The Current

From high school politics to PM bid: Longtime friends reflect on Andrew Scheer

In the lead-up to Monday's vote, The Current spoke to longtime friends of Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer about pivotal moments in his political career and life. 

The Current spoke to people who know Scheer well about his career, and controversies in the campaign

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer is contesting his first federal election at the helm of the party. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

As election day nears, the federal leaders are criss-crossing the country, meeting Canadians and trying to win their vote.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is contesting his first federal election at the helm of the party.

In the lead-up to Monday's vote, The Current spoke to longtime friends of Scheer about pivotal moments in his political career and life. 

Passion for policy

In the early 2000s, Saskatchewan Party MLA Jeremy Harrison worked as an intern in the Office of the Leader of the Opposition with longtime friend Scheer, who he says showed a tenacity for politics even then.

"Andrew had to get up literally at four in the morning and go through all of the newspapers and do — not just clippings, but actually summaries — of all of the news stories and opinion pieces and columnists that were in newspapers right across the country," said Harrison.

Jeremy Harrison was among a crop of new Conservative MPs, including Andrew Scheer, elected in 2004. He is now a cabinet member with the Saskatchewan Party's provincial government. (Julie Crysler/CBC)

Scheer has said that this passion for policy dates back even further, to high school.

"Young kids — especially that age — it's just not something they're engaged in, not something they're interested in. I realized I was the odd person to have that level of interest in it," he said in a 2010 interview.

Raised in Ottawa, Scheer met his future wife, Jill Ryan, at university, and relocated to her hometown of Regina in 2003, where they married that year. He became the MP for Regina–Qu'Appelle the following year. 

He became deputy Speaker in 2008, and Speaker of the House of Commons in 2011 — the youngest ever elected, at the age of 32. In 2017, he won the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Harrison was with Scheer in that wave of rookie MPs elected from the newly formed CPC in 2004.

Andrew Scheer became the youngest Speaker of the House of Commons ever elected in 2011, when he was 32. As is tradition, he pretended to resist as he was escorted to the Speaker's chair by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Opposition leader Jack Layton. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Since Scheer ran, Regina–Qu'Appelle has gone from being "a relatively close riding, and historically, a close constituency, to being a riding that's no longer considered to be in play," he said.

"His voters know him, and they like him." 

Campaign controversy

Scheer is now contesting his first federal election at the helm of the party — but has faced questions on the campaign trail, over allegations he misrepresented his credentials; his dual Canada-U.S. citizenship; and his stance on LGBT rights, and abortion.

Scheer has consistently voted with anti-abortion MPs on bills, but has repeatedly said that if elected, he will not reopen the debate.

"I think he's been clear about his personal view," Harrison said.

"But that being said, he's been very clear that ... this is settled law, and it is settled law."

Conservative Sen. Denise Batters got to know Andrew Scheer when he running to be an MP in Regina, Sask. (Julie Crysler/CBC)

Another longtime friend, Conservative Sen. Denise Batters, agreed that Scheer would stand firm against lobbyists looking to reopen the issue.

"What we want to do is focus on the things that are actually uniting for Canadians, and not on the few issues that divide Canadians — especially when they're so well settled."

A friend in the 'toughest times'

Dave Batters suffered from depression and anxiety. (File/CBC)

Batters first met Scheer when he and her late husband Dave Batters were elected as Saskatchewan MPs in 2004. During that first term away from home, the men shared an Ottawa apartment.

"Dave would often tell me how how energetic Andrew was, and always be talking about how smart he was, what a bright future this guy had," Batters said.

Dave Batters, who had struggled with depression and anxiety, took his own life in June of 2009.

Scheer was a pallbearer at his funeral.

"He was one of the close friends that Dave trusted ... in the toughest times of his struggle, in the last year of his life," Denise Batters said, adding that Scheer helped her to plan the logistics of the funeral, attended by then prime minister Stephen Harper.

Scheer was elected leader of the federal Conservative Party on May 27, 2017. During his victory speech, he was joined by his wife Jill and children, left to right, Mary, Thomas, Henry, and Grace. Their daughter Madeleine is just out of shot. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

When Scheer was announced as the new Conservative leader in 2017, the result brought her to tears.

"It felt like wow, we did a really good thing there," she said.

Written by Padraig Moran, with files from CBC News. The documentary, From The Start, was produced by Julie Crysler and Joan Webber.


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