Pity the federal Conservative Party, who just recently vaulted a rather obscure fellow, one Andrew Scheer, to its leadership after a divided convention. Scheer emerged the winner after 13 ballots and just 50.95 per cent of the votes, hardly a ringing endorsement.
But the Party needed a leader, and despite the underwhelming support, they got one. They are making the best of the task before them — introducing a relative unknown to try to take down Justin Trudeau, whose face and name may be his biggest advantage.
If you showed a picture of Justin Trudeau to pretty much any Canadian, they would know him. If you handed them a picture of Andrew Scheer, the likeliest response would be, who is that and why should I care?
So that is the task of the Conservatives pre-2019, introduce Andrew Scheer, MP from Regina, Saskatchewan to the country.
Little did they know at the time of the convention, just those few months ago, that by summer’s end there would be another man from Saskatchewan, who would need far less introduction, suddenly jobless and perhaps available.
I speak of Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, who surprised many last week by announcing he was stepping down, both as Premier and MLA. Wall led the Saskatchewan Party for ten years as Premier, and gained respect right across the country, particularly among the right-leaning, for being a calm, steady hand guiding his province. He took on Prime Minister Trudeau over the carbon tax, delighting the oil and gas industry. He won three consecutive majority governments, and remained popular despite some epic budget slashing.
Even Andrew Scheer himself spoke glowingly of Mr. Wall as a true champion of Canada’s Conservatives.
And now Brad Wall is jobless. At 51, he can’t be done. He’s too young, talented and well thought of to retire. Sure, he could go to private industry, but is that the life for such a gifted political personality? Or is he looking federally?
Speculation is heavy regarding a potential role for Brad Wall in federal politics. He’d be a shoe in to win, no matter which Saskatchewan riding he chose. If he was going federal, he’d would almost certainly run as a Conservative. And with his experience, he’d make his mark early and likely, well.
The Conservatives are currently a party looking for a face. They’ve elected a leader, who at the moment is almost faceless. Having been so closely identified with Stephen Harper over the past many years, the party needs to move on. And there is talent in the ranks. But there have been some losses. One was Rona Ambrose. Her brief stint as temporary Opposition leader showed her to be more than competent. And there were many who wished that rather than accept the temporary leadership and then retirement, Ambrose had chosen to make a run at leading the party. A woman at the helm would have put a new face, and spin, on the Conservative Party.
And I think Rona Ambrose could have held her own against the charismatic Trudeau.
And now Brad Wall is possibly available. Will he still be available if Scheer fails to lead the party to gains in 2019? How much patience will Conservatives have with Scheer if he doesn’t deliver? Especially with another man from Saskatchewan potentially waiting in the wings.
I bet the last thing Andrew Scheer wants to see in his rear-view mirror is a rapidly speeding Brad Wall coming up on his bumper.
Carolyn Grant is Editor of the Kimberley Bulletin