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ontarionewswatch.com NEWSROOM

The ONW Salon: Is Andrew Scheer Right To Kick Senator Lynn Beyak Out Of Caucus?

Susanna Kelley (Moderator): Will Scheer's move to kick Beyak out of the Conservative caucus hurt him with some Conservative supporters?  Beyak denies Scheer asked her to remove 100 letters supporting her defence of residential schools. We asked Richard Mahoney, Will Stewart and Tom Parkin.

 

Richard Mahoney:

Senator Beyak has been a veritable font of intolerance almost since the day Stephen Harper appointed her to the Senate – a post she will hold for years to come.

She has never renounced her original defence of residential schools. Given what we know as fact, you really cannot interpret her offensive comments regarding residential schools and Indigenous peoples in any way other than intentionally hurtful and simply wrong. What she believes we can gain from these attacks is a mystery.

These views, expressed by a sitting Conservative parliamentarian, are undermining progress towards reconciliation. Her removal from the Senate’s Aboriginal People’s Committee, and now the Conservative caucus, were the right things to do. I think it is fair to ask why the Conservatives appointed her to this patronage post in the first place, and also why it took this long to do something about it.

This week, Ministers Jane Philpott and Carolyn Bennett, who are working hard on behalf of Canadians to make progress on reconciliation, wrote to Conservative Leader Scheer to thank him for clarifying his stand on this issue and his statement that racism has no place in our politics. Unfortunately, the offensive materials posted by Senator Beyak while she was a member of the Conservative caucus are still available on the Senate’s webpages. These posts were letters that Beyak received that frankly spew all kinds of hate and intolerance. The Ministers have asked that those posts be removed. It is not right to have such views on a parliamentary website. It is time for Scheer to lead on this.

 

Tom Park1n:

New Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is having a hard enough convincing Canadians he is in the political mainstream—and bam, along comes Senator Lynn Beyak throwing more problems at him.

The Senator posted about 100 letters, which she said were letters of support the residential school system—but I read several of them which didn’t even mention the schools and which were simply racist tirades.

If posting racist tirades on your Senator's web site isn’t enough to get kicked out of the Conservative caucus, I’d say there is something very wrong with the leader of that caucus.

Remember, this isn’t the first time the Senator’s bigoted ideas have surfaced. Only a few weeks ago, Andrew Scheer was arguing that he was more “tolerant” than other party leaders because he allowed for the free expression of even nauseating views.

But it seems Scheer has now switched to being intolerant and against free expression. In this incident, Scheer says he told Beyak that the letters had to be taken down—that she refused, and he kicked her out of the caucus. But now Beyak says that’s not true, that Scheer pawned off that job to a staffer. Beyak calls Scheer a weak leader, which proves that even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Fact is, Beyak should have been gone a long time ago. But then again this is a Conservative Party leader who had his campaign run by a director of Ezra Levant’s hate-site, Rebel Media. He’s a leader who accepted an interview with the infamous hater Faith Goldy, who only got fired by Rebel Media when she gave an interview to the neo-Nazi web site the Daily Stormer. Some friend group.

Andrew Scheer has shown a real weakness of leadership—that might be tolerable in a Speaker of the House, but not in the Leader of the Opposition.

 

Will Stewart:

I am sure that Tom and Richard will wholeheartedly agree that Stephen Harper was a great Prime Minister. Long serving, steered us through difficult economic times, and had the best economy in the world during the melt down, as well as the best and fastest recovery. All while balancing the budget.

No need to fall all over yourselves agreeing with me. As a former PM said "A truth, is a truth, is a truth, because it's the truth."

But I know we also all agree that the Senate, and Senate appointments, were not particularly the strongest point for Harper. Duffy, Wallin, and our latest batch of helpful comments from Senator Beyak all illustrate that. In the case of all of them, there is no law broken, but that is not enough. The Senate, and Canadians, deserve more.

Beyak should be kicked out of caucus, and she was. He views are not consistent with what Canadians expect from their Senators or others in public life. According to a statement by Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, "the vast majority of letters focused on the history of residential schools, other letters contained comments about Indigenous Canadians in general." The statement cited an excerpt from the letters on Beyak's website, which suggested that the Indigenous population tries to get what it can for the least effort.

Following Beyak's removal, she denied that Scheer asked her to remove the letters from her website before kicking her out of caucus. In a statement Monday Beyak said, "Contrary to his statement, that he asked me to remove content and I refused, neither I nor my staff ever spoke with Andrew Scheer or anyone from his office, at any time."

But this statement from the Senator is petty, and a further illustration that she has no place in the Senate at all. She is splitting hairs and she knows it. It also tells us that Scheer was right, on many levels, to kick her out.

But the Liberals and the NDP can't suck and blow at the same time on this. They demanded Scheer take action and he did. Now they are trying to push this story along in an attempt to deflect from Trudeau's ethical violations, the ethical violations of the Minster of Finance, the failure to vet the Governor General, unauthorized visits to firehalls, and a very weird, unanswered set of circumstances that led to an individual with a questionable background, now charged with 12 criminal acts, getting a private meeting with the Prime Minister. I can see why the Liberals want to push this, surprised the media has taken the bait, and shocked the NDP wants to focus on the Opposition, not the government.

