When Rona Ambrose took over as leader of the Conservative Party of Canada in 2015, the party began to look for its new permanent leader. It would not be a quick process for the party and would take two years until a new man was brought in to lead the party, Andrew Scheer.
Scheer was born in Ottawa on May 20, 1979, to Mary and James Scheer. Since his father was born in the United States, Scheer was automatically a U.S. citizen even though he was born in Canada.
This would become an issue during the 2019 federal election campaign when it was found that Scheer had duel Canadian and American citizenship. Scheer would state he had begun the process of renouncing his American citizenship in August 2019, had not voted in a US election but had filed US tax returns. He also stated he had registered for the draft under the US Selective Service System. Asked why he did not disclose his dual citizenship, Scheer stated he was never asked about it. Scheer would state quote:
“Everyone who knows me, or knows my family, knows that my father was born in the United States, and I’ve been open with that.”
Several people would criticize him for not disclosing it, especially after he criticized Governor General Michaele Jean in 2005 for having French and Canadian citizenship.
Scheer would spend his entire childhood in Ottawa, where his father worked as a proofreader and librarian with the Ottawa Citizen, and his mother worked as a nurse. He was also one of three children, having two sisters, Catherine and Anne Marie.
At the age of nine, Scheer began to work as a newspaper delivery boy, which he would state helped him gain an interest in politics. He would say the day after Christmas in 1989, he saw a cover photo of a Romanian dictator who had been killed by his own soldiers. The story would cause a lengthy debate in the Scheer home, over whether or not something like that could happen in Canada.
Attending Catholic School in Ottawa, Scheer would be part of a French immersion program and would work at concession stands and as a waiter as a teenager. One place he worked as at the popcorn concession of Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, where Scheer described himself as an expert popcorn maker.
While in high school, Scheer would be part of a class of online coding, and he would look up the website of the Reform Party. The party intrigued him, and he would contact representatives and begin to help out with small campaigns locally. His high school was close enough to Parliament Hill that Scheer would often go over to see question period.
In 1998, Scheer began to study criminology, history and political science at the University of Ottawa, where he would graduate from in 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. That degree would come four years after he had already joined Parliament.
While attending university, Scheer became involved in politics and worked several political campaigns including the Unite the Right campaign which was the effort to merge the Reform Party and the Progressive Conservative Party. He would also work on Preston Manning’s campaign to lead the new Canadian Alliance. When Stockwell Day took over as leader, Scheer worked in the Office of the Leader of the Opposition, an office he would hold less than two decades later.
In his third year of university, Scheer would run for the school board in Ottawa, but he would lose.
While attending the University of Ottawa, Scheer met Jill Ryan. Scheer’s and Jill’s best friends met in an Internet cafe, and they felt Andrew and Jill would hit it off, so they arranged for them to meet. The two would marry in 2003 in Regina, where Scheer continued his studies at the University of Regina. Together, they would have five children together. Scheer’s brother-in-law includes CFL player Jon Ryan, and Steve Ryan, who ran for the Saskatchewan NDP in 2007 and 2011.
The brother-in-laws enjoyed talking about politics, but the rest of the family was not as okay with the talks. Jill Scheer would say quote:
“We’ve asked them not to talk at the Sunday supper table, because what they perceive as a good old political conversation, some of us think of as fighting.”
Scheer would say of his time in university quote:
Living in Regina, Scheer would work as a waiter, an assistant in the office of MP Larry Spencer and as an insurance clerk. The insurance clerk job would come back in 2019 during the federal election campaign when it was found Scheer listed himself as an accredited insurance broker on his blog and on his Member of Parliament biography section of his website. When the 2019 election started, his biography listed he worked as an insurance broker. An investigation by the Globe and Mail found that he was never accredited as an insurance broker. Scheer would state that he received accreditation for general insurance after leaving the insurance firm in Regina.
In response to this, the Insurance Brokers Association of Saskatchewan stated that Scheer completed only one of four required courses that were required to become a broker.
In 2004, Scheer was elected to the House of Commons at the age of 25, defeating Lorne Nystrom by 861 votes, who had held the riding or parts of it for 32 years.
Scheer would say quote:
“I always thought, if so, much of my life is subject to regulation or government, I should at least be engaged.”
In the election race for the riding, Scheer would accuse Nystrom of being soft on child pornography.
