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The Globe and Mail

Andrew Scheer’s economic plan for Canada remains a mystery

Globe and Mail reporter Barrie McKenna.

The Globe and Mail

Andrew Scheer's reign as Conservative Leader is barely a week old, and the next federal election is still two years away.

So maybe we should cut him some slack.

Or not. Even after a long leadership campaign, there is scant evidence of a coherent economic plan from Mr. Scheer.

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The Saskatchewan MP disabled most of his website before the final votes were cast last Saturday, along with his 26-point policy platform. Canadians can only guess whether he still stands by it.

There is, however, an archived version of his plan. That plan suggests Mr. Scheer won the leadership with seemingly no vision for how Canada will overcome slow growth, the evolving knowledge economy, China's rise and an increasingly protectionist world. It looks as though he borrowed former prime minister Stephen Harper's playbook from a decade ago, with populist ideas sprinkled in. There are promises of a tax cut for home heating and electricity, and pledges to balance the budget in two years, build pipelines and roll back carbon taxes.

In his acceptance speech , the new Conservative Leader talked about making it easier for the private sector to create jobs, but gave no clue to how he might do that. He branded the Conservatives as the party of "prosperity," while offering little substance beyond less government and hard work .

Without saying so overtly, his message seems to be that the government has nothing to offer to solve these problems.

Much has changed since Mr. Harper was elected prime minister in 2006. Back then, Donald Trump was just a reality-TV star. The United States was leading a global charge for less protectionism, not more. Social media and the sharing economy were in their infancy.

By 2019, these and other powerful forces will have changed the Canadian economy even further.

By then, Mr. Trump will have had plenty of time to rewrite the rules of trade to suit U.S. economic interests. And Canada's access to its main market could be seriously impaired.

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The economy is shifting toward services and knowledge-based production. That will put increasing pressure on Canada's traditional economic engines – natural resources and manufacturing.

What is clear about Mr. Scheer's intentions is the absence of any concern for global warming. His answer to the challenge of climate change is that it's not Canada's problem to fix. His platform sends all the wrong economic signals on energy consumption.

He wants to exempt heating and electricity bills from the GST because : "Only a Liberal would think that in Canada heating your home in winter is a luxury."

Well, energy is a luxury if you're heating a really big house. This tax break would discourage Canadians from conserving energy. It would also add complexity to the tax system and deprive governments of revenue needed for health care and other services.

And Mr. Scheer would scrap the Liberal carbon tax on the grounds that it will do nothing to protect "Canada's natural environment."

Those two measures would move Canada further away from its Paris climate-change commitments. He offers no alternative means to meet those objectives.

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Mr. Scheer has two years to add some substance to his pitch. And he has suggested in media interviews that he wants to make the Conservatives' core message more positive, and that he will borrow the best policy ideas from his defeated rivals.

That he won the leadership without much of an economic plan suggests that isn't where he wants to fight the next election. Instead, his platform stresses social issues, law-and-order and undoing Liberal policies.

Now that he's Leader, Mr. Scheer owes Canadians more than bland ideas and a disabled website.

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