Opinion: The Conservatives’ Perception problem cost them

Written By Karunesh Saroya, Posted on December 17, 2019

Speculation on Andrew Scheer’s successor is alive and well, following his resignation as party leader last week. The highly touted, though controversial Peter Mackay, was amongst the first to be mentioned. Erin O’Toole, Rona Ambrose, Michelle Rempel and Pierre Poilievre are amongst the other notables expected to enter the race.

For Scheer, the private school funding scandal was a doozy. But the truth is that the Conservatives were unlikely to achieve victory, given his leadership style and socially conservative views. The campaign’s failure to attract disgruntled centrists was a testament to that.

An inflammatory comment made by Scheer in 2005, in which he likened gay marriage to dogs, was off-putting for many. His absence from the Toronto Pride Parade did not bode well with the electorate either. If anything, it created a perception problem that he allowed others to define for him – that his views had not evolved since and that he did not care.

Rather than speaking to his family’s struggles in his early years, he spent the bulk of the campaign either deflecting on same-sex marriage and abortion or attacking Trudeau’s record. The mudslinging brought out the worst of our representatives and polarized the general electorate further.

He played right into the hands of the mainstream media by engaging with negative campaigning. He did little to convince targeted demographics to vote Conservative. Running on tax credits to the middle-class is not a campaign strategy.

Moreover, his hesitancy to come clean on abortion did not help either. Frankly, it was a mistake. When he publicly stated his personal views, the intent not to reopen the debate was not believed.

As time transpired, his personal views became irrelevant, and what others perceived was held with higher regard. People’s perceptions of him ultimately reinforced stereotypes of Conservatives and reflected their voting patterns. Some even went as far as to had him brand far-right and to slander his character.

Inadvertently speaking at the same rally as Faith Goldy did Scheer no favours though. It reverberated negatively for him in the polls, and the Liberal Party capitalized on that. It was shared repeatedly on social media.

This cost him considerably in Québec and Ontario, with only one net seat had between the provinces.

It is the right of every Canadian to have free speech and to be allowed their views. They should be allowed to form their political opinions around those views and try to find candidates that support them.

But if the Conservatives want to win another federal election, they can’t go down the social Conservative path. The majority of Canadian’s are against social conservatism. Trudeau had a great deal of political baggage that he was dragging behind him, from SNC-Lavalin, his treatment of women MP’s, and repeated instances of blackface. The Conservatives failed to capitalize on Trudeau’s gaffes because of their ongoing bouts defending the party’s image.

His failure to define who he was as a leader left a void that others exploited. Now, that is a burden the party shares, as it struggles to reinvent itself.

For them, its majority or bust.

Karunesh Saroya

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