Skipping Policy Steps

By Saskia Kowalchuk

About and Origin

Andrew Scheer sure has a lot to say, but sadly it doesn’t seem to be about his own party’s electoral platform. So goes the sentiment of the above meme, which depicts a young man in a stairwell with his left foot on the landing and his right leg extended before him, stretching to place his foot four steps ahead. The boy has been labelled as Andrew Scheer, who bypasses the steps labelled education, healthcare, and climate change, to land on “Talking About Trudeau.”

Figure 2. r/dankchristianmemes original meme

“Skipping Steps” is an image labelling exploitable meme first posted on Reddit’s r/dankchristianmemes subreddit in March 2019[1] (Fig. 2). When the format was reused on Imgur, with the “Guys in the Military” iteration (Fig. 3), the meme exploded in popularity, gaining thousands of up-votes on Reddit[2]. The format has become shorthand for the individual or entity associated with the young man bypassing sensible interventions and settling on a far-flung conclusion or course of action, and is most frequently used to criticize this decision-making process (Fig. 4).

Figure 4. Instagram example of the meme template
Figure 3. Imgur example of the meme

Context and Circulation

This meme first appeared on the North 99 Instagram page on September 23 2019. North 99 bills itself as a partisan advocacy group established as a leftist response to groups such as Ontario Proud[3]. This means that much of their content is professionally executed, and lacks grassroots backing typical of most memes. Interestingly, the page did not experience a noticeable increase in posting frequency during the election period and continued to engage with provincial politics, particularly in Ontario and British Columbia. However, following the election, more memes bearing a North 99 watermark have been posted, potentially signalling their desire to utilize visual internet vernacular as a means of political engagement. This meme is highly characteristic of North 99’s positing style, as it engages with issues that matter to the left-leaning electorate and takes a negative stance against Scheer. Furthermore, though the Skipping Steps meme does not openly support Trudeau or the Liberals, criticism of the Conservatives inevitably works in the Liberals’ favour.


Agenda setting is the relationship between the emphasis placed on certain issues by the media and the importance attributed to these issues by mass audiences[4], and is present in three dimensions in this meme. Firstly, in the tacit acknowledgement that Trudeau had done something which garnered media criticism; secondly, that Andrew Scheer was working to keep this criticism in the headlines; and thirdly, that North 99 is attempting to reorient Scheer’s agenda setting as a policy failing which ignores the concerns of Canadians.

On September 18th 2019, Time magazine released photos that defined the election. By publishing images of Trudeau in racist makeup at the West Point Grey Academy Arabian Nights Gala, Time opened the floodgates to a media frenzy that, ultimately, resulted in the discovery of two more instances of such conduct by Trudeau[5]. The scandal momentarily devastated the Trudeau brand, in part because the images themselves were so well suited to our visual culture. As Dan Schill suggests, images act as frames through which the public engages with policy messaging[6].

Figure 5. A widely circulated Trudeau Blackface meme example

As Scheer reacted to the news, he took advantage of the shocking image to frame the discussion around Trudeau’s character and credibility, remarking that he was “someone with a complete lack of judgment and integrity… who is not fit to govern this country.[7] Soon after, meme communities began posting blackface-related content (Fig. 5), though North99 was markedly unengaged with such memeing except to turn the issue back on the Conservatives (Fig. 6).

Figure 6. The only Trudeau Blackface meme circulated by North99

It is within this context that the Skipping Steps meme can be understood. In the week following the scandal, Trudeau attempted to remain on message, continuously campaigning on substantive policy, while Andrew Scheer and the Conservative Party capitalized on every opportunity to question his moral authority[8]. As such, the boy who reaches past the steps containing the policy considerations of education, healthcare, and climate change attempts to draw attention away from his party’s lack of engagement with these issues. Furthermore, as the young man practically contorts himself to reach the uppermost step, the implication is that Scheer is tying himself in knots to speak ill of Trudeau; that he is literally, and figuratively, reaching.

The 43rd Federal Election in 2019 was consistently forecast to be one that would revolve around debranding techniques by the Conservatives, in hopes of unseating the Liberal government[9]. Consequently, this meme recalls the existing attitudes the public held towards Scheer’s campaign style, reminding the viewer that it was always his intention to proceed negatively. In the end, this strategy failed Scheer and the Conservative party. Furthermore, Scheer was forced to reckon with pseudo-scandals of his own, including his lack of insurance broker’s license, which potentially undermined the credibility he posited in contrast to Trudeau[10]. Coupled with his opaque views on abortion and same-sex marriage, the frame of moral leader which Scheer applied to himself fell apart. The fact that Scheer was unable to deliver victory against a vulnerable opponent indicates that his campaign did not address the key issues in an effective manner[11]. As the meme suggests, to assume that he could ever reach far enough past progressive policies, and towards electoral victory was always going to be as absurd as taking the stairs five at a time.


[1]“Skipping Steps,” Know Your Meme, May 2019.

[2] “Skipping Steps.” (see above)

[3] Graeme Gordon, “The CANADALAND Guide To New Popular, Populist Political Media,” CANADALAND, January 6, 2019.

[4] Dietram A. Scheufele and David Tewksbury, “Framing, Agenda Setting, and Priming: The Evolution of Three Media Effects Models,” Journal of Communication 57, no. 1 (March 1, 2007): 9–20, p.11.

[5] Anna Purna Kambhampaty, Madeleine Carlilse, and Melissa Chan, “Justin Trudeau Wore Brownface at 2001 ‘Arabian Nights’ Party While He Taught at a Private School,” Time, September 18, 2019,

[6] Dan Schill, “The Visual Image and the Political Image: A Review of Visual Communication Research in the Field of Political Communication,” Review of Communication 12, no. 2 (April 1, 2012): 118–42, p. 125.

[7] CBC News, “What We Know about Justin Trudeau’s Blackface Photos — and What Happens Next,” CBC, September 20, 2019.

[8] Lorne Gunter, “Abysmal Campaign; Scheer Gains No Traction in Wake of Trudeau’s Scandals,” The Edmonton Sun, September 24, 2019, Final edition, sec. News.; MacCharles, Tonda. “An Avalanche of Policy as the Third Week in the Federal Election Campaign Begins.” The Toronto Star, September 25, 2019, sec. Politics.

[9] “Kelly McParland: Trudeau and Scheer Are Both Betting on Bad Memories,” Postmedia Breaking News, July 29, 2019, sec. Full Comment.

[10] Janice Dickson and Robert Fife, “Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer Holds Dual Canadian-U.S. Citizenship, Had Attacked Michaëlle Jean on Same Issue; Party Leader Has Let His American Passport Lapse and Is in Process of Renouncing Citizenship with Washington, Campaign Director Says,” The Globe and Mail (Breaking News), October 4, 2019, sec. Politics.

[11] Jen Gerson and Justin Ling, “Lisa Raitt’s Conservative Party Autopsy,” OPPO, n.d.