“You know what, it’s not about that,” Scheer said in Halifax Saturday. “It’s about focusing on maintaining the party, maintaining the party’s unity and growing.”
On Thursday, after Bernier announced he was leaving the party to launch his own (and flinging a number of direct insults Scheer’s way in the process), Scheer said what Bernier did was helping Liberals. But he said he didn’t expect a single Conservative MP to join Bernier.
Global News asked Scheer (twice) if he was worried about losing votes to Bernier, no matter how the small the percentage turns out to be.
“Obviously my goal is to keep as many people who want a change in 2019 within the conservative tent,” Scheer said.
“My point was that what Maxime Bernier is doing is not good for the Conservative movement. It’s not helpful and it only helps one person. We can see by the tremendous outpouring of support and all those people who had worked with him in the past indicting that they’re going to stay with the Conservative party, they’re going to stay with me, because they recognize that we can agree on 80 – 90 per cent of the types of things that Conservatives want to have done,” Scheer said.
WATCH: Scheer turns page on Bernier drama at Conservative convention
“We may disagree on 10 or 15 or 20 per cent but why part ways over that? Let’s stay together and let’s make real accomplishments real progress on all the many things that we do agree with. That was my pitch to him over the course of the last year. Unfortunately he didn’t take me up on it.”
Scheer said he believes Bernier made the decision to leave the Conservative Party a “long, long time ago.”
When Global News asked Scheer whether maintaining the party’s unity was about keeping as many votes as possible within the party, he turned the answer back to Bernier.
“Absolutely. And so, you know, one person has made a decision. That’s up to him to explain and to defend. I’ve always believed we can attract a lot more Canadians to the conservative party by explaining and communicating our policies in a more positive way.”
On Friday night Scheer pitched his vision to the Conservative party, in a keynote speech that became all the most important in the wake of the Bernier department. The nearly hour-long speech touched on a number of familiar Conservative themes: lowering taxes and balancing the budget.
The mood in the room was one of a crowd that really wanted to see their leader do well. They offered standing ovations and applause at every turn, even though the speech itself, and its delivery, was not a standout (Scheer stumbled at least once and when he paused for water after that stumble, the crowd used the moment to deliver a standing ovation).
READ MORE: Carbon tax won’t harm economy, but climate change will, study says
Scheer was playing to a friendly crowd. Yet speeches like these are also an opportunity for leaders to try out lines you may hear down the road on an election campaign.
When asked about which element of his vision he thinks will resonate best with all Canadians in the 2019 election, Scheer said the elimination of the carbon tax.
“More and more Canadians are rejecting that. More and more provincial governments are joining with us to fight against. That’s a huge issue that’s shaping up to be a key ballot question.”
During the convention, both Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Alberta United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney gave speeches that called on the eradication of the Liberal’s carbon tax plan to thunderous applause.
WATCH: Scheer accuses Trudeau of hiding true costs of Canada’s carbon tax
But while Conservatives have long cried foul over the carbon tax, they have yet to offer up their alternative plan. Scheer has said he’s committed to meeting the Paris Agreement targets, but won’t say how.
“As I’ve been saying, we’ve got about a year until the next election and we will roll out our environmental plan in advance of that, so that Canadians have enough time to see it, to evaluate it to ask questions about it, so we can stand behind it.”
“It won’t be based on a carbon tax. It will be based on working with industry to achieve meaningful targets,” Scheer said, at which point Global News asked, “But what does that mean?”
“Stay tuned,” was the reply.
Scheer would only say his plan would have multiple components and focus on incentives for carbon-emitting companies, rather than “punishing.”
“Let’s make sure that when companies make investments to reduce emission that they’re rewarded for that and encouraged to do more,” Scheer said. There are several industries that when production happens in countries with no environmental standard or with no access to clean energy, emissions are actually higher.”
“So a carbon tax that chases away jobs, and the emissions just go somewhere else doesn’t actually help the planet. A Conservative approach will.”
But what exactly is that approach? Well, stay tuned for an indeterminate amount of time.
The convention floor was particularly roused when Scheer talked about “standing up” to U.S. President Donald Trump Friday night.
Scheer called the current situation with NAFTA “precarious.” He said the U.S. and Mexican governments working on a separate so-called handshake deal is “not good news for all the Canadians workers out there whose job depends on trade.”
So what would he do differently?
“One of the best things to do to strengthen your positon at the negotiation table is to make people want to come to Canada. To have American investors say, ‘Hey look, we’ve got to keep that border open because we have a plant in Canada we want to expand’.”
Scheer argued Liberal tax and regulatory changes are “weakening” Canada’s position.
“When businesses are making decisions to go elsewhere they will be less anxious about losing access to Canada. That’s the problem that Justin Trudeau has created.”
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