Cross Country Checkup·Ask Me Anything

'Make your opinions known': Rick Mercer says Andrew Scheer needs to make his same-sex marriage views clear

In a wide-ranging interview touching on the current election campaign to his bucket list, comedian and former CBC-TV star Rick Mercer took calls from Cross Country Checkup listeners.

'It's worse when you avoid it,' says Mercer

Comedian Rick Mercer took calls from Cross Country Checkup listeners during an Ask Me Anything segment. (Jason Vermes/CBC)

Each week, Cross Country Checkup devotes the last half hour to an interview with a high-profile newsmaker, celebrity, thinker or cultural figure who takes calls from listeners. 

Rick Mercer doesn't care what Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer might think about his sexuality — but he does worry about how LGBTQ youth might perceive Scheer's recently resurfaced 2005 comments about same-sex marriage.

"If you're running for public office, I think you have to make your opinions known on these big, hot-button issues," Mercer, who's been openly gay for much of his career and a vocal advocate for LGBT youth, told Cross Country Checkup host Duncan McCue. "It's worse when you avoid it, which is what Andrew Scheer is doing."

In August, Liberal MP Ralph Goodale tweeted out a 2005 video in which Scheer is seen denouncing same-sex marriage during a debate in the House of Commons. 

"You [McCue] and I might remember that debate over gay marriage, but for someone who's 23 years old, they listen to Andrew Scheer make those statements [and] they think it's completely insane," Mercer said, noting that he isn't a fan of the Liberals' tactic for digging up old comments made by candidates.

"So to an entire generation of people, it reintroduced Andrew Scheer as someone who is very socially conservative."

Responding to the video last month, Scheer said the Liberals were "dredging up divisive issues" to distract Canadians. As the Conservatives pointed out at the time, even Goodale voted to endorse the traditional definition of marriage in 1999. 

Scheer said he would not re-open the debate on same-sex marriage. But did not say whether his own stance had changed.

"If the person who wants to be prime minister can't even summon the fortitude to say, 'Yes, I think it's OK that you get married,' then that's an issue," Mercer said.

Mercer took calls from Checkup listeners during an Ask Me Anything segment on Sunday. 

The funny man answered questions about everything from the current election campaign to what's on his post-TV career bucket list.

Mercer says while he has 'fantasized' about running for office, he doesn't think he would make a 'good' MP. (Jason Vermes/CBC)

No, he won't run for office

As a life-long "political nerd" known for skewering politicians, many listeners wondered whether Mercer — now retired from his decades-long career on CBC-TV — might ever have "Right Honourable" ahead of his name.

"I always, you know, in the back of my mind fantasized about being in politics because I love politics and it was always my baseball; it was always my sport," he said.

"And I think every baseball fan has the secret fantasy that the phone is going to ring and someone's gonna say, 'Will you come in as general manager and turn this team around?'"

While it's something he's long considered, there's likely no seat at the House of Commons in Mercer's future.

If your choice is a kick in the head, a punch in the head or a slap in the head, you've still got to think about it and go, 'I'm going with a slap in the head,'- Rick Mercer on the importance of voting

"The life of an MP is spending an incredible amount of time doing not that interesting things but just assisting your constituents," he said.

"I don't know if I'd be good at that — also, I don't like the scrutiny thing."

On abstaining from the vote

During Sunday afternoon's Checkup, Richard Dugas calling from Papineau, Que., told host McCue that he plans to campaign against voting. He says he believes in politics as a whole, but disagrees with the existing first-past-the-post system.

"I can't get on board," Mercer said.

"Any time people say, 'Oh, it doesn't matter; they're all the same," … I've never seen an election ⁠— municipal, federal, provincial ⁠— where that even comes close."

Though he understands that voters may not like their choices, he says that it's important they still exercise their right to cast a ballot.

"If your choice is a kick in the head, a punch in the head or a slap in the head, you've still got to think about it and go, 'I'm going with a slap in the head,'" Mercer said.

Written by Jason Vermes

Download Cross Country Checkup's Ask Me Anything podcast to hear the full interview with Rick Mercer.


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