SNC-Lavalin scandal creates opening for Conservatives, Scheer tells conference - 2019-03-23
OTTAWA—Andrew Scheer and Doug Ford took aim at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a gathering of the conservative movement in Ottawa Saturday, focusing on pocketbook issues while the Liberals remain mired in the SNC-Lavalin scandal. Speaking to conservative activists at the Manning Networking Conference in Ottawa, Scheer said that with the Liberals on the defensive, Canadians are more receptive to thinking about the Conservative party as an alternative.
"More and more Canadians are saying we'd like to hear your plan for the economy, we'd like to hear your plan for the energy sector … there's more reception for what we're offering Canadians," Scheer said in a casual interview with Global's Mercedes Stephenson. It was a curiously subdued gathering of the annual Manning conference. With conservative governments in place in five provinces, and the Conservative Party polling ahead of Trudeau's Liberals federally, only a few hundred attended Scheer's speech. But those attendees got an advance look at the Conservatives' election platform, which includes balancing the books — at some as-yet undefined point — and a focus on pocketbook issues.
"There's a real sense, in this generation at this period of time in Canada, that people are working hard but not getting ahead," Scheer said. "There's a real sense of frustration around that and that's something I'm going to be mentioning in the campaign." Earlier in the day, Ford suggested his party will keep its commitment to balance the provincial books in the upcoming budget. "On April 11, well deliver a budget. And I'll give you a little spoiler: it's going to be a budget that consists of promises made, promises kept," Ford said to applause. Conservative activists at the conference, an annual fixture in the Ottawa political calendar, seemed optimistic compared to before the SNC-Lavalin affair hit front pages. The election is now in play, in many activists' opinion, even if they believe Scheer has an uphill battle to defeat the incumbent Liberal government.