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Why won't Andrew Scheer speak up as Doug Ford attacks Canadian rights?

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Doug Ford and Andrew Scheer. Photo: Andrew Scheer/Flickr

What have you got to fear, Andrew Scheer?

Is there a single office-holding Conservative in this country who is willing to stand up for the fundamental rights of Canadians as they are assaulted by Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his unrestrained Dougtatorship?

What an opportunity this could have been for Scheer, supposedly the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and thereby ex officio leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition (sic), to speak up on behalf of the Canadians from coast to coast to coast who are deeply troubled by Premier Ford's repugnant assault on the principles of our Constitution.

What an opportunity for Scheer to demonstrate real leadership -- and benefit from it -- by showing a little spine.

There was certainly more to gain than to lose for Scheer, leader of the federal Conservatives since May of 2017, by saying something like this to Ford: "C'mon, bro! I love ya, and I'm glad you won, but this is outta line! Be a real Conservative, man! Show a little respect for the Constitution!"

Lots of Canadians who may not be very committed to voting Conservative but don't like the Trudeau government for one reason or another and aren't prepared to vote for the NDP would not only be impressed by something like this, they'd be relieved as hell.

By calling out Ford, Scheer would even be offering Canadians a relatively painless way out of the roiling constitutional crisis the Ontario premier seems to be determined, Donald Trump style, to foment.

Scheer might well also be saving his own bacon, since the most likely victim of Ford's frivolous use of the notwithstanding clause is likely to be the Conservative Party of Canada in the next federal election. Can't you just imagine what the Liberal TV ads are going to look and sound like?

So what does Scheer have to say in defence of the fundamental rights of Canadians? He sent out his spokesthingy, Brock Harrison, to say Ford's antics are within the law.

Interestingly, you couldn't actually find a direct quote in any of the news coverage last night posted by the time this post was filed.

But what courage! What principle! It's OK for Ford to frivolously use the Constitution's notwithstanding clause to suspend your fundamental rights for five years because … no laws were broken!

Scheer was quoted by CTV saying, in effect, don't ask me -- this is your problem. Again, though, we have no actual direct quotes.

Here's how CTV explained it: "Scheer would not say whether he thinks Ford's decision this week was an appropriate use of the measure, saying it is up to the people of Ontario to make that call, not pundits, academics or politicians from other levels of government."

Of course, the people of Ontario will just have to wait quite a while. In the mean time, this reminds me of what a friend of mine used to call the First Law of Politics: We made a mistake. We've given it to you. Now it's your mistake and we won't take it back!

Scheer may be so used to reporting to Stephen Harper -- who used to be his boss in law, and may still be in fact -- that Mr. Ford may seem like a boss too.

Or he may be dropping hints to his social conservative followers he's not about to pay attention to any lines drawn by the courts on topics like LGBTQ and abortion rights.

There was very little risk for Scheer to do the right thing. He chose not to.

Indeed, reading between the lines of one of the few things Scheer said that was actually properly quoted last night, it's hard to escape the feeling he's trying to give a nudge and a wink to his base that he'd do the same thing in Ford's shoes, no apprehended insurrection required.

"We're working on our platform right now and we're confident we'll be able to implement the types of proposals that we're working on right now through the normal legislative process." (Emphasis added.) And if you can't implement them through the normal legislative process? No answer provided.

This tells us everything we need to know about the man.

That he must be considered a potential prime minister makes him more dangerous than Ford, despite his pipsqueak presentation style.

As Conservative Brian Mulroney famously said to Liberal John Turner in the 1984 English-language leaders' election debate: "You had an option, sir!"

And where is Mulroney now that we could use him? Speaking out against Mr. Ford, as a matter of fact, even though it would probably be easier for him to keep his lip zipped to help his daughter Caroline, who once vowed to defend the rule of law but as Ford's attorney general now apparently lacks the old man's steel.

Then there's Jason Kenney, leader of the Opposition in Alberta, another social conservative who famously demanded Alberta use Section 33 to prevent the courts from enforcing gay rights because, well, because he felt like it.

What about other prominent Conservative office holders? So far, all we hear is crickets.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Photo: Andrew Scheer/Flickr

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