'The criticisms are completely baseless,' Scheer says of claims he's too soft on hate groups
Scheer has been criticized for not calling out hate and disinformation in recent weeks
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says accusations that he panders to groups with hateful or intolerant messaging are unfounded.
In his remarks to the Manning Centre networking conference on Saturday, Scheer said he "unequivocally" condemns hateful ideologies.
"The criticisms are completely baseless."
Those criticisms have been plentiful in the past few weeks.
Says he misheard conspiracy question
Scheer has come under fire for speaking at the recent United We Roll rally on Parliament Hill, which had picked up participants who were making racist and anti-immigrant comments. The Prime Minister's Office also condemned Scheer for "sharing a stage" with Faith Goldy, a commentator who was let go from her job at Rebel Media after appearing on a podcast affiliated with the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer.
Scheer was also chastised for not shutting down a question at a recent town hall about a widely debunked conspiracy theory connecting former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to a child sex ring.
In that particular instance, Scheer insisted he hadn't heard the question properly.
Whether racism or disinformation, Scheer says he and the Conservatives oppose such rhetoric.
"People know that the Conservative Party is open and welcoming," he said.
"We denounce any elements of society that would promote hate speech."
'Cheap political points'
His comments at the Manning Conference were the first time he's fully addressed the accusations against him, though he's taken questions on the matters at news events in the past few weeks.
Scheer was also heavily criticized for tweeting out his condolences to the victims of the New Zealand mosque attacks without mentioning the words 'Muslim' or 'mosque'.
In another statement later that day, Scheer did use both.
On Saturday, he accused the Liberals of targeting his post to "score cheap political points in a disgusting manner," adding that Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Gov. Gen. Julie Payette released statements omitting both terms as well.
The Tory leader said it's important to speak out against those who put one group of people over another.
SNC-Lavalin still top of mind for the Tories
Scheer turned to the SNC-Lavalin affair as well, calling on Canadians to put pressure on Trudeau to allow all sides of the story to be heard.
The Liberal majority on the justice committee shut down an investigation into the matter, and now the ethics committee will begin its own.
Former justice minister and attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould and former Treasury Board president Jane Philpott are free to speak, the prime minister has said, but so far neither of them have taken that full opportunity.
Scheer said the crux of his issue with the conduct of top government officials is that politicians should not involve themselves in deciding what legal tools are available in prosecutions.
In what was clearly a speech with an eye toward the upcoming election, Scheer told the audience that being an Opposition leader isn't always easy, because you're not as high-profile as the prime minister.
However, now that the SNC-Lavalin affair is casting doubt onto Trudeau's character, it's easier for people to see "the real Andrew Scheer," he said.
Scheer also shredded the new federal Liberal budget, calling it a multi-billion dollar attempt to distract from the ethical questions about the government.