As one of the youngest MPs in Parliament, Scheer would say quote:
“Youth involvement can re-invigorate and renew a party. We’re a new party ourselves and obviously we’ve attracted a lot of demographics. I probably have a bit of an advantage over someone who is 15, 20 years older who had never been part of that process.”
During the 2004 election, Scheer publicly opposed same-sex marriage and once elected, he would voice his opposition in the House of Commons, stating that since same-sex couples could not procreate naturally, they cannot be married.
In his first speech in the House of Commons, in response to the Liberal throne speech, Scheer would state quote:
“I believe there are certain natural limits to the scope of government, that some problems need to be addressed by individual Canadians or communities or grassroots organizations. We need a government that recognizes its own limits.”
In April 2006, Scheer was named the assistant deputy chairman of Committees of the Whole, becoming one of the youngest members of Parliament to serve in that role in the history of the British Commonwealth.
On Nov. 21, 2008, he was named the deputy speaker of the House of Commons.
In the 2011 election, the Conservative Party won a majority government for the first time and Scheer became the new frontrunner for the role of Speaker of the House of Commons. Many questioned his age, since he was 32 at the time, as being too young to become Speaker. Scheer would say quote:
On June 2, 2011, he would be elected to the position becoming the first speaker from a Saskatchewan riding and the youngest House speaker in Canadian history. He won on the sixth ballot, defeating NDP MP Denise Savoie.
Scheer would say quote:
“When something’s said that touches a nerve, there’s an emotional response. My job is just to make sure that doesn’t spill over and if there is an incident or a portion of question period where it gets kind of rowdy, that we can kind of pull back and it doesn’t start to cascade. And that’s the tough thing.”
Scheer would add in the same interview quote:
“One of the toughest things about being Speaker is its never the same. You’re not calling balls and strikes on a definite strike zone. Every day is different. The mood can be different.”
As Speaker of the House, Opposition Members of Parliament were critical of him and questioned his impartiality in regard to a robocall incident with Campaign Research, of which Scheer was a client.
During the voter suppression scandal, Opposition MPs raised concerns over Scheer and his blocking of questions after The Globe and Mail revealed his riding association had loaned $3,000 to Marty Burk, while Burke and his campaign was under investigation by Elections Canada.
Following the defeat of the Conservatives in 2015, Scheer would think about running for interim leader but chose not to since it would prevent him from running to be the permanent leader. When Rona Ambrose became interim leader, he was appointed Opposition House Leader.
On Sept. 28, 2016, Scheer announced his bid for the leadership of the Conservative Party.
He would say in his announcement speech quote:
“Conservatives do not win when they abandon their principles. We do not need to change who we are.”
He would run on the slogan of Real Conservative, Real Leader. During the leadership race, he also stated he would balance the federal budget within two years of forming a government, but his platform did not reveal how he would accomplish it.
For the start of the leadership race, Scheer was in third place behind Kevin O’Leary and Maxime Bernier. When O’Leary dropped out, Scheer began to gain inroads and he would push for the support of Quebec farmers who opposed Bernier’s stance on supply management in the dairy industry.
During the leadership race, he would comparisons to Stephen Harper, with people calling him Stephen Harper with a smile. Scheer would respond quote:
“We just need to do a better job of making our policies resonate with everyday Canadians on a more practical level.”
Speaking of whether or not he would win the leadership, Scheer would say quote:
“If I don’t win the leadership, being a member of Parliament is my dream. I walk up to the Parliament buildings every day and I look up and I just think I can’t believe I get to work here.”
By the time the leadership election approached, Bernier had an 85 per cent chance of winning, while Scheer had a 15 per cent chance, according to a Mainstreet poll.
Scheer would say quote:
“If I’m within single digits of being in front on the first ballot, I believe I can win on the subsequent rounds.”
On May 27, 2017, in an astounding 13 rounds, Andrew Scheer would emerge as the new leader of the party. In the final round, against Maxime Bernier, who was considered the frontrunner, Scheer would take 50.95 per cent of the vote to the 49.05 per cent by Bernier. A year and a half after losing the leadership race, Bernier would leave the Conservative Party and form the far right-wing People’s Party of Canada.
During his victory speech he would say quote:
“One of the things that has motivated me so much in this campaign is the very strong belief that I cannot allow Justin Trudeau to do the same thing to my five children that his father did to my generation.”
