With apologies to Buffalo Bob Smith, Clarabelle the Clown and all the other characters of Doodyville, the Conservative Party of Canada has just elected Howdy Doody as their new leader.
With his boyish face, square chin, perpetual smile and dimples, Andrew Scheer bears a striking resemblance to the sixties puppet. All that's missing is the ginger hair. As one commentator noted after the vote was completed Saturday night, even when he's frowning it looks like a smile.
Pundits have describes Scheer as Stephen Harper with a smile. They suggest that he will maintain most of the Harper ideals, but put a brighter face to them. Indeed, his entire campaign was based on the idea that the Conservatives didn't lose the last election because of policy but because of tone, and if they would only lighten up their image they could win the next vote.
I'm more inclined to think of Scheer as a Preston Manning with an evil grin. His political bent is more to the hard right Reformist wing of the party than it is to even the Harperite centre right brand of conservatism. I expect to see a strong Reform-Alliance tilt to his shadow cabinet when announced.
The “Progressive” wing of the Conservative party was clearly defeated in the leadership contest which saw such mainstream candidates as Lisa Raitt floundering in the lower half of the pack, while ultra conservatives like Brad Trost and Pierre Lemieux were near the top of the board and gave Scheer the votes he needed to give him the victory over Maxime Bernier on the thirteenth ballot.
Remember the Conservative taunts of Justin Trudeau's youth in the last election, the calls to “put on your big boy pants”. The PM now looks almost statesman like conpared to the baby-faced Scheer.
Perhaps the NDP can elect a grown up when they vote on a new leader in the fall.
Frank Likely is a retired Anglican minister and past president of the Springhill and Area Chamber of Commerce.