Can Andrew Scheer fix the Conservative Party’s diversity problem?

Former PC staffer Angela Wright on challenges facing Andrew Scheer, particularly with new Canadian and visible minority voters:

In his victory speech, Andrew Scheer touted the party’s commitment to being this big tent as well as the need to communicate conservative values to a greater number of Canadians. However, there were two statements in his speech—statements that garnered the loudest applauses in the convention—that could prove troubling for the party when it comes to minorities: echoing the dangerous threat of radical Islam and a staunch belief in withholding federal funding from universities that attempt to stifle free speech.

Across North America and Europe, political responses to Islamic terrorism have created a political arena where politicians and their supporters have justified both blatant and consequential discrimination towards Muslims. There is significant support amongst Canadians to commit ground troops to the fight against ISIS, but by framing this as a fight against radical Islam, Scheer gives ammunition to people who harbour prejudicial views towards Muslims. Although many argue that the term “radical Islam” highlights this form of terrorism is a warped strain of normal Islam, it nonetheless reminds listeners the culprits are Muslim, thus offering an excuse for people with biases against Muslims to suggest policies that target Muslims as a remedy. And for Muslims, it may give the impression that the party is using them to advance its policies on global security.

“Free speech,” meanwhile, has been used as a cloak by racists and bigots to spout rhetoric that’s harmful, hateful, and disrespectful towards racial and religious minorities. Scheer must take care to clarify his opposition to firing or silencing university professors with controversial views while maintaining an opposition to hate speech.

More than advocacy for justice and equality, this issue also has the potential to cause discord in the party between those who are advocates of unrestricted free speech and those who want the party to be more welcoming to everyone with small-c conservative values, regardless of their race, ethnicity or religion.

That’s why Scheer should rescind his position to withhold federal funding from universities. It’s imperative to be cognizant of how these issues can be used to target minorities as well as the detrimental impact this has on the party’s image—and its chances at electoral victory.

As a young politician with over a decade of political experience, an Ottawa native living in the Prairies, and a Conservative not tied to previous controversial legislation, Andrew Scheer is best-suited to lead the rejuvenation of the Conservative Party into one that will not bring forth policies and communicate them in a manner that forces racial and religious minorities to choose between their values and racism, their values and xenophobia, or their values and self-respect.

The party’s history-making membership numbers and massive voter turnout in the leadership race show an eagerness amongst Canadians to join the conservative movement and a dissatisfaction with other political choices. The Conservative Party has the money and the membership to win in 2019; all it needs is greater support amongst Canadians.

But it can’t be done without support from racial and religious minorities.

Source: Can Andrew Scheer fix the Conservative Party’s diversity problem? – Macleans.ca

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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