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Andrew Scheer's Surprise Win Was All About Balance

05/29/2017 09:43 EDT | Updated 05/29/2017 12:39 EDT

How did Andrew Scheer win the Conservative leadership race? What accounts for the other surprises? There are some really interesting points to note about this when one digs into the results.

You can find full results here. Here are a few of my hot takes.


The gap between Andrew Scheer and Maxime Bernier was relatively constant throughout most of the ballots -- but it closed through the final three. With four candidates left, Brad Trost dropped off. About two thirds of Trost's voters went to Scheer, and a third went to Bernier (not including those whose ballots were blank after Trost). Scheer then got about three fifths of Erin O'Toole's voters, to Bernier's two fifths. These things in combination were enough to push Scheer over the top.

Scheer demonstrates an ability to unify different parts of the party.

Some have said that Scheer won because of social conservatives -- but it's actually much more correct to say that he won because he was able to cut both ways and gain momentum from across the conservative spectrum. He did much better with Trost's (likely) more socially conservative voters AND with the more progressive voters who generally made up O'Toole's voter coalition.

Two thirds and three fifths represent a difference of about six per cent, which isn't that significant. Scheer did about as well with Trost and O'Toole voters, which demonstrates an ability to unify different parts of the party and to strike an appropriate and substantial balance.

andrew scheer

Andrew Scheer celebrates after winning the leadership during the Conservative Party of Canada leadership convention in Toronto, Ont. May 27, 2017. (Photo: Chris Wattie/Reuters)

While I think our team struck the right balance, a couple social conservative special-interest groups were not very happy. Campaign Life Coalition (CLC), for example, explicitly said that Andrew Scheer should be disqualified from consideration, saying on their voter guide before a list that included Scheer: "The remaining candidates are disqualified from consideration. Please do not rank their names on the ballot."

That didn't stop CLC from issuing a press release after the fact, which began "Pro-lifers applaud Scheer." It always pays to be gracious, of course, but any frank analysis of how Scheer won needs to take into consideration this strong opposition.

All different kinds of Conservatives can and do have a place in our party under his leadership.

Speaking of Brad Trost, the riding-level breakdown of his support is fascinating. On his final ballot, he was behind Scheer in his own riding of Saskatoon-University, and yet remained in a dominant position in many highly diverse Scarborough and Markham ridings. In Alberta, Trost was at about 10 per cent in Battle-River Crowfoot (very rural) while he was over 30 per cent in Edmonton-Riverbend (urban and diverse).

Trost did well because of his team's prioritization of ethno-cultural outreach, even while his message was resonating relatively poorly with "rural white men." Scheer picking up many of these voters in later rounds of voting was in part a function of a sophisticated ground game and outreach program.

You can expect the Liberals to try to attack Scheer on these issues. You can expect the same tired tropes to be trotted out about a "hidden agenda" -- but Scheer's win and the way he won show that all different kinds of Conservatives can and do have a place in our party under his leadership.

The balance Scheer has struck on these issues -- emphasizing individual freedom, freedom of speech and free votes for members of Parliament -- is the right thing for our party and for our country. It will help us win in 2019.

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In Photos: Andrew Scheer