Politics Blog: How Andrew Scheer can win the 2019 election

The federal election may not officially start for over a year, but for the newly appointed leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, Andrew Scheer, the campaign trail starts now.

With 13 ballots, Scheer narrowly edged out a victory over Maxime Bernier, his rival and then frontrunner. On the campaign trail Scheer spoke of uniting the Conservative Party and focusing on issues that unite us, not divide us. This is exactly what he will have to accomplish if he hopes to win in 2019.

With 14 diverse leadership candidates all garnering support right up until the day of the leadership election, Scheer is going to have his work cut out for him in uniting the party. The more than 30, 000 members signed up by Kevin O’Leary who sought a change from the status quo of the political elite will have to be retained, as well as the libertarian members brought in by Bernier.

The most challenging task that Scheer has ahead of him is appeasing the social conservatives who helped to get him elected, without turning off undecided voters. The surprising fourth-place finish of social conservative Brad Trost revealed that while issues of gay marriage and abortion have largely been put to rest by the rest of the country, there is a vocal minority in the Conservative party who continue to view overturning the current legislation on these fronts as a top priority.

Many of these voters marked only Trost and Pierre Lemieux on their ballots, however enough of the remaining social conservatives cast their support for Scheer after the elimination of the aforementioned candidates to win him the leadership.

While Scheer has stated plainly that he will be not be putting forward a government sponsored bill on these issues if elected, he will need the support of all social conservatives if he is to defeat Justin Trudeau in 2019. However this alone will not be enough.

Throughout his campaign for leadership, Scheer embraced the moniker given to him by the media: “Harper with a smile.” While this may have played well with the conservative base, he will need to distance himself from Harper’s legacy if he is to win in 2019. The major reason why the Conservative Party lost in the last election was the public dislike for former leader Stephen Harper.

While his friendly, outgoing, and collaborative style of leadership all serve as positive differences between Harper and himself, Scheer must actively distance himself from the “Harper-lite” persona in order to have any hopes of getting through to undecided voters. Rona Ambrose did a remarkable job in re-branding the Conservative Party after the last election, and Scheer will have to continue this work in order to become Canada’s next prime minister.

All in all, Scheer and the Tories are exactly where they need to be. With over 250,000 members, the party is larger than it has even been before. According to Ambrose in a farewell interview, the Tories raised $9 million in the first quarter of 2017,  more than three times as much as the Liberals’ $2.8 million, and more people are considering voting Conservative.

While there is still a lot of ground to gain, if Scheer is able to unite, retain, and excite Conservative membership, distance himself from Harper’s sullied legacy, and present himself as a relatable alternative to celebrity Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, he can win in 2019.

Photo credits: Trevor Swann