After an unsuccessful election campaign his supporters expected him to win, Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer has been accused by someone of dipping his paws into Conservative Party of Canada funds to pay for his children’s private-school education.
Accordingly, Scheer is done like dinner. Innocent or not, he has resigned. So as of right now he has no more influence on the party. Whatever he thought yesterday, it has no relevance today.
Meanwhile, even if the process takes a few months, the jockeying to replace him starts immediately.
So we need not waste a lot of time reviewing Scheer’s short, spectacularly unsuccessful career as Conservative leader or speculating about why a man earning $259,000 a year and living in a free mansion would have thought he needed extra cash from a politically toxic source to send his kids to private school.
Time for him to get moving. Or, as Alberta Premier Jason Kenney put it in a sweet tweet moments ago, “Thank-you to my friend @AndrewScheer for his service to Canada in the tough job of Leader of the Opposition. I know this was a difficult decision, and wish Andrew all good things in the future.” In other words, what I said.
No, the question that matters now to those of us in Alberta, and perhaps in the rest of Canada too, is WWJD — What will Jason do?
Kenney, United Conservative Party leader and former heir apparent to Stephen Harper’s prime ministerial throne, is well known to have cast covetous eyes on Scheer’s job. He will be mightily tempted to go for the gusto.
On the other hand, the timing is less than perfect for Kenney. With October’s federal election out of the way and his nemesis Justin Trudeau back in the PMO without a majority, Alberta’s premier has revealed via his just-released budget what a market-fundamentalist extremist he is. According to a recent poll of dubious provenance in a disreputable newspaper chain, his post-budget popularity has plummeted.
Potential rivals for Scheer’s job, and there are plenty of good ones, will have taken note of this stuff.
Still, from Kenney’s perspective, all is not lost. He’s an excellent yarn spinner. He’ll probably have a good explanation for everything by nightfall — which this time of year isn’t that far away.
Premier Kenney has just been to Ottawa with a huge retinue of retainers, thanks to the generosity of Alberta taxpayers, and he probably had more than a hint of what was coming. Maybe Matt Wolf, his cleanup guy, has already been doing some issue management. Probably one of his new talking points will be that nobody can bring a divided party together like Kenney can, with or without the help of a kamikaze candidate.
So what will Jason do?
Notwithstanding his almost instant endorsement of Rona Ambrose, as soon as she politely declines, I say he’ll jump.
Give Kenney a few months to pull his leadership team together and twist some arms to raise cash for the run. (Potential fund-raising pitch: Promises made; promises kept.)
Then he’ll get the spring budget passed — maybe not quite as horrible a budget as he was planning a few days ago.
Then he’ll step down. He’ll say he had to … to save Canada.
Then he’ll run.
You’ll know I’m right if all of a sudden you don’t hear much more about Alberta’s non-negotiable demands from Confederation. Also, look for a symptomatic downturn in Wexit sentiment.
David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions at The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.
Image: David J. Climenhaga