Voters should care more about Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s status as a “career politician” than questions about his past credentials in the insurance industry, the Green Party leader suggested Tuesday.
“Even if Andrew Scheer was a licensed [insurance] broker before he was elected to Parliament, his pre-politics resumé is so thin it hardly bears examining,” Elizabeth May told reporters at a campaign event in Toronto Tuesday.
The Green Party leader was asked to weigh in on an unusual controversy that has bubbled up in recent days involving the Conservative leader’s work history.
First elected in 2004 at the age of 25, Scheer has stated in online biographies and in past interviews that he worked as an insurance broker in a Regina office before entering politics. But The Globe and Mail reported over the weekend it could find no evidence that he received the accreditation necessary to work as a broker in Saskatchewan.
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Scheer said Saturday that he did receive his accreditation, but left the office before the “licensing process was finalized.” He told reporters Monday that he worked in the industry for “six or seven months,” and that his duties entailed “supporting the whole team” by doing preparatory work and “answering questions from customers and clients.”
Liberals asked Saskatchewan’s superintendent of insurance and the chair of the Insurance Councils of Saskatchewan to investigate the matter, noting provincial legislation prohibits people without a licence from presenting themselves as a broker.
On Tuesday, the Toronto Star reported Scheer completed one of four courses to become a broker, according to the Insurance Brokers Association of Saskatchewan.
May told reporters earlier in the day that while it’s clear Scheer “exaggerated” his credentials, a formal investigation into the situation feels like “overkill.” The real issue, she suggested, is that virtually all of Scheer’s work history stems from his more than 15 years in Parliament.
“I think that people in public life should have a world experience and life experience that makes them valuable in Parliament,” she said.
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Career politicians, she said, “are not healthy in our democracy” and political “lifers” don’t understand the day-to-day struggles of Canadians.
“It’s pretty clear on its face that Andrew Scheer has no life experience except being elected.”
But the Green leader also suggested not enough attention has been given to the fact that Scheer is now attempting to become prime minister after previously serving as Speaker of the House of Commons.
At just 32, Scheer became the youngest person elected by his fellow MPs to serve as House Speaker in 2011. The role made him the arbiter of the rules, decorum, and procedures in the House for four years and came with several perks, including the use of an official residence in Quebec’s Gatineau Hills and an apartment on Parliament Hill.
May accused Scheer of using the role as a “stepping stone” to advance his political career, something that she said breaks with parliamentary tradition.
“When you are Speaker of the House you have to be, forgive the expression, politically neutered,” she said.
The Green leader said it was wrong of Scheer to return to “partisan politics” after the Liberals formed government in 2015. Former interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose named Scheer the Conservative House leader at the time, but he gave up the role in September 2016 to explore a bid for the party’s permanent leadership.
May noted that former House Speaker Lucien Lamoureux, elected to the House as a Liberal in the 1960s, chose to run for re-election as an Independent in 1968 and 1972.
May charged that Scheer had done “permanent damage to the respect of the office of Speaker.”
Conservative spokesperson Simon Jefferies told HuffPost Canada in an email that May’s “allegations are so outlandish they barely warrant a response.”
The Green leader also told reporters she is proud that she didn’t join a political party until the age of 52.
Before entering public life, May worked as a lawyer, an adviser to Brian Mulroney’s government, and, for more than 16 years, executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada, a non-profit environmental organization. She stepped down from that role in 2006 to pursue the Green Party leadership.
With files from The Canadian Press