It’s no secret, I am sure, to anyone who follows my blog that I am NOT a social conservative. In fact, I have described myself as a social libertarian who wants the Conservative Party and, indeed, the Government of Canada, get past religiously-based issues like marriage, same-sex relationships, gay rights and abortion.
I was not surprised to see an article by Catherine Cullen on the CBC News website which says that “Canadian social conservatives who say they’re tired of being written off and ignored by Conservative Party politicians are searching for a leadership candidate they can get behind … [and] … Many social conservatives say that … [the argument that Andrew Scheer’s apparent discomfort with questions about abortion and LGBTQ rights alienated too many potential voters] … amounts to an attempt to shut down one side of the debate within the party.“
I believe that it is important to distinguish between two things:
- Andrew Scheer’s personal, doubtless deeply held and well-considered, personal views on some “hot-button” issues; and
- Andrew Scheer’s apparent inability (it was more than just discomfort, in my opinion) to explain his positions in a way that satisfied
I think Andrew Scheer and his campaign team could have done a much, much better job when the media, especially, but not only the media, made marching in a gay pride parade a sort of litmus test. The easiest thing would have been to have overcome his own, personal discomfort and joined a march … politicians, including Conservative politician and including Andrew Scheer, himself, participate in all sorts of events and parades, even ones ~ like the Khalistan (Sikh separatist) festivities in which Prime Minister Trudeau participates even though his participation is an unfriendly act towards a major world power ~ which are ill-considered. Pressing the flesh, kissing babies, wearing funny hats and participating in many uncomfortable events is part of the public political process. I know an official who was deeply hurt, personally and emotionally, by the “troubles” in Northern Ireland a few years ago. But he participates in public events, including in St Patrick’s Day parades, because the organization he represents supports reconciliation. He risks aggravating what is, I guess, PTSD, to do his duty … Andrew Scheer could have done the same.
It seems to me that many social conservatives were outraged at the whole ‘gay pride as litmus test‘ thing; it made me uncomfortable, too … but they now want to impose their own litmus tests on other would-be Conservative leaders. The social conservatives are an important wing of the Conservative Party, their flag bearer, Brad Trost, finished a respectable fourth (in a field of 20+ candidates) in 2017. The only real moderate who beat him was Erin O’Toole ~ both Andrew Scheer and Maxime Bernier were trusted by many social conservatives on many, but not all issues. I will not support any avowed social conservative for any high political leadership post ~ my disagreements with e.g. Brad Trost, the Campaign Life Coalition, the People’s Party and the Christian Heritage Party, are too deep on too many issues, but I fully support their right to speak out on issues that matter to them, including inside the Conservative Party.
Conservatives must reconcile themselves to the fact that Canada is a moderate country. Canada is, broadly and generally, liberal but not, naturally, Liberal. But the Liberal Party of Canada has been dubbed the natural governing party because it understands that basic fact and it presents itself, to Canadian voters, as the moderate, liberal choice, even though it is anything but. Put simply, more often than not, for the past 125 years, the Liberals have done, and continue to do politics better than the more open and honest Conservatives. The Liberals want power in order to advance the agenda set by the Laurentian Elites; too many social-conservatives, on the other hand, want some sort of political purity.
Even though it will hurt the party (because many in the anti-Conservative media will tar it with the social conservative brush), I believe that the Conservative Party must be open to the voices of the social conservatives … they are decent, honest folks who have a legitimate (but, in my opinion, misguided) point of view. The Trudeau Liberals are wrong to silence any and all social conservative voices in their party. But it is, probably, a politically smart move: it puts a thin veneer of unity over a fractious issue. But it is better to allow honest people to honestly and openly disagree with the Party’s policy on even the most contentious issues ~ even though it will cost some votes in a general election. But, it would be wrong, in my view, for the Conservative Party to either:
- Adopt a socially conservative stance on any settled issue, and those include gay rights and abortion; or
- Allow the social conservatives in the Party to suggest that they have the tacit support of the parliamentary leader. The leader may, privately, hold socially conservative opinions but (s)he must hold to the Party’s policy which is, at least, to take no position on divisive social issues and, always, to obey the law as written by parliament or as interpreted by the courts.