 

Richard Mahoney:

I think we all agree that this is not a question of free speech, as Scheer maintained until this week. He was right to remove her, even if that move was inexplicably late, given Beyak’s ongoing record on this stuff. The next step is that Scheer needs to insist that the offensive material be removed from the Senate website. Government resources should never be used to promote hatred and divisiveness. Because these comments were posted on the official website of the Senate of Canada, these offensive comments could be construed to be endorsed by parliament if they are left there. I think we all will agree that that is not right.

This does raise the wider question of Scheer’s fitness for the top job. While I acknowledge he belatedly did the right thing by removing Beyak, what the h--- was he thinking in defending her right to say these things until this week? Scheer comes from the social conservative wing of the Conservative Party, but that in no way accounts for his defence of Beyak’s right to post racist tirades.

I may not agree with social conservatives on much, but they have a right to their views. Much of what Beyak says and posted, and Scheer defended until this week, are racist and hurtful views. Scheer’s handling of this goes beyond a simple rookie mistake. It tells us where he stands. Waiting to deal with Beyak until this week suggests a weakness, and a reluctance to stand up for what is right.

Most Conservatives would find Beyak’s conduct reprehensible. Scheer needs to learn to lead, not follow on these issues. That is the standard to which Conservatives and Canadians will rightly hold him.  

 

Tom Parkin:

The Beyak incident speaks to a larger crisis for Andrew Scheer—it is unclear what his Conservative Party stands for. Or, perhaps more accurately, if what it stands for matters to Canadians today.

And that weakness opens a big possibility for Jagmeet Singh’s NDP.

We are into the third year of the Trudeau mandate and there is still no signature success. There are still boil water advisories across First Nations. The infrastructure spending promises have been delayed and turned into a finance privatization scheme. The tax cut turned out to be a tax cut for the rich. Go down the list—what do the Liberals put on the marquee in next year’s election?

Next week the Bank of Canada is probably going to raise interest rates on heavily indebted consumers and economic growth is estimated to decline this year (to about 2%) and even more in 2019 (1.5%). It’s been a great time for those who benefited from the housing or stock market boom—but wages are stagnant in much of the country. On Monday, UBC economist Kevin Milligan presented research showing the median wage in Ontario and BC is lower today than in 1976. These are the problems that will matter to Canadians in the 2019 election.

Being the party of Rebel Media and intolerance isn’t addressing what matters to Canadians. But neither—judging from the first few days of 2018—will Canadians continue to accept the economic orthodoxy of public austerity and tax cuts for wealthy people and corporations. It hasn’t worked and it will never work.

More and more, Canadians seem to think there needs to be a different economic strategy—one focused on bottom-up growth from minimum wage increases, progressive tax reform, publicly-financed infrastructure while also trying to create efficiencies through publicly-organized pharmacare and childcare. If Singh can pull this together into a political narrative and a campaign platform I think anything can happen—including him ending up as Prime Minister.

By October 2019, Canadians may be concerned about themselves and tired of Trudeau’s broken do-nothingism. I can see Singh’s NDP offering a program of action that speaks to people’s concerns. I cannot see that opening for Andrew Scheer, based on either social conservatism or austerity.

 

Will Stewart:

Only time will tell if Scheer’s decision to oust Beyak from the Senate will have an impact on his Conservative base—however, it’s unlikely. The Liberals have provided ample ammunition for Conservatives to drum up vitriol against their rivals and galvanize their own base, and the relative inconsequence of this event will most likely not cause the Conservative base to fracture.

Regardless of whether or not Scheer offered Beyak a chance to take down the letters, his decision was firm and calculated.

As 2019 approaches the Conservatives must focus on rebranding the party, which was bogged down by notions that they were the party of the intolerable in the last federal election. In 2015, Trudeau was able to appeal to a broader, younger audience, who voted in staggering numbers, on the allure that Canada would be open and inclusive to everyone under his leadership.

Conservatives have fallen behind the shift in a new global culture that has been sparked by millennials and the tools of social media. If Scheer has any chance at winning the federal election in 2019 he’ll have to take subtle steps to attract moderate liberals who may agree with the Liberal’s social values but are less enthused by other Liberal policies. His decision on Bayek does just that.

Bayek’s removal from the Senate clearly indicates that under Scheer’s leadership the Conservative Party will not tolerate or provide a voice to those who spread positions that are rooted in bigotry. And while Bayek asserts that Scheer isn’t a suitable leader, Scheer’s decisions show just the contrary.  He took firm and swift action and hasn’t wavered from his decision—exactly what a strong leader should do when his, and Canadian, values are challenged.

What Scheer can’t do is get into a he-said-she-said battle over whether or not he provided the opportunity for Bayek to remove the letters. He must continue to stand firm in his position and not react to the noise Beyak will inevitably continue to make in the Senate and publicly.

 

Richard Mahoney is a lawyer with deep experience in politics and governance.  He is a former senior advisor to the Rt. Hon Paul Martin, a former Campaign Chair and President of the Ontario Liberal Party. Will Stewart is Managing Principal at Navigator, served as Chief of Staff to several Ontario Ministers and often appears as a national affairs commentator.  Tom Parking is a veteran NDP strategist, columnist and a frequent commentator on national issues. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted date : January 09, 2018
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