As the summer break winds down, you can be sure that the Conservative Party of Canada will come to the House of Commons with all cylinders firing. Their goal will not be to pass bills, it will not even be to block them. Their primary goal from the onset of the session will be campaigning.
The conservative leadership race hinged on one thing. It was not how to improve the country, or deciding on any sort of ideological shift. Their primary goal is to beat Justin Trudeau. That is why they surprisingly decided on Andrew Scheer instead of Maxime Bernier, after all. Scheer gives them the best chance at winning.
I may sound glib, but of course it makes sense. You can't govern if you don't win, and Andrew Scheer has a shocking and proven track record of winning.
Scheer’s entrance to the House of Commons was by beating NDP incumbent Lorne Nystrom by 861 votes. Nystrom was the longest serving MP at the time. After winning twice more in 2011, the Conservatives finally controlled a majority, and Scheer was chosen as the Speaker of the House after winning in the sixth round of balloting. Now he’s beat unexpectedly beat Bernier. Scheer wins.
Scheer was also chosen because he was the best candidate for uniting the party. Leitch was too much of a right wing extremist for a national Conservative party. Chong was too liberal. Even Bernier's Libertarian tendencies were considered by some to be tough to stomach. Scheer is able to pull the party together. He has Harper-sequel ideas for the economy, and he's been socially conservative in the past, but has been wise enough to not revisit those ideals thus far into his leader. Canada's social policies typically lean left after all, and now he’s going to take control of a typically Liberal tenet. Scheer is going to run an entire campaign on free speech.
The Liberals passed a controversial motion with M-103. It was an anti-hate speech motion, but the controversy arose when the bill specifically named Islamaphobic speech compared to everything else that was grouped together under generic hate speech. Every Conservative MP voted against it, with the exception of Michael Chong.
To those on the far-right, it was proof of the Liberal agenda to facilitate the Islamic takeover of The West. To other conservatives - and even moderates - it signaled something else: an attack on free speech.
I believe that free speech will prove to be the defining question of our generation. On one hand, an influx of misinformation and paranoia has had very real societal impacts. On the other hand, when the state can determine what can and can't be said - especially in an age where a frightening amount of interaction is on the record - simply put, bad things can happen. I think it is a challenging question, and not one this article will answer, but mark my words, it will be Scheer's bread and butter in the next election.
It's easy to see why. First it will rally the Conservative faithful. They will proclaim free speech a fundamental right. It will pull some moderates. It's a reasonable argument. On top of all of this, it is a seemingly reasonable proclamation that will appeal to the far-right.
The far-right movement isn't going away anytime soon, and while they're being shut down in many narratives, I doubt many are going to forsake their values. The Conservative Party of Canada needs to - and will - appeal to this contingent of the extreme right, the question was how to accomplish this while maintaining Scheer's apple cheeked, aw shucks persona.
The answer is free speech.