Chilliwack-Hope Conservatives got their man.
While the federal party chose Saskatchewan’s Andrew Scheer by the slimmest of margins over Maxime Bernier in the Conservative’s leadership race on Saturday, he was the choice of the local MP and the vast majority of local delegates.
More than 80 per cent of Chilliwack-Hope delegates chose Scheer over Bernier on the 13th and final ballot on Saturday. Compare that to the overall choice by delegates selecting Scheer over Bernier by a margin of 51 per cent to 49 per cent.
After the result was announced, Strahl Tweeted about the results from the local delegates calling Scheer his “friend and the next Prime Minister of Canada.”
On Monday, Strahl reiterated his friendship with Scheer pointing to how he was on his team from day one.
“Evidently, the local Conservative Party membership in Chilliwack-Hope was with him as well, with his strongest support in the entire province by a long shot, coming from our riding with 52 per cent first ballot support and over 81 per cent support on the final ballot,” Strahl said in a statement.
“Andrew is a principled, pragmatic Conservative who will keep the party united and growing strong towards 2019. Those who know Andrew the best like him the most. He is ready to take on Trudeau now and will only grow stronger the more Canadians get to know him.”
Pundits are saying the choice of Scheer came in part because of his social conservatism and his support for supply management for the dairy and poultry industry. On this latter issue, Bernier lost the votes of farmers and supporters, even in his home province of Quebec as he came out opposed to supply management.
On the socially conservative issues of gay marriage and abortion rights, while Scheer may be opposed, he said in his campaign that he would not reopen those matters. What he also won’t do is muzzle back-benchers who do want to push the agenda.
“He respects the free speech rights of Members of Parliament to bring forward whatever motions or bills they wish, as is their right, and that a future Conservative government would not introduce legislation on these matters, in keeping with our grassroots driven party policies,” Strahl said.
At least three organizations opposed to abortion rights lauded Scheer’s victory in press releases Monday.
“Andrew has always been a strong pro-life candidate that has defended the rights of members of parliament to freely vote on these issues as well as bring them up in parliament,” said Alissa Golob, co-founder of RightNow, a non-profit organization committed to nominating and electing pro-life candidates.
“Social conservatives make up a significant block within the party and their views and concerns should be respected,” said Jeff Gunnarson, vice-president of Campaign Life Coalition. “The party must acknowledge that pro-life and pro-family voters are part of the Conservative Party’s winning coalition, by promoting policies that speak to the values of many Canadians.”
Strahl pointed out that the Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) actually campaigned against Scheer. In an online voters guide for Conservatives, Scheer was listed in the “disqualified” category suggesting delegates should not rank his name on the ballot. Scheer’s “mark” of B-minus was, however, the highest of the 12 candidates the organization did not endorse. Only Brad Trost and Pierre Lemeiux were considered electable by the CLC.
Strahl suggested painting Scheer as an extreme conservative was merely a Liberal talking point.