The job of Opposition party leader can be miserable. You must unite a fractious caucus, parry the efforts of the governing party to embarrass you and master the steepest of all learning curves: from rookie leader to prime minister-in-waiting. In the early days, it's easy to screw up, the way Andrew Scheer screwed up this week. The good news is, he did the right thing in the end.
On Monday, for a column I was writing on how fallout from the violence in Charlottesville, Va., could damage the Conservative Party, I asked Mr. Scheer's office where the leader stood on Rebel Media, Ezra Levant's extremely conservative outlet. On Tuesday, I was promised a statement, but none arrived.
On Wednesday, Justin Ling of Vice News reported that a statement had been shown to Mr. Scheer, but it had not been released. On Thursday, Mr. Scheer's office finally released the statement.
"I am disgusted by the vile comments made by hate groups this past weekend," he said. "I believe there is a fine line between reporting the facts and giving those groups a platform … Until the editorial directions of the Rebel Media changes, I will not grant interviews to the outlet."
Better late than never.
It isn't difficult to guess Mr. Scheer's dilemma. He, too, worries about the possibility of cross-border contamination of the Conservative brand, thanks to Donald Trump's flailing presidency.
But there are Canadians who oppose this country's wide-open immigration policies, who support the walls against people and trade that Mr. Trump wants to build. Many of them are fans of Rebel Media. And many of them donate to the Conservative Party.
Coming down hard against the Rebel would anger these people. But failing to come down hard could damage the party's reputation among immigrant and moderate voters, intensifying suspicions that there is a strong socially conservative streak in the new leader. Facing this tough choice, Mr. Scheer dithered, before finally releasing the statement.
In situations such as this, doing the right thing is usually also doing the smart thing.
Back in 1983, Pierre Trudeau tried to trap Brian Mulroney, the newly elected leader of the Progressive Conservatives, with a motion supporting French language rights in Manitoba, an issue that divided the Tory caucus.
Mr. Mulroney responded by reading the riot act to the caucus and pledging his party's full support for the government's motion. The caucus and the public were impressed. A year later, Mr. Mulroney was prime minister.
Mr. Scheer's biggest challenge right now isn't healing the divisions from the leadership race and solidifying support from the party's base. His biggest challenge is persuading all Canadians that his party is open and inclusive, at a time when Mr. Trump is poisoning the well of public discourse.
He got it right in the end. But there will always be an asterisk over that statement. The new leader would be wise not to stumble the next time this issue arises.