Scheer attacks Liberals on taxes, terrorism in first question period as Tory leader
Rising to applause, the Conservative party’s freshly-minted leader Andrew Scheer took to the floor of the House of Commons Monday to attack the Liberal government’s policies towards young Canadians, middle-class families and the global fight against terrorism. The 38-year-old also managed to take digs at the 45-year-old prime minister’s age as well as his father’s legacy.
“When I was younger, I remember families like mine who had to deal with the disastrous policies of the 1970s,” Scheer, Canada’s new Opposition leader, said during question period Monday afternoon. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s late father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, governed Canada for much of that decade.
“In less than two years, this prime minister is clearly leading Canada in the same direction with irresponsible decisions, higher debt and higher taxes,” Scheer added. “As the prime minister is much older than me, he must remember this difficult time. Can the prime minister then please explain why his policies are hurting young people and all those that this government claims it’s helping?”
With Trudeau on an official visit to the Vatican and Italy Monday, Finance Minister Bill Morneau came to his government’s defence.
“Our plan is a plan that will help Canadians with high levels of growth,” Morneau said after wishing Scheer success in his new position. “The last prime minister is the best prime minister in six years. Lower unemployment -- lower unemployment than ten years ago. It’s important to continue with our plan.”
Scheer continued his offensive, criticizing the prime minister for hurting young Canadians and middle class families by raising taxes on everything from payrolls to bus passes.
“If the prime minister doesn’t think there’s something wrong, that shows just how out of touch he is,” Scheer declared. “Why can’t the prime minister understand that this high tax, high spending agenda hurts the very people that he claims to help?”
Morneau was quick to refute Scheer’s claims, citing recent middle class tax cuts and the success of programs like the Canada Child Benefit.
“We’ve seen 250,000 net new fulltime jobs in Canada,” Morneau added. “We know that our level of economic growth, in the last quarter, it’s been the best in six years. So, Mister Speaker, our program is working, it’s helping Canadians, and we look forward to continuing it.”
After persisting in his attack on the Liberals’ tax policies, Scheer switched to chastising the government’s commitment to defence spending and fighting ISIS.
“For no apparent reason, Canada’s contribution of surveillance aircraft [in Iraq] was quietly cut in half,” Scheer said. “And even though [the prime minister] was at NATO bragging about Canada’s commitments, the truth is that the Liberals are happy to let others do the heavy lifting when it comes to fighting radical terrorism.”
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan came to his government’s defence, touting its increased commitment to supplying ground forces and intelligence capabilities in Iraq to combat ISIS.
“The Manchester attacks prove that radical terrorism is a very real threat for Canada and its allies,” Scheer retorted. “Can [the prime minister] name…just one of our allies who agrees with our decision to leave the fight against ISIS?”
“We increased our contribution to the fight against ISIS,” Sajjan responded to jeers from across the aisle. “We’re making sure that we take the time to consult with our allies, to making sure that we have the right resources in place.”
During Scheer’s first appearance on the floor of the House of Commons since becoming the Conservative party’s new leader, the longstanding Saskatchewan MP showed that despite his amiable reputation as House Speaker between 2011 and 2015, he’ll have no reservations with taking the government to ask.
But despite the attacks, Scheer also seems poised to bring a little light into the Conservative Party after more than a decade of former prime minister Stephen Harper’s often stony-faced rule. At the start of Scheer’s first caucus meeting in Ottawa on Monday, he was even introduced to the room as Katrina & The Waves’ airy 1983 hit “Walking on Sunshine” played in the background.
“I’ve always said throughout the entire campaign that Conservatives have such a positive message,” Scheer said during an appearance on CTV Power Play following question period.
“We improve the lives of hardworking Canadians. We create the… conditions for the private sector to create the prosperity. We should be upbeat and happy about what we’re offering Canadians.”
Speaking on Power Play, Scheer also stressed the need for party unity after an often divisive leadership race. As one of his first political moves on Monday, the new Opposition Leader had his former leadership rivals posing questions to the Liberals alongside him from the front row of his party’s section in the House of Commons.
“I wanted to showcase… the abilities that they had [and] show the people that joined the party because of their campaigns that they are going to play an important role in our caucus, and ultimately in government,” Scheer said.
Scheer also criticized the Liberals’ “fear-mongering” and “mean-spirited attacks” for attempting to tar him as a far-right social conservative, even though Scheer himself has made public statements in the past that have shown him to be an opponent of those advocating for issues such as LGBT and abortion rights.
“The theme of my campaign was finding the common ground,” Scheer said. “There are some issues that if we bring up… it’s going to cause division within our own party. So, let’s leave those aside. Let’s work on the things we can agree with. That’s how we’re going to win in 2019.”
Making sure that polarizing social issues stay off the Conservative party’s agenda is just one way that Scheer hopes to woo younger voters, who overwhelmingly flocked to the Trudeau Liberals in the 2015 election.
“What I am going to spend the next 30 months doing is exposing what I call ‘the lie of the left,’” Scheer said. “Look -- ‘sunny ways’ don’t pay the bills. You have to have opportunities. It’s conservative policies that create the conditions for prosperity, and we’ll all benefit thanks to that.”