If I heard it once, I heard it a hundred times. “Andrew Scheer appears to be a really nice guy, but …” — “but I don’t know anything about him” or “but he’s not tough enough” or “but I don’t think he can win.”
These and similar assessments of the Conservative Party of Canada leader were delivered repeatedly during the October federal election campaign, with one friend continuously insisting “no gold medal for Scheer.”
But let’s say the election campaign had been an Olympic Games final. Three medals would have been in play.
Gold, silver and bronze, with only one colour signifying victory: gold.
In what can be a cruelly harsh world of retrospection, a silver medal ultimately conveys one message only: someone beat you.
Let’s take that a step further.
During a conversation with a Canadian athlete familiar with scoring gold at international competition, I offered up the “a silver medal only means one thing” view. The reply? “And you know what a bronze medal means Roy? A bronze medal means the loser beat you.”
Fair? To some it isn’t. “That’s so dismissive.” But is it? To the athlete who trained hard and is familiar with standing on the middle step during the medals ceremony, it’s straightforward. There is one winner.
And so it was in the world of politics on the night of Oct. 21.
Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party lost significant numbers of parliamentary seats, were reduced from majority to minority government status, were elected with the smallest popular vote percentage of any party forming federal government in the history of Canada, and were shut out in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Yet it was Trudeau who retained the position of prime minister. It was the Liberals who assembled more MPs than their Conservative, Bloc Quebecois, New Democrat and Green Party rivals. Trudeau and the Liberals may have failed to match their 2015 victory performance, but they accomplished enough to win the political gold in play that day.
Was the middle step on the metaphorical medal podium there for the taking for the Scheer-led Conservatives? Considering scandal, racial insensitivity, documented ethics and code of conduct violations trailing Trudeau’s every step on the campaign trail, not to mention his removing from the Liberal caucus a powerful aboriginal woman attorney general for doing nothing more objectionable than performing her sworn duty and yes indeed, Scheer was handed sufficient political ammunition to comfortably derail the Liberals and deny Trudeau even a sniff at returning to the chief political post in the land.
Instead, Scheer was snared in a net of challenges, not nearly of the magnitude faced by Trudeau, and managed to appear incapable of recognizing and capitalizing on the political gifts bestowed on him.
While Trudeau proved inept at extricating himself from the self-inflicted maze of racial insensitivity and doubled-down by refusing to confirm he had appeared in public no more than three times in racist garb, Scheer clumsily and unconvincingly attempted to shove aside the Liberal accusation a Scheer-led Conservative government would rescind a woman’s right to choose.
And why did that issue occupy so much time during the campaign? Because Trudeau’s handlers witnessed Scheer’s discomfort with the issue, and Scheer’s counterparts proved singularly incapable of providing their man a cogent dismissal of the Trudeau accusation. Did no one call on Stephen Harper’s experienced crew to help?
Scheer appeared mostly on the back foot while attempting to convince Quebec and Ontario to support his candidacy. And shout as we might, scoring large numbers of seats in the two central Canadian provinces remains an essential objective of any political party leader with aspiration to become the Right Honourable Prime Minister of Canada.
Scheer appears to be a genuinely nice man but somehow, if the Olympic medal analogy has merit, it also appears Scheer just doesn’t possess the uncompromising drive to defeat the adversary and claim both the middle step and the gold medal.
Roy Green is the host of the Roy Green Show on the Global News Radio network.