Of all the reasons to give Justin Trudeau a pass on the SNC-Lavalin affair, the one the Liberals and their supporters seem most confident of is the existence of Andrew Scheer.
It’s pretty clear, at this point, that Justin Trudeau and his staff put pressure on the top law enforcement officer in the country to try to affect her decision about publicly prosecuting a large engineering company.
The Liberals are trying to suggest that it’s all a big misunderstanding and that the attorney general misinterpreted some everyday talk about this big issue. We’re all friends here, they say. Nothing to see here, they say.
And certain portions of the public have been more than ready to lap up whatever excuse the Liberals come up with because they are terrified of the thought of Andrew Scheer as prime minister.
Of course, Andrew Scheer’s existence is as relevant as my kid’s conjunctivitis to whether Trudeau acted wrongly or rightly.
If he was wrong, he was wrong even if you don’t want to vote for Scheer (or Singh or Bernier).
But what do you do, when everybody is due a thrashing? Holding your nose at the ballot box is a cliché because we accept that sometimes there is no great option.
If we should electorally punish those who do the wrong thing for political reasons, should we not also punish those who choose not to do the right things for political reasons?
One of the reasons people are so uncomfortable with Scheer is because of his and his party’s rhetoric over the past couple years on the topic of immigration, the border and other Trumpy topics.
Among all the many topics they can choose from, the Conservatives have been loudest about issues that, perhaps unsurprisingly, roil up the relatively tiny portion of Canadians who love to bash out angry caps-locked comments on Facebook.
To keep those folks from fleeing to whatever Maxime Bernier is doing, the Conservatives have railed against a tepid condemnation of Islamophobia and given voice to those fearmongering about a similarly bland United Nations migration agreement that will have not a whit of impact on Canadian policy.
There is little in Scheer’s background to suggest he is not a typical middle-of-the-road Canadian Conservative likely to continue with typically unoffensive Conservative immigration policy. He says the right things when pushed, and needs the votes of the huge number of Canadians who prize this country’s reputation for tolerance.
But recently, Scheer seems to have decided that the best political move is to avoid confronting those people who say Muslim immigrants are to be feared, not welcomed.
As a conservative, Scheer has credibility with those who detest Trudeau and are irrationally afraid of Muslims. At a town hall, John McCain famously defended Barack Obama as a good man, even as he strove to defeat him at the ballot box.
Scheer, similarly, has a chance – one that isn’t open to others – to try to de-radicalize a fearful segment of voters, while making it clear that a change in government won’t alter how welcoming Canada is to Muslims. He could forcefully and repeatedly try to reach that segment of the population and convince them that while he thinks policies should be changed, immigration does not pose a safety risk to Canadians.
He has not yet done so, but it’s still not too late.
Making decisions for political reasons is often, and thankfully, the worst political move of all.
Sometimes it’s best to just do the right thing and sleep well at night.
Tyler Olsen is a reporter at the Abbotsford News.