Conservative leader Andrew Scheer addresses MPs at the party’s annual winter retreat in Victoria, Jan. 24, 2018. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

Federal Tories eye 2019 election

Choice in 2019 will come down to Canada being free or unfree in future: Scheer

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer painted a stark vision of the political battle on the horizon Friday as party faithful gathered in the national capital to plot a course towards a ballot-box victory in 2019.

The choice, Scheer told the Manning Networking Conference in his first major speech to conservatives since becoming leader last May, won’t be between left and right.

“It’s now a question about being free or unfree,” said Scheer, seeking to finally define himself — and redefine his party — as a viable choice for voters 20 months from now.

“The choice is whether Canada will continue as a free and open country, or whether Canadians will live their lives afraid to say what they think, always looking over their shoulders before they dare to suggest that maybe, just maybe, the government is not the solution to every problem.”

Scheer pilloried Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for appearing to forget the lessons of history, tossing out a quip about Trudeau’s memory perhaps dulled by his admitted past use of marijuana.

The 1990s taught people about the dangers of deficits, yet Trudeau wants to run them, Scheer said.

He alluded to the Liberals’ efforts to normalize relations with Iran, saying he thought the lesson of what happens when dictators are appeased had also been learned, as had what happens when free speech is suppressed.

“In the 21st century it is necessary for us as a society to re-fight those fights,” Scheer said.

“It adds another dimension to the next election.”

But the Tories need to also give Canadians a reason to vote for them, not just against the Liberals, Scheer said.

He offered one: if elected, a Conservative government would pursue a free trade deal with the United Kingdom, something he had also promised to pursue during the leadership race. A deal is already being sought by the governing Liberals.

What other Conservative policies could be on the table was a subject much debated on the first full day of the 10th Manning conference, a conservative confab that once upon a time was the pre-eminent place for those on Canada’s right to hash out politics and policy.

But while in previous years conservatives have packed the main ballroom of a downtown Ottawa convention centre, it was not until Scheer’s closing remarks on the day that the more than half the room was filled.

Even Caroline Mulroney, daughter of former prime minister Brian Mulroney and a rising star in the party, drew only tepid applause as she took the stage for an interview early Friday in her nascent bid to lead the Ontario Progressive Conservatives.

That campaign, of course, was launched in the wake of a scandal rocking the conservative establishment — allegations of sexual misconduct being levelled at Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown and his party president, Rick Dykstra.

Both have resigned but deny the allegations, which have not been proven in court nor tested by The Canadian Press.

Several female conservatives said Friday the so-called #MeToo movement must be addressed as part of the party’s efforts to broaden its appeal to women.

But the claim of the governing Liberals to being the only feminist party must also be challenged, MP Rachael Harder said during a panel on conservatism and feminism.

The Alberta MP was blocked from being the head of the Commons status of women committee last year by the Liberals and the NDP, who argued that her pro-life views made her an unsuitable candidate.

Trudeau gave his MPs that talking point, Harder said.

“When the prime minister gives that direction that ‘Rachael is an inappropriate choice,’ then the feminist prime minister of Canada just stated that he gets to dictate what a right kind of woman is, and what a wrong kind of woman is,” she said.

“He will tell you whether or not you are an acceptable woman in this country. That is not feminism.”

Women are a central piece of the Conservatives’ re-election strategy, in the form of so-called “pink-collar labourers” — people who work in traditional female jobs, said Hamish Marshall, the Conservative party’s campaign chair for 2019.

Regaining the support from new Canadians the party ceded to the Liberals in the last campaign will be another, he said.

“We have to do a lot more work on the brand.”

Stephanie Levitz and Geordon Omand, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Surrey considers 75% discount on senior rec passes, drop-in admission

Council to vote Monday on proposal to deeply discount rates for residents over 70

‘A promise is a promise’: Cloverdale lantern festival opens, two months late

After months of delays due to permit issues and uncooperative weather, Art of Lights finally opens

Surrey mayor says city won’t repay $56M spent on LRT, but might pony up $40M in land transfers

There will be no tax increase for Surrey residents resulting from this, McCallum confirms

Delta-Richmond Operation Red Nose needs volunteers for New Year’s Eve

Higher demand for the service this year means ORN might not have enough drivers on Dec. 31

Cloverdale hockey team raising money for young burn survivors

Fundraiser to be hosted on Saturday at Cloverdale Crossing Save-On-Foods

Trudeau to make it harder for future PM to reverse Senate reforms

Of the 105 current senators, 54 are now independents who have banded together in Independent Senators’ Group

37% of Metro Vancouver sees real estate industry as ‘extremely corrupt’

Report comes as the B.C. government continues to probe alleged links of money laundering in casinos to real estate

‘I practically begged’: Kootenay woman with breast cancer denied referral to Calgary

Breast cancer patient left to fight disease alone after being denied referral to Calgary

21 detained before Paris protests as police deploy in force

There was a strong police presence outside the central Saint Lazare train station, where police in riot gear checked bags

VIDEO: Giants winning streak halts against Everett Friday at home in Langley

Following their first loss since November, G-Men hope to regroup and defeat Victoria on Saturday.

ICBC to apply for 6.3% hike to basic insurance rates

Crown Corporation said it will be submitting its next basic rate application to the British Columbia Utilities Commission Friday

Media, robotics, Indigenous studies coming to B.C. Grade 12 classrooms in 2019-20

Provincial tests are also being changed for students in Grade 10 to 12, the Education Ministry said

Stranded B.C. trucker writes final wishes before being rescued 3 days later

‘I was just praying someone would come along’

Canfor Corp. extending temporary curtailment of sawmills in B.C.; cutting hours

Vancouver-based company says the decision is due to declining lumber prices, high log costs and log supply constraints

Most Read

l -->