OTTAWA — Well known on Parliament Hill after four years as Speaker of the House of Commons during Stephen Harper's majority government, those outside the national capital may know little about new Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.
Here are five things to know about his policy positions:
Scheer promises to balance the books within two years of a Conservative election win in 2019. Current projections suggest the deficit will be $15.8 billion in 2021-22. "Our work will be cut out for us," said Conservative MP Mark Strahl. Scheer has yet to say how he'll do it.
Scheer has also vowed to remove HST/GST from home heating bills, lower business taxes and introduce a tax credit for parents who kids go to private school or are home-schooled — boutique credits that prompt comparisons to predecessor Stephen Harper.
Energy and the Environment
Scheer promises to repeal the Liberal carbon tax plan — he calls it a "cash grab" — and allow provinces to decide their own carbon-price fate. He believes Canadian carbon-capture or clean-coal technology helping bigger emitters like China will have a larger impact on global emissions.
He wants gas pumps adorned with the flags of the countries that produced the oil, so Canadians can choose "Canadian-sourced, ethically produced oil." He also supports the Energy East pipeline, saying Canada's dependence on foreign oil is a result of a lack of west-to-east pipeline capacity. "Ethical oil," a term coined by right-wing activist Ezra Levant, generally refers to oil produced in countries without widespread human rights abuses.
Freedom of Speech
Scheer has complained about universities and "radical groups" on campus refusing to let everyone have their say. He cited University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson, who draws vocal protests for his controversial opposition to non-gender specific pronouns at the request of transgender or non-binary people.
Scheer has vowed to deny funding and research money to universities that don't allow full freedom of speech, where people like Peterson are shouted down and students fear to speak out about issues like abortion, will receive no federal funding, including lucrative research grants.
'Radical Islamic Terrorism'
"Radical Islamic terrorism is a threat to all Canadians," Scheer said Monday as he promised to recommit Canadian fighters to the battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
The former Conservative government sent six CF-18s to join the anti-ISIL effort in 2014; Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pulled the plug on the planes last year.
"Radical Islam" as a term originated in the U..S. in 1979 to describe the policies of Iran's Ayotollah Khomeini. It became synonymous with terrorism during the 1984 presidential election and by 2016, had become a term separating the Republicans and Democrats.
Donald Trump the candidate accused both Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama of failing to grasp the link between Islam and terrorism. Obama said terrorists like the term, because it links violence and Islam in the minds of both Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
Interestingly, Trump himself avoided the term during a recent trip to the Middle East, even when a terrorist struck a concert in Manchester, killing 22 people. He even noted Muslims are the majority of terrorist victims.
Conventional wisdom suggests social conservatives played a key role in Scheer's narrow win Saturday, flocking to the eventual winner after Pierre Lemieux and later Brad Trost dropped out of the running.
Scheer has been lauded by anti-abortion groups for his voting record on abortion-related topics. He did not, however, run on a social conservative platform, saying Canada has made up its mind on certain divisive social issues. But with Trost and Lemieux getting 15 per cent of the initial support, clearly those issues carry sway with party members.
"I think it certainly is something we have to pay attention to," said Manitoba MP Ted Falk, a social conservative and Scheer supporter. "It's a voice that needs to be heard."