At a city hall event in Toronto on Saturday night, Mark Walsh made it clear to Andrew Scheer that climate change is an important issue, and it is not enough for the Conservative Party to simply oppose a policy such as the carbon tax.
"To say that there is no carbon tax is what we will not do, what will we do? We need a positive message out there," said Walsh, a conservative supporter living in northern Toronto.
Walsh was part of a friendly crowd of hundreds of people who braved snowy roads and bitter cold to hear Scheer answer unspoken questions on a wide range of issues.
The event was open to the public, although most of the participants appeared to be conservative supporters who received e-mails about the city hall. Thornhill Member of Parliament, Peter Kent, told the crowd that 1,200 were signed up for the event, although the actual attendance was less than half that.
Scheer did not face the same random or hostile elements that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dealt with in his prefectures.
But some members of the audience challenged the leader to provide details about the party's platform ahead of a federal election later this year. The event also uncovered some of the challenges – and opportunities – that Scheer could face, attracting demographic groups and divergent interest groups.
Some of the topics raised on Saturday night were not related to typical conservative points of discussion. For example, he asked some questions about the party's environmental policy.
Scheer again attacked the carbon tax, saying it is not an environmental plan, but rather a big deal. For his own party's plan, he provided few details, insisting that when it was revealed it would "reward individual choices."
Issues of diversity
The first question of the night came from a Muslim neurologist and Conservative Party member who asked about Scheer's policy of transferring the Canadian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. The questioner added that some members of the Muslim community faced "hardships under the Harper administration" and would have difficulty changing their vote.
He also expressed concern that some lawmakers demonized his religion.
Here's how Scheer gives his speech to several communities:
On the issue of the embassy, Scheer made no mistake. He said the Conservatives would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a response that drew applause from the crowd. As for Islam itself, Scheer emphasized that the party included all religions.
Appealing to young voters
The youth vote was also lifted, an important demographic group in which conservatives continue to struggle to attract support. Scheer was challenged to reshape the party and make it "exciting and modern" for younger voters.
He admitted that the party "could not connect with young people in the last elections." But he said that the liberals are taking the vote of the young as guaranteed.
He said his policies will address issues that make young people anxious, such as the accessibility of housing. His plan would make it easier for young people to qualify for mortgages and bring new units to market, he said.
Here's how Scheer talks about the youth vote:
The fighting deficit is another important issue for young people, he said, because it will be for them to repay the funds that the government borrows today.
As a matter of fact, he said that the Conservative Party's fight for free speech on university campuses is resonating with young voters. "We have many universities where this is not allowed because a small group of people interrupts the debate or prevents someone from coming and giving their point of view," said the 39-year-old. "These issues really resonate with young people."
Crime and Immigration
More traditional conservative causes – so-called red meat issues – such as taxes, oil pipelines and illegal immigration were also raised by members of the audience.
A conservative asked if Scheer would favor a policy that would force parties supporting irregular border crossings to pay 10 percent of the costs. incurred by migrants.
Scheer said he would rather "end the problem of illegal border crossings in the first place."
"It all starts with the confidence that people trust our immigration system, start with ensuring the integrity of our borders so that people come to Canada in the right way, that our immigration system is based on justice and compassion."
Meanwhile, many of his answers covered familiar terrain.
In a question about violent crimes, he said repeat offenders need to face tougher consequences and meaningful sentences. In a question about gun ownership, he commented that the new arms regulations only hurt legal owners and do little to stop criminals.
Many of his responses included punctual gunshots on the Liberals, accusing them of imprudent deficits, hiking taxes, being weak in securing borders and engaging in unpleasant rhetoric.
"That's how we know we're winning arguments," he said. "When they launch these evil and personal attacks on us."
Here's how the conservative leader blasts liberals in military acquisitions:
Scheer was gentle throughout the night and never bewildered by a question. However, as conservative advocate Walsh pointed out, he was "preaching much to converts".
Walsh said he was impressed by Scheer's "strong" performance, although he "moved a little" on the issue of climate change.
Zamal Whyte, of Mississauga, Ont., Said the party is eagerly anticipating the entire platform and understands the strategy of providing few details at the moment.
"Let's just hope it does not backfire. Hopefully, it starts showing the nuts and bolts."