“What can you hope for in someone aspiring to lead our country?”
That’s the question in my mind as I prepared to host Andrew Scheer at my home in West Vancouver Friday night, along with about 75 others eager to meet him. He’s at the most malleable time in his leadership career, recently elected, and seemingly open to guidance from people like those he met in the room.
The answer to my question became more and more apparent as Andrew spoke. As friends dispersed later, several came independently to the same conclusion. We wanted to observe humility, compassion, integrity, and someone committed to listen to the people he aims to serve.
The humility side he’s learned from being consistently underrated in politics, surrounding himself with strong supporters, and beating the odds. Andrew may be the most underrated political leader in the Western world. At the tender age of 25, he beat the odds in 2004, winning his first election as MP against a 30-year parliamentary veteran, Lorne Nystrom. At 32, he defied the experts once again in 2011, becoming Canada’s youngest ever Speaker of the House. And he beat the odds a third time to emerge victorious over 15 other candidates who sought the Conservative Party leadership in 2016.
The compassion angle is especially important for a Conservative leader. Andrew acknowledged the importance of rehabilitation, not just the expectable commitment to incarcerate repeat offenders. Imagine how Canadians would respond to a leader who pledged intelligent, effective support to the prisoners of drug addiction.
The integrity piece is key, as we want leaders who will do the right thing even when no one is watching. You don’t have to share his faith as a devoted Catholic Christian to believe he has a personal stake in doing the right thing. That same integrity allows for him to remain loyal to whatever commitments he makes as he prepares to potentially lead the country. At the same time, integrity will require him to change position while making the necessary adjustments when the good of the whole country requires a special interest group to yield.
Finally, Andrew seemed intent on listening to people he met. With his energy, mental nimbleness, and the ability to identify people who can enrich his understanding of key issues, he has the makings to grow into a great Canadian leader.
John Weston is a lawyer specializing in government relations and indigenous affairs, author of the book On!, and former Conservative Member of Parliament for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country.