It’s been a wild weekend for Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.
Scheer’s dilemma started on Thursday, a day after the writ dropped, when it was reported that Winnipeg North’s Cameron Ogilvie was no longer a candidate with the Conservative Party of Canada. This came after left-wing media organization PressProgress unearthed anti-immigrant and Islamophobic Facebook posts by Ogilvie, from 2015 to 2018. In one of his posts, Ogilvie shared a since-deleted graphic that declared: “‘I’m proud to be white’ I bet no one passes this on because they are scared of be called a racist [sic].”
In a release, Conservative campaign spokesperson Brock Harrison said, “Ogilvie’s online comments are not aligned with the values of the Conservative Party of Canada. Andrew Scheer has been clear, the notion that one’s race or sexual orientation would make them in any way superior to anybody else is absolutely repugnant. If someone disagrees with that, there is no room for them in the Conservative Party of Canada.”
It seemed like the party was ready to move on until Friday, when Scheer was asked questions about other candidates’ problematic posts. First, there was Ghada Melek, the party’s candidate for Mississauga–Streetsville, who was not allowed to run for Doug Ford’s Conservatives in Ontario because of her extensive sharing of homophobic, transphobic and anti-Muslim posts on social media. Then Brampton North candidate, Arpan Khanna, had a 2010 post in which he used a gay slur come back to haunt him. The same day, Khanna released a statement via Twitter: “I deeply regret the offensive language I used when I was a teenager. I have come to understand that creating safer and more inclusive spaces LGBTQ+ people in Canada happens in our homes, workplaces, on social media, and in the conversations we have every day. I apologize unequivocally.”
Scheer accepted Khanna’s apology and visited the latter’s campaign office Friday night. The pair then went door-knocking together.
On Saturday, Scheer had to do more damage control after Liberal MP Maryam Monsef tweeted that Scheer’s candidate for Kanata–Carleton, Justina McCaffrey, has a close friendship with Faith Goldy, a far-right political activist who has been banned from Facebook for spreading hate. Monsef tweet shows a video of McCaffrey and Goldy pitching a TV show together.
A statement issued by a Conservative party spokesperson on behalf of McCaffrey said the candidate has not seen Goldy for “several” years, though photos of the pair taken in 2017 were found. After a campaign event with Scheer on Saturday, McCaffrey avoided questions and told reporters she had to go door-knocking.
That evening, during an overnight flight on his campaign plane from Ottawa to Vancouver, Scheer said he will stand with his candidates regardless of their history of racism and homophobia — as long as they apologize.
“As long as someone takes responsibility for what they’ve said, and addresses the fact that in 2019 some things that may have been said in the past are inappropriate today, that if anything that they’ve ever said in the past caused any type of hurt or disrespect to one community or another and have apologized for that, I accept that,” he said.
But this doesn’t seem to apply to Scheer. When asked to comment on his stance on LGBTQ2 rights in Canada, “sorry” seems to be the hardest word for the Conservative candidate, who has refused to apologize for his 2005 comments on same-sex marriage.
This is similar to Scheer’s response last month when Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale released a video of then 25-year-old Scheer explaining why he’s opposed to the Civil Marriage Act.
In the video, the young MP from Regina-Qu’Appelle said, “There is nothing more important to society than the raising of children, for its very survival requires it. Homosexual unions are by nature contradictory to this . . . Two members of the same sex may use their God-given free will to engage in acts, to co-habit and to own property together . . . In that sense, they have many of the collateral features of marriage, but they do not have its inherent feature, as they cannot commit to the natural procreation of children. They cannot, therefore, be married.”
“How many legs would a dog have if you counted the tail as a leg? The answer is just four,” Scheer continued. “Just because you call a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg. If this bill passes, governments and individual Canadians will be forced to call a tail a leg, nothing more.”
Will the candidate he campaigns next have a homophobic and racist past? We’ll keep you posted.