It’s hard to recall an election in which social issues were brought to the surface as often as they were in this year’s federal election.
Of course, this didn’t come from social conservatives, but rather from scads of progressive politicians trying to embarrass and humiliate Conservative candidates for holding the apparently unconscionable belief that, erm, life should be protected.
I lost count of how often Conservative leader Andrew Scheer was asked the same question – sometimes not even with the courtesy of rewording it to pretend it’s new – about his beliefs on abortion or same-sex marriage. Liberal advisers Katie Telford and Gerald Butts went apoplectic on Twitter when they learned pro-life advocacy group Right Now was working to recruit pro-life political staffers.
We also got to see the media dust off its evergreen stories of candidates with “problematic” (in other words biblical) views on issues of morality that are shared by adherents to just about every major faith group.
Of the parties represented in parliament, none is expressly pro-life, and only two – the Conservative and Green parties – say their MPs are allowed to vote with their conscience. For what it’s worth, Green leader Elizabeth May said during the campaign that while her MPs could vote against abortion, all of the Green candidates were, in fact, “pro-choice.”
There are no pro-life MPs outside the Conservative caucus. Within that caucus, they are a minority. While there may be a few more pro-life MPs in this parliament than the last (notwithstanding the loss of a great one, Harold Albrecht) they still comprise a small number of public officials representing millions of Canadians who hold similar beliefs, despite the media’s narrative of these beliefs being fringe.
Canadians are, once again, governed by a leader and a party who not only reject social conservatism, but are dedicated to marginalizing and stifling social conservative voices. One shouldn’t have to identify with social conservatives to understand how wrong this is in a pluralistic country.
New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh accused Elizabeth May of harbouring social conservatives by virtue of the Green policy to not whip votes. Trudeau and company repeatedly brought up Scheer’s embrace by social conservatives and his Catholic bona fides. This was in spite of Trudeau’s since-recanted position that he, a self-professed Catholic, was personally pro-life.
The relentless advance of this agenda by the left gave social conservatives numerous opportunities to shift the Overton window, but they didn’t take them. I understand the reasons why: the Conservatives need mass appeal to win an election, and they need to appeal to the broad support base, and so on.
But here’s a question: Did not grabbing the bull by the horns mute or otherwise diminish the “evil, scary social conservative” narrative being peddled about Scheer? Hardly.
It didn’t matter how many times Scheer promised to not touch the abortion issue, or how many times he said he and the country had “moved on” from debating same-sex marriage, no one believed him.
Annoying as it must be when your campaign’s strategy is to focus on affordability or other pocketbook issues, surely one can take comfort in knowing the criticism is going to be the same whether you speak up or not, so you as might as well speak up.
I won’t pretend to know what “speaking up” might have looked like, though I do think Scheer could have gone on the offensive with the issue. Why not take aim at the reporters and politicians imposing a social values litmus test? Why not force them to answer for why they’re trying to marginalize politicians who share a viewpoint with millions of Canadians? Why not posit that disagreements on social issues are entirely valid – and should be encouraged, in fact – in a country whose constitution enshrines both religious freedom and freedom of expression?
I’m not enough of a sports fan to come up with a suitable comparison here, but I do know that it’s hard to win on defence, if not impossible. This isn’t just about abortion, but any issue the elites want to say is off-limits, be it criticism of illegal immigration, support for free speech, or skepticism about extreme trans activism.
In my first column for The Interim, I shared what I learned in my brief stint as a political candidate – that voters care about these issues, even though the elites say they’re not supposed to. It’s past time to push back against anyone who says otherwise.