Sarah Leamon: Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is no fan of personal autonomy

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      Prior to last week, most Canadians had never heard the name Andrew Scheer.

      On May 27, 2017, Scheer made national headlines by winning the Conservative Party leadership bid in an upset victory over the predicted frontrunner, Maxime Bernier. 

      Scheer’s victory was a narrow one, though. He won by less than two percentage points, and finished with just under 51 percent of the vote altogether. Polls suggest that his victory was cinched by social conservatives, who aligned with him after Brad Trost—a vocal opponent of abortion rights—dropped out of the running. 

      So, aside from potentially becoming Canada’s twenty-fourth prime minister at some point in the future, the big question is…who is Andrew Scheer?

      The son of a Roman Catholic deacon, Andrew Scheer is a career politician. Prior to becoming party leader, Scheer has been a member of Parliament since 2004. Between 2011 and 2015, he acted as Speaker of the House and was the youngest person to do so in parliamentary history.  

      And speaking of young—Scheer is—very.  He turned a rosy-cheeked 38 years young only a week prior to his victory. He is nearly a decade younger than our prime minister—who some critics have called too young to govern—and 16 years junior to his projected primary competition for the title, Maxime Bernier. 

      In spite of his age, however, Scheer appears to have accomplished a great deal, which is evidenced by his election as leader of the Official Opposition. 

      Throughout his years in the House of Commons, Scheer has stood up for his version of Canadian values. 

      This includes what has been described by the antichoice Campaign Life Coalition as a "perfect" antichoice voting record in the House of Commons.

      Antichoice organizations seem to have cinched Sheer’s victory and have since lauded it as a victory for their cause. Campaign Life Coalition released a statement saying “we won” after Scheer was announced party leader.

      When asked directly whether he would re-open the abortion debate in Canada, Sheer largely dodged the question with a canned answer about “Canadian values” and “working together”. Scheer has done little to quell prochoice concerns over his party’s future intentions.

      The prochoice movement aside, Scheer is also likely to pose concerns for transgender Canadians. He has been a vocal supporter of antitrans "activists", including University of Toronto Professor Jordan Peterson, who refuses to use nongender-specific pronouns at the request of nonbinary and transgender students.

      In discussing this issue, Scheer has characterized protrans, LGBT and feminist groups as “radical groups” that need to be stifled on university campuses in order to allow room “other opinions”. Scheer has expressed his intention to federally defund any universities or postsecondary learning institutions that do not allow professors like Peterson to express their freedom of discrimination against vulnerable minority groups openly and without repercussion.

      Scheer has also expressed consistent, anti-Islamic sentiments in the past and has promised to repeal the Liberals' upcoming carbon tax should he become prime minister.

      But in addition to his political pursuits, Scheer is also father of five—a parenting feat which undoubtedly takes a great deal of time and energy. As a young man with a young family, though, Scheer’s career seems so far unhindered by his parental responsibilities.

      He has already been a recipient, and is certain to continue to benefit from, the patriarchal tenants of his party’s conservative ideology around gender and parenthood. Scheer is likely to avoid speculation about how he will balance his new role, and potential future role as prime minister, with his inherent responsibilities as a parent—an unspeakable privilege that seems all but lost on a politician who espouses such antiquated social values.

      At the end of the day, Sheer has been tellingly dubbed "Stephen Harper with a Smile" by his supporters—and that pretty much sums it up.

      He represents more of the same for the Conservative party: an out-dated message that will find its primary support in baby boomers and hardline social conservatives. If voters wanted Stephen Harper with a Smile, voters would still have Stephen Harper…but perhaps, admittedly, without the smile.

      But no hard feelings—I wish Scheer a long and rewarding career as leader of the Official Opposition.