The invisible man

The caucus of the Conservative Party of Canada has decided not to pass judgment on Andrew Scheer. That was kind of them; he might not have passed muster. Instead, he will go on a “listening tour” to find out what Canadians think about him, the campaign and his policies. First, what did he do right? Well, he increased the party’s share of the popular vote by 2.5 percentage points from 2015 and added 26 seats. But, with all Justin Trudeau’s shenanigans, the election was Scheer’s to win … and he didn’t.

What did he do wrong? The first television ads were symptomatic. Scheer was shown sitting in a room in front of a summery vista seen through a window. His message was making the campaign about “you” but part way into the ad, the camera stopped filming his direct eye contact and moved to an angle that showed him staring at some unknown point to the viewer’s left. His inability to establish a connection with voters would dog him throughout the campaign.

Scheer’s core advisory team was too small, insufficiently diverse, and apparently unable either to think of helpful things or get him to do them. He wasted far too many days fudging on abortion when all he had to do was say that his views were the same as Justin Trudeau and Stephen Harper, i.e. he was personally pro-life but the law of thirty years would not be changed. When he did have an opportunity to reach more than a million voters, as in the one-on-one interview with CTV’s Lisa LaFlamme, just the biggest television newscast in the land, all he did was look evasive and repeat his mantra about “affordability” at least three times. He did only so-so in the debates, unable to think on his feet, and bring viewers his way.

Nor could he seem to impress in real life. Despite being an outsized 6’4″, he could not “take” the room at small gatherings and make his presence tangible to all. Instead, he became almost invisible. When I told my barber how tall Scheer was, he said, “On the radio, he sounds small.” Doesn’t that say it all? The party will likely turn thumbs down on Scheer in the vote next April. As CBC’s Larry Zolf used to say, the Conservatives stab each other in the front. So who’s next? Peter MacKay doesn’t have the royal jelly. Lisa Raitt will find losing her seat is a problematic launch pad. I don’t see any saviours on the horizon. At this juncture, it looks like Trudeau will regain his majority whenever the next election is called.

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