesters

WATCH: Man interrupts Scheer address, demands answers on Conservative climate policy

The words “bonjour, tout le monde” had barely crossed Andrew Scheer’s lips when a man in the room began shouting at the Conservative leader.

As he was wrestled to the floor by the campaign’s private security, the protester, who had been posing as a journalist, asked Scheer how he can justify a climate policy that includes building more pipelines. It’s likely the man didn’t want to hear the answer — nor would he have the chance as he was quickly and forcefully removed from the location.

All the while, Scheer stood patiently waiting for the incident to be over so he could go back to his speech on the 40-inch-screen TV teleprompter and get back to his message of the day.

There have been few of these disruptions during the Conservatives’ carefully choreographed campaign of photo-ops and rallies. But when they do happen it throws off the leader because he simply hasn’t had to face this kind of thing too often, despite having 15 years of political experience under his belt.

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For seven of those years, he held a non-partisan role. In 2007, he was voted deputy speaker of the House of Commons and then, in 2011, he became Parliament’s youngest-ever Speaker of the House of Commons, tasked with the unenviable job of keeping order and enforcing the rules in the often raucous, hallowed house while, at the same time, not showing allegiance to his own Conservative party.

As a result, Scheer’s political stripes and personal beliefs have been unseen by the general public until now. The man who has been more known for his dimples is now having to deal with more and more demonstrators as he crosses the country laying out the Conservative platform one plank at a time. It hasn’t come without some growing pains.

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In Cambridge, Ont., a campaign event was suddenly moved from a café at the University of Waterloo on Tuesday after approximately 50 climate protesters showed up hoping to greet the leader of the Conservative party.

When the group realized Scheer was skipping the stop and instead heading to a nearby hotdog stand, protesters tracked him down, but he was already on the bus so they could do little else but chant “no more oil, keep it in the soil” as the bus, emblazoned with an image of a smiling Scheer on its side, was pulling away.

Scheer told local media the change in plans and location was the result of the traffic which caused them to be late, but if he did get the chance to speak with the protesters, he said he would have offered details about the Conservative climate plan.

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So why didn’t he do that in Annapolis Royal, N.S., when he was less than three metres away from four of the most peaceful protesters any politician would ever meet?

At a rally for candidate Chris d’Entremont, climate activist Christine Igot waited quietly for Scheer to arrive holding a sign that read “There is no Planet B,” but she was quickly surrounded by Conservative supporters who held up their own signs in the hopes of blocking Igot’s.

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The most peaceful standoff in Canadian history ensued with both sides holding up signs and not uttering a word of malice to each other, except for some Conservative supporters who, according to Igot, suggested she should leave the event.

“That, to me, shows a fear. We do not have any signs that say anything against this particular political party. We are non-partisan, and it’s just fear of showing a difference,” Igot told Global News.

And possibly fear by Scheer, who passed right by the four protesters without even acknowledging their existence.

Contrast that with NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who both famously engage with people of opposing points of view, even if they’re at times hostile.

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During a 2017 meet-and-greet, the then-NDP leadership hopeful was in a video that went viral. Singh was speaking at the front of a room in Brampton, Ont., when a woman began spewing racist remarks during the community meeting.

WATCH: Jagmeet Singh, NDP leadership candidate, responds to racist heckling — ‘We welcome you’

Jagmeet Singh, NDP leadership candidate, responds to racist heckling: ‘We welcome you’
Jagmeet Singh, NDP leadership candidate, responds to racist heckling: ‘We welcome you’

“We welcome you, we support you and we love you,” Singh repeated over and over again in a relaxed tone as the woman continued to wag her finger in his face and claim Singh was trying to spread sharia.

Sharia is a set of religious guidelines in the Muslim faith that is based on the Qur’an. Singh is a member of the Sikh faith.

Singh diffused the situation before it degenerated.

Trudeau, too, has embraced confrontation, whether it be at the open-microphone town halls for which he’s become famous or at speeches interrupted by protesters. Each time, he lets the person say their piece and then asks for the same respect in return to answer their questions or claims.

WATCH: How did Justin Trudeau handle hecklers at his town halls?

How did Justin Trudeau handle hecklers at his town halls?
How did Justin Trudeau handle hecklers at his town halls?

It’s possible that Scheer doesn’t want to acknowledge any distractions during his speeches, but then how do you explain what happened on Sept. 6 at the Montreal Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce?

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The same man believed to be the one behind Thursday’s outburst was also in the crowd of mainly business types to hear Scheer give a speech.

At one point, the man begins to shout that Scheer is a climate criminal and security moves towards him. Scheer tries to continue on, but he waits for the distraction to be cleared from the room as the man continues to criticize the Conservative plan on climate.

Moments after the man was removed from the room, Scheer said: “That gentleman brought up climate change, and I will be speaking about that soon in my speech. I wish he had waited until that point.” The quip drew laughter from the audience.

It was a good recovery from an awkward moment and perhaps a lesson of what he should say directly to a protester the next time it happens.

Mike Le Couteur is a national correspondent with Global News.