Many questioned this statement as Scheer was five when Trudeau left office, and 21 when he died. For the most part, Scheer’s pre-adult life was when Canada was governed by Brian Mulroney and Jean Chretien.
He would add in his speech quote:
“I am here to tell you, that the pain and hardship that the Trudeau Liberals are causing Canadians is just temporary.”
Sadly, for Scheer, during the leadership race, his mother would die at the age of 73.
Less than an hour after Scheer won the leadership race, the Liberals sent out a fundraising e-mail accusing him of being out of touch. It would state quote:
“He has opposed equal marriage and a woman’s right to choose and has no plan to grow the economy or support Canada’s middle class.”
Immediately after his leadership win, the sections of Scheer’s website that outlined his policies were immediately removed.
Bernier would state he lost because of what he called Fake Conservatives in the dairy lobby and agricultural sector. Scheer would respond to this at the annual Press Gallery dinner by drinking two per cent milk from the carton and saying quote:
“I certainly don’t owe my leadership victory to anybody. It’s a high-quality drink and its affordable too.”
In August 2017, Scheer would announce he would no longer do interviews with Rebel News due to the organization’s sympathetic coverage of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
On Jan. 4, 2018, he expelled Senator Lynn Beyak from the Conservative caucus after she refused to remove a letter, she wrote that suggested Indigenous people wanted things for no effort. He would state quote:
“Racism will not be tolerated in the Conservative caucus or Conservative Party of Canada.”
Scheer would say he was made aware of the letters on Jan. 2, but Garnet Angeconeb, who had survived Residential School, stated he e-mailed Scheer about the letters on Sept. 15, 2017, but received no response.
Scheer would gain criticism for not marching in LGBTQ pride parades in Canada, something all other federal leaders had done.
As the 2019 election approached, Scheer began to work to raise his profile internationally. In March 2018, he would travel to the United Kingdom and met with Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Back in Canada, the trip was criticized by some media outlets, stating Scheer’s trip was undiplomatic and not statesmanlike.
In March 2018, Scheer led the opposition in a filibuster over Justin Trudeau’s India trip scandal. The trip, in which Trudeau was apparently snubbed by the Indian government, also included a dinner where Sikh extremist convicted of attempting to murder an Indian politician was in attendance. The filibuster was an attempt to get the Liberals to answer questions in the House of Commons and provide open information to the Canadian public. The filibuster would last almost an entire day, costing taxpayers $1 million in overtime fees.
Later, it would be revealed that before the filibuster, Scheer’s office had been offered a briefing by the Privy Council Office regarding the trip. Scheer’s office would respond to these claims stating quote:
“Has the government offered Andrew a briefing? The answer is no. This is fake news.”
Scheer would then say the allegation was false. It was then revealed that Michael Wernick, the clerk of the Privy Council, approached Conservative MP Tony Clement to brief Scheer on the information. Clement stated he could not confirm or deny it.
As Opposition leader, Scheer would propose a tax cut for the lowest income bracket, support free markets and pledged that if he were prime minister, he would repeal the carbon tax. He would propose a public transit tax credit as part of the party’s environment plan, but he was against ratification of the Paris Agreement. In June 2017, he would vote to reaffirm the agreement, with some believing it was done to distance Scheer from being compared to President Donald Trump, who opposed the agreement.
Despite being pro-life, Scheer would state quote:
He would add that if he were prime minister, he would not reopen the debate.
While he also did not support same-sex marriage, he would state that the party would not reopen the debate in the House of Commons. He would also support the removal of the traditional definition of marriage from the Conservative party hand book.
When Canada legalized marijuana in October 2017, Scheer stated he was against the move by the government but that the party would have to adapt to it. He would state quote:
“l am very realistic and once its legal in a short period of time there’s going to be a lot of people that work for companies that distribute it, so we have to be realistic as a party.”
In May 2018, Scheer admitted he had smoked marijuana when he was younger but was still against the bill and would not rule out re-criminalizing it if he won the election.
A few months later in October 2018, he stated that the party would not recriminalize it.
On Sept. 11, 2019, a federal election was called, and Scheer would go into his first election as leader of the party.
The Conservatives would run on a campaign that would privatize the Trans Mountain Pipeline, eliminate subsidies for fossil fuel businesses, balance the budget in five years, banning dumping raw sewage into waterways, withdrawing from the United Nations Compact on Migration, increasing healthcare funding by three per cent and preventing American residents from applying for asylum or seeking refugee status in Canada.
