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'Harper 2.0': Andrew Scheer a sensible pick for Conservative party, political scientist says

Saskatchewan Conservative MP Andrew Scheer edged out Maxime Bernier as the party's newly elected leader because he was the safer pick, an Alberta political scientist suggests.

Saskatchewan MP Andrew Scheer was elected leader Saturday night

Andrew Scheer, right, is congratulated by Maxime Bernier after being elected the new leader of the federal Conservative party at the federal Conservative leadership convention in Toronto on Saturday, May 27, 2017. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

Saskatchewan Conservative MP Andrew Scheer edged out Maxime Bernier as the party's newly elected leader because he was the safer pick, an Alberta political scientist suggests.

"I think if they had chosen Maxime Bernier, it would have been a very radical choice given some of his policies," said Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Mount Royal University in Calgary.

"I think Andrew Scheer is a consensus pick and I think the description of him as 'Harper 2.0' or 'Harper with a smile' ... is reflective of that."

Scheer edged out front-runner Maxime Bernier by less than one percentage point on Saturday night.

He ran on a platform promising to unite the Conservative party by bringing together the social and fiscal conservative wings before taking on the Liberals in the 2019 election.

Scheer may not be as well-known to Canadians as some of the other candidates in the race, Bratt said. But the 38-year-old MP is well-known in political circles — he is the youngest MP to serve as House Speaker. 

"He also had a large support amongst caucus who in fact elected him as speaker. So he is well-regarded within the party and I think that is why he won," Bratt said.

He is well-regarded within the party and I think that is why he won.- Duane Bratt, political scientist

Leaders tend to have a difficult time uniting a party immediately after a leadership race, Bratt said, but he doesn't think that'll be the case with Scheer.

​"He was basically so many people's second choice and he has the support in caucus," he said. "I think it will be easier for Scheer to unite the party."

In his victory speech Saturday night, Scheer promised to keep the party true to its roots, working for average Canadian families and not "Ottawa insiders." He said Canada can't afford four more years of Justin Trudeau and that the fight to return to power in 2019 starts now.

"There is renewed hope for Canada, starting today," Scheer said Saturday. "The pain and hardship the Trudeau Liberals are causing Canadians is just temporary."

Duanne Bratt, a political scientist from Mount Royal University, says Andrew Scheer is well-regarded within the Conservative party. (Roberta Bell/CBC)

Will Scheer be the man conservatives need to defeat Justin Trudeau in 2019? Bratt says it's not that simple.

Voters will first look at whether Trudeau's government should be re-elected for a second term, Bratt said. Only then do they look at the opposition. 

"I think the first question is about Trudeau, it's never about the opposition," he said. 

Bratt says Scheer's age signals a change in the political landscape. 

"Are the Liberals going to run an ad that says, 'Andrew Scheer: just not ready?' I don't think so," Bratt said.

"But what makes it interesting is he in fact is younger than Justin Trudeau, so we're seeing a generational shift."

'A young guy with a lot of passion for our country'

Alberta Conservative MPs say the desire to beat Trudeau in the 2019 election has been reignited after Scheer's victory.

Calgary Nose Hill MP Michelle Rempel said Scheer is "an interesting foil to Trudeau."

"He's younger than him, he's got a big family," she said Sunday. "He's really had to, you know, sort of live the middle class struggle for the last several years.

"That's something that Justin Trudeau has never had to do."

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel said she's excited to work with a united caucus room Monday. (Trevor Hagan/Canadian Press)

Rempel said she's looking forward to working alongside all federal Conservative members to prepare for the 2019 election. 

"I actually expect to go into a united caucus room tomorrow morning and I think that's a really positive thing."

Edmonton-Wetaskiwin MP Mike Lake said he considered Scheer one of four leadership candidates capable of defeating Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

"I was really happy with the results and how it came down at the end," Lake said. "I think there's really a feeling of anticipation and a determination to move forward within the party."

Despite the narrow victory over Bernier, Lake said Scheer's victory wasn't entirely unexpected to the party.

Bernier and Scheer are both fiscal conservatives dedicated to strong stewardship of taxpayer dollars, Lake said. These are values "a large number of Canadians" stand by, he added.

"To see Andrew win … there are a lot of people who voted Conservative in the last election who will be very happy with that. And there are a lot of people who didn't vote Conservative in the last election who will be giving us a very close look with Andrew as leader."​

With files from Roberta Bell