Conservatives need a new leader, but not for the reason you may think

The Conservatives deserve a new leader after Andrew Scheer let his opponents and the media define him and failed to win.

Disclosure: Yianni Macris formerly served as Parliamentary Assistant to CPC MP Ted Falk. He currently studies public relations.

I’ve kept rather too quiet with respect to my opinion on the election results, especially with how it turned out for the Conservative Party. Silent I can no longer be. Yes, the Conservatives won the popular vote. But I’d like to clear the air: winning the popular vote is virtually irrelevant; our electoral system is not designed like that.

Let’s take a step back for a second. Conservatives were freaking out when the Liberals had promised electoral reform, and move to proportional representation. Nobody wanted it. But now, Conservatives are harping on the fact that we won the popular vote.

Yes, if the Liberals had introduced their electoral reform, the Conservatives would’ve won more seats. But like many Tories, I’m still happy that electoral reform didn’t happen. As Conservatives, we support the preservation of our traditional parliamentary system which includes our electoral process. Conservatives need to drop the popular vote line and start working on how we will win the election in 18 to 24 months.

The result for the Conservative Party on Oct. 21 was devastating in every way possible.

While I certainly won’t go as far as to say that Andrew Scheer had the election handed to him, I will say that he was given the opportunity to wipe Justin Trudeau and his Liberal team away from forming a minority government.

First it was the Vice-Admiral Mark Norman Affair, then SNC-Lavalin, and to top it all off, brownface. That’s not even mentioning the prior scandals before 2019. In democracies similar to ours, this would result not only in the loss of an election, but an impeachment (or something similar), along with a possible prosecution.

Scheer failed to capitalize.

Credit to Mr. Scheer for wiping the Liberals out of Alberta and Saskatchewan, making gains in British Columbia and Manitoba, and picking up a few seats in the East Coast.

But it’s not enough. Not enough for the 6 million plus Canadians that voted for their local Conservative candidates. Canadians deserved better than Justin Trudeau.

There was only one problem. Andrew Scheer couldn’t give Canadians the better that they both wanted and deserved.

Peter MacKay said it best: “To use a good Canadian analogy, it was like having a breakaway on an open net and missing the net.”

He is right. Politics is no different than hockey. Our leaders are like captains. Our candidates and members are no different than the rest of the players, and our staff teams are like the coaches, managers, trainers — essential for everything to come together on game day. On every team, there is a diversity of individuals. Each and every one of them with different opinions, faiths, ethnicities, etc.

Andrew Scheer didn’t lose because of his personal beliefs. He didn’t lose because of his views on abortion or same-sex marriage. He just didn’t know how to respond in the right way when asked. He knew he would be asked about his views. The fact that he wasn’t prepared for it (or just had a bad plan, perhaps) is grounds for concern amongst party members and supporters.

He chose to dance around every question with “this is the law of the land and will not change…” until Oct. 3. He eventually said that his “personal position has always been open and consistent. I am personally pro-life but I’ve also made the commitment that as leader of this party it is my responsibility to ensure that we do not re-open this debate, that we focus on issues that unite our party and unite Canadians.”

I actually don’t see anything wrong with that. Even Prime Minister Trudeau used to hold that same belief, as do many Liberal MPs.

Unfortunately, he missed out on one of the golden rules of politics: define yourself before your opponent defines you.

He was late to that battle, despite plenty of advance notice. And his weak response to the media didn’t help either.

He did a fine job of defining Trudeau prior to and going into the election, yet he flopped at defining himself.

There was the narrative that Andrew Scheer and the Conservatives were coming to take your right to abortion and gay marriage. Any individual with a good understanding of politics would understand that this was bunk.

But you can’t expect to change a narrative at the eleventh hour and hope for the best. That’s extremely irresponsible.

His team didn’t follow the playbook. When the team loses, the responsibility falls on the captain and head coach. A loss this devastating would result in a new captain and a new coach in any sport, especially with so much riding on the game.

It has been suggested by some Conservatives that we need a new leader. I believe we do, but not because of the personal beliefs that Andrew Scheer holds.

If that was the case, then that would ultimately disqualify the majority of former Prime Ministers from ever running for office today. The notion that an individual must conform to certain views in order to be deemed “qualified” for higher office, a political equivalent of a chilling effect is created. It inherently punishes someone for views that they are entitled to not just as individuals, but as Canadians.

That chilling effect is detrimental to our democracy and to diversity of public opinion.

Conservatives who believe that we need a new leader who holds certain personal views should try to see it this way.

Yes, a new leader should be picked, but for the right reasons. What is clear is that we need someone who has a much better communications strategy. A team that has everything planned out. A team that creates a playbook, and makes necessary adaptations should things go wrong. Someone who will define himself before their opponent defines them.