Saskatchewan Tory MP Andrew Scheer values family
At the age of 25, Andrew Scheer ran for office under the banner of the new Conservative Party of Canada in the NDP stronghold of Regina-Qu’Appelle, defeating former NDP leadership candidate Lorne Nystrom by just under 900 votes. Although he was confident he would win, he told The Interim in a recent interview, “There was an element of ‘wow.’” Scheer, now 30, has a rare combination of boyish enthusiasm and seasoned smarts that makes him an effective representative. More impressively, he is a passionate social conservative who isn’t afraid to raise life and family issues.
Scheer was born and raised in Ottawa. He is one of Deacon Jim and Mary Scheer’s nine children, graduated from Immaculata High School and studied politics and history at the University of Ottawa. He moved to Regina after meeting his future wife Jill in university and finished his BA at the University of Saskatchewan. Instead of returning to Ottawa, he worked at Shenher Insurance for six months before joining the constituency office of Canadian Alliance MP Larry Spencer in Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre.
Scheer says he was always interested in politics from the days when he was a paper boy in the nation’s capital and would read about federal politics in the papers he was delivering. He became active with the Reform Club and, later, the Canadian Alliance Club at university. He also worked on several Progressive Conservative campaigns in the 1999 Ontario election. He would also work in the Office of the Leader of the Opposition in communications and outreach.
In 2004, he would use his experience in the OLO and Spencer’s office to make his own bid at elected office. He sought the Conservative party nomination in Regina-Qu’Appelle and had one opponent, a former provincial candidate with an established base of support, so Scheer knew he had his hands full. But, Scheer told The Interim, he was confident he could win. “I phoned people, I met them, I worked hard to sell new memberships and I took nothing for granted.” He won the Conservative nomination with 67 per cent of the vote.
He says he was excited to join the new party, but even more excited to raise important issues. At the time, the same-sex “marriage” issue was headline news. He was also concerned about high taxes and their impact on family life. “I noticed the trend of people putting off marriage and child-bearing because they couldn’t afford it,” he said, explaining that many economic issues are social issues, too – and vice versa.
He is also unabashedly pro-life and has been rated “pro-life” by Campaign Life Coalition all three times he has run. In 2008, after the governor-general gave the Order of Canada to abortionist Henry Morgentaler, Scheer spoke out. He said, “I am greatly disappointed that Canada’s highest civilian honour has been politicized and debased by this appointment.”
When he ran in June 2004, he said the same-sex “marriage” issue was “front and centre” and that he unapologetically defended traditional marriage. He said the issue helped him, considering that both his Liberal and NDP opponents supported SSM and many constituents were either opposed or uncomfortable with changing the definition of marriage.
When the marriage debate took place the following year, Scheer said C-38, which redefined marriage to include homosexual couples, “is abhorrent to me … and to every member of every faith community” and he explained why he was voting against the bill.
In January 2006, Scheer was re-elected, beating Nystrom with a larger margin (nearly 3,000 votes) and in October 2008, he won with 52 per cent the vote, 20 points ahead of the NDP challenger. In 2006, he was elected one of three deputy speakers and last November, was selected deputy speaker of the House of the Commons. If Scheer chooses to run, he will be a front-runner for speaker if the Conservatives win a majority or if the current speaker, Liberal Peter Milliken, steps down. Scheer told The Interim that, while he is passionate about policy, he also cares about procedure and that he has yet to make up his mind whether he would let his name stand for speaker if the opportunity presents itself.
Before the 2008 election was called, Scheer’s private member’s bill to increase penalties for automobile theft passed in the House of Commons, but not the Senate. In his speech to the House arguing in favour of his bill, Scheer noted the difficulty, inconvenience and cost to families that have their cars stolen. Once again, Scheer saw how various issues, that ostensibly have little to do with family, actually do affect family life.
Scheer was pleased when Justice Minister Rob Nicholson included stronger provisions against car theft as part of the government’s anti-crime legislation this year.
Since first being elected, Andrew and Jill have had three children, a son, Thomas, and two daughters, Grace and Madeline. Asked about the downside of his job, Scheer said it is the difficult balancing of his own family life with the demands of representing constituents and work in Ottawa. “Fortunately, Jill is very understanding,” he says.
But Scheer goes to great lengths to earn that understanding. The family visits him in Ottawa and, when he is in Regina, he tries not to book events for Sundays and usually ends his public engagements throughout the week early enough to be home to help tuck the kids into bed.
The family goes to Mass together on Sundays at either Canadian Martyrs or Good Samaritan parishes and, if events cannot be avoided for the rest of the day, he tries to make up for that lost time on Saturday by booking a lighter schedule. When told by The Interim that many politicians privately say it is nearly impossible to schedule around other events to make time for family, Scheer said, “It isn’t impossible if you really try.”
Scheer reiterated to this paper that “life and family issues are very important to me.” He explained: “Family is the centerpiece on which society is built” and “every other issue affects our families.”
He noted the life issues do not come up much in Parliament, but says his socially conservative views have never been a problem in caucus or with his constituents. “My view is to be upfront about these issues” so that “constituents know about my views” when “I vote my conscience.”