A total of six leaders’ debates would be held, although two would be cancelled, and for the first time in Canadian history, two of the debates would feature six party leaders. The first debate was held on Sept. 12, and featured Scheer, Singh and May. The second debate was cancelled, while the third debate on Oct. 2 featured Trudeau, Scheer, Singh and Blanchet. The only debates to feature all six candidates were the French and English debates hosted by the Leaders’ Debates Commission.
During one debate, Trudeau would again link Scheer with Ford, to which Scheer responded, quote:
“You seem to be oddly obsessed with provincial politics. There is a vacancy for the Ontario Liberal leadership. If you’re so focused on Ontario politics, go and run for the leadership of that party.”
Scheer would also attack Bernier in an attempt to distance the People’s Party from the Conservatives, accusing Bernier of quote:
“Making your policy based on trying to get likes and retweets from the darkest parts of Twitter.”
Scheer also had difficulty during the campaign over a video in 2005 in which he spoke against same-sex marriage. Scheer would not give a response to questions related to the video, and if he did, he stated it was Trudeau trying to create a wedge issue. When Trudeau apologized over the blackface photos, Scheer was asked again if he would apologize for the video, but he did not. During an interview on a popular Quebec talk show, he was asked about the video, and he chose not to answer. He would eventually say that he supports the law and rights of Canadians but would not walk in Pride parades. This would cost him support in several areas of the country as a result. The NDP also announced that due to his comments, they would not support the Conservatives in the event of a minority government.
When asked if he believed being gay was a sin, Scheer responded, quote:
“My personal opinion is that I respect the rights of every single Canadian.”
In the Oct. 21 election, the Liberals would win but would lose 20 seats to fall to 157, resulting in a minority government. The Liberals also picked up 33.12 per cent of the vote, which is the lowest vote share for a party that formed a single-party minority government. The Conservatives would have 34 per cent of the vote, making this the second time in Canadian history that the governing party formed a government after receiving less than 35 per cent of the national vote. The previous time that happened was in 1867.
The Conservatives would win 26 more seats, finishing with 121. Scheer would claim that this gave the party the strongest majority in Canadian history, but in terms of ratios based on previous Parliament seat counts, it did not sit in the top five of strongest opposition parties. The seats it did win was the most ever won by an Opposition Party in Canadian history.
With the loss, many in the Conservative Party started to criticize Scheer, especially considering the difficulties the Liberals had during the election campaign. Peter MacKay would say that Scheer’s election loss was quote:
“Like having a breakaway on an open net and missing the net.”
On Dec. 12, 2019, Scheer announced he would resign as the leader of the party but would remain on until a new leader was selected. The same day this announcement came, the party confirmed that it had been paying the difference in the cost of private school tuition for Scheer’s children in Saskatchewan.
Scheer would say in his resignation speech, quote:
“Serving as the leader of the party that I love so much has been the opportunity and challenge of a lifetime. This was not a decision I came to lightly. It was one I came to after many long, hard, conversations with friends and family over the past two months since the election campaign…I have made the decision because it is the best thing for our party. Our party needs someone who can give everything they have.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would say of Scheer upon his resignation, quote:
“I know that Andrew Scheer has shown tremendous strength and compassion. He has done that through tragedies, difficulties, victories and more challenging moments. I very much wish him all the very, very best in his next and exciting steps, whatever they be. I want to thank him deeply for his service to Canada on behalf of all Canadians.”
Scheer’s opponent in the leadership race, Bernier, had less of a positive message, stating quote:
“Being asked if I will run again for CPC leadership. Zero chance. The party is morally and intellectually corrupt. Scheer was a weak leader who pushed it to the centre. The next leader will do the same.”
He also announced he would be retaining his US citizenship since he would not be serving as prime minister.
On Sept. 8, 2020, new leader Erin O’Toole named Scheer as the Opposition Critic for Infrastructure and Committees. In that role, he would put forward Bill C-269, which would change the Fisheries Act to stop the dumping of raw sewage in water frequented by fish.
It received its first reading on Feb. 18, 2021. As of this episode, it has not received a second reading.
Information from CNN, Macleans, Huffington Post, Wikipedia, Regina Leader Post, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, National Post, Calgary Herald, Whitehorse Daily Star,