09/24/2019 16:28 EDT | Updated 09/24/2019 16:29 EDT

Andrew Scheer Pressed On Brexit Support, Pivots To Attacking Trudeau

Meanwhile, the Liberal leader said he always thought it was the “wrong choice.”

The Canadian Press
Federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer makes a campaign stop in Thorold, Ont., on Sept. 24, 2019.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer gave no indication Tuesday he has wavered in his support for Brexit in light of the latest bout of political turmoil to rock the United Kingdom.

The U.K.’s Supreme Court ruled it was unlawful for British prime minister Boris Johnson to prorogue Parliament to avoid debate over his plans for Britain to leave the European Union before an Oct. 31 deadline.

At a campaign event in Thorold, Ont., a reporter noted how Scheer once said he was “for Brexit before Brexit was cool.” He asked if the Conservative leader would “reconsider” that position in light of all that has happened in the U.K. since the 2016 referendum.

Scheer said he will always support “the ability for people to have their expressions on the democratic process” and for countries to have autonomy over various levels of policy.

Watch: Scheer blasts Trudeau over ‘brownface’ photo


“The British people have had their say. It’s up to British lawmakers now to navigate through that,” Scheer said. 

He then pivoted to an attack on Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who he has argued on the campaign trail has embarrassed Canada on the world stage.

I continue to ask Justin Trudeau exactly what is it about China’s basic dictatorship that admires so much. What was he thinking during his trip to India. Why did he put out that eulogy for Fidel Castro,” Scheer said.

“So I think when Canadians are looking for someone to represent Canada on the world stage with professionalism and strength, they know they won’t get it with Justin Trudeau. They will with me.”

While Trudeau’s 2018 trip to India was panned by Canadian and international media, Scheer’s attack referenced two incidents that are perhaps less known. 

At a Liberal fundraising event in 2013, two years before he became prime minister, Trudeau said he had a “level of admiration” for how China’s “basic dictatorship” has allowed it to turn its economy around and “go green.” 

Trudeau also sparked headlines after the death of Fidel Castro in 2016 with a statement that called the former Cuban leader a “larger-than-life” figure who, while “controversial,” improved the health and education systems in his country. Trudeau later clarified that he agreed that Castro was a dictator.

The Liberal leader was also asked Tuesday to give his thoughts on Brexit in light of the court decision. Trudeau spoke out in 2016, urging British people to vote to remain in the EU.

Trudeau said he’s been clear from the beginning that Brexit was the “wrong choice” for the British people.

“But of course I respect their decision to make their own choices,” he said during a campaign stop in Burnaby, B.C.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau speaks during his visit to Nano One Materials in Burnaby, B.C. on Sept. 24, 2019.

He perked up, though, at the chance to take a shot at his Conservative rival.

“Andrew Scheer has also been clear on his perspective on Brexit. He always thought it was a great idea,” he said with mock enthusiasm. “Well, I think we’ve seen the instability and the challenges that the U.K. continues to go through as it is wrapped up with this issue.”

Trudeau said Canada will stand by its friends in Europe and the U.K. as they work through a complex situation.

“But we certainly deplore that they are so consumed by this issue that it is interfering with their ability to lead on so many other things where the U.K.’s leadership in the world is so necessary.”

Scheer came out in favour of Brexit in 2016, just ahead of the referendum vote. In a column for the National Post, Scheer wrote that “as a democrat, a conservative and an admirer of the British political traditions, it’s difficult not to see the case for leaving the EU.”

In 2017, the Tory leader tweeted he was “pro-Brexit before it was cool.”

Last November, Scheer told reporters he remains supportive of the U.K. leaving the EU, despite the political gridlock over the issue.

During a fiery question period in January, Trudeau called out Scheer for coming down “on one side of the most divisive, destructive debate to happen in the U.K. for an awfully long time.”

Scheer fired back by saying Trudeau “came down on the losing side of that debate in the United Kingdom.”

However, the leaders won’t have the opportunity to hash things out at a foreign-policy debate next month. On Tuesday, the Munk Debates announced that it cancelled a planned event because Trudeau had ruled out attending.

With earlier files

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