Andrew Scheer is also very much to blame in this Maxime Bernier saga

Conservatives should offer something different, and Scheer needs to step up and find his conservative voice.

(This column originally appeared in the Toronto Sun)

By: Candice Malcolm

The Conservative Party of Canada is gathering in Halifax this weekend, and it’s time for the party to take a long, hard look in the mirror.

Maxime Bernier, a principled advocate for free-market principles and an outspoken critic of vile Leftist forces, has left the party, saying that “the Conservative Party has abandoned conservatives.”

I’ve heard from many conservatives — both party members, and non-partisans who’ve supported the CPC in the past —  who completely agree.

They are disappointed with CPC Leader Andrew Scheer and concerned about his commitment to conservative fundamentals.

Scheer has thus far failed to inspire the grassroots of the party. He has yet to define himself as a conservative or reveal his platform, his policies or his priorities.

What does Andrew Scheer stand for? What issues does he care about? Your guess is as good as mine.

During the CPC leadership race, Scheer talked a good game on freedom of speech issues. He pledged to defund Canadian universities who suppress free speech on campus.

This excited many who are concerned with the growing hostility to the free exchange of ideas and the increasing indoctrination at our public universities.

After Scheer won the CPC leadership race — just barely, on the 13th ballot with only 50.95% of the vote — he had the perfect opportunity to explain his campus free speech policy.

A scandal rocked Wilfrid Laurier University over the very issue of freedom of speech.

A graduate student led a classroom discussion about an Orwellian law that could force Canadians to use made-up words. Her adviser didn’t want students to hear both sides of the debate, and so, the grad student was reprimanded by a group of administrators behaving like Marxists.

It was the perfect opportunity for Scheer — and he jumped to say the incident was “egregious.”

But when asked about withholding federal funds, as he had pledged months earlier, he said he wouldn’t intervene if he were prime minister. He immediately backed down from his earlier stance to avoid controversy.

This has become a pattern for Scheer. He’s failed to stand up to the left-wing media, refuses to fight back on key issues — from terrorism to trade — and repeatedly takes positions that oppose core conservative values of freedom of the press, free trade and economic freedom.

One promise Scheer has kept is propping up a socialist quota scheme for his supporters in the dairy lobby.

Bernier made a mistake by leaving the CPC. He should have stayed to keep Scheer accountable and advocate for issues important to so many Canadians.

But Scheer is also to blame. His job is to unite conservatives and manage the big tent coalition. Instead, he failed to work with Bernier or offer an olive branch on the policy front.

Scheer seemed to forget that Bernier has a large following behind him, and may have been leader had it not been for the byzantine voting scheme used in the CPC leadership race. Bernier was chosen as the top-ranked candidate by significantly more Conservative members than Scheer (22% for Scheer, 29% for Bernier). It took 13 ballots for Scheer to edge ahead.

Canadians want a choice in 2019. If they want a nice guy who calls himself a feminist, believes in big government, champions corporate welfare and follows the opinions of elites rather than the broader Canadian public, they’ll vote for Trudeau.

Conservatives should offer something different, and Scheer needs to step up and find his conservative voice.