Skip to main content

After 17 months on the job, Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer’s mind and beliefs still are uncharted territory.

We know what he is reflexively against – things said, proposed or enacted by the Trudeau government. That is his job description, after all.

But beyond that and his stock Conservative promises to lower taxes, balance the federal budget and “stand up to … the media, and the privileged elite,” as he wrote in a recent newspaper op-ed, he is a cipher wrapped in a coy smile.

Two examples stand out. On the renegotiation of the North American free-trade agreement, he criticized the government for not getting a better deal but failed to provide the remotest clue as to how anyone could have talked the Trump administration into more favourable terms.

On carbon pricing, he says he is opposed to the federal plan and will revoke it if elected prime minister next year. But he has presented no alternative plan to cut emissions in Canada and says Canadians will have to wait and see what he comes up with.

It could be argued Mr. Scheer is wise not to take firm positions until he has to, and to only do so once he has seen which way the political winds are blowing in the new year. His biggest asset for many voters may well be that he is not Justin Trudeau, and consequently there is little in it for him and his party to elaborate a broader message than that.

But a play-it-safe strategy can backfire when deployed against a government that has addressed some unusually important issues – whether of its own making, such as pot legalization and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, or imposed externally, such as NAFTA, assisted death and climate change.

Punching holes in the Liberal government narrative is the role of the Conservative Opposition. But with a year to go to the general election, Mr. Scheer might need to start offering more than what, to date, has amounted to nitpicking in the face of momentous events.

It’s fine to play coy sometimes, but do it too much and the world can pass you by.