On Jan. 28, the national board of the Christian Heritage Party accepted the resignation of its leader, Jim Hnatiuk, who led the CHP since 2008. The board ratified the appointment of David J. Reimer, a member of the party since 1987 and a six-time CHP candidate, as interim leader and scheduled the leadership convention to be held in November.
When Reimer was approved interim leader, CHP national president Louis Kwantes said in a communique that the “changes are significant” but “be assured that the board will continue to build and develop the Party during this time of transition.”
Kwantes also said “as Canada’s only pro-life, pro-family federal political party, we welcome your participation in our growth. Whether you are a member or someone who is learning more about what we can offer to Canadians, we encourage you to participate in the democratic process through your volunteer efforts, your donations, and through your membership.”
The party had already scheduled its triennial convention for November, to be held at Carmen’s Banquet Center at the Best Western Hotel in Hamilton, Ont., and they will hold a separate leadership convention on the Thursday in the middle of the four day event spanning Nov. 5-8. The convention, which will include workshops, candidate training, and the election of the national board, will feature speakers such as CFRB radio personality Jerry Agar and keynote speaker Ravi Zacharias at the dinner on Nov. 7.
While delegates are picked by local EDAs, any member can vote at the convention on Nov. 6 for leader, but they must have a valid membership 21 days before the convention and they must vote in person.
But before the convention, the party is conducting an ambitious project to double its membership. The Jethro Project – named after the father of Moses’ wife, who encouraged his son-in-law to share the burden of ministry by allowing others to take care of small matters – encourages every current member to sign up at least one family member or friend.
Reimer, a pastor at Shalom Family Worship Center in Ile des Chenes, Manitoba and interim leader of the CHP, said it is the “easiest way to double our membership” because people are more likely to listen to those they know and trust rather than sign up with a political party from a cold call.
Reimer told The Interim the Jethro Project will be officially launched in September, but the party executive has been working with all its electoral district associations to be “primed and ready to go” for some time and he said many have already started aggressively finding new memberships. Reimer himself has “signed hundreds of letters of new members and dozens of life members.”
The CHP allows Canadians who support the party to buy lifetime memberships for $200 a person or $300 a couple. Membership is otherwise $25 for three years and they have an introductory rate of $10 for the first year. There are also family rates.
Membership, of course, signals support for Canada’s only pro-life party and the only party committed to bringing Biblical principles into the political arena (although it is steadfast in acknowledging Canada’s freedom of religion and does not seek to impose Christian religious beliefs on their fellow Canadians).
Membership also entitles supporters to regular publications including a weekly emailed communique and a quarterly glossy magazine, and allows individuals to become part of a local electoral district association, to become a candidate or official agent, and to have delegate status at national conventions.
Reimer is not running for leader, saying a “leader should have a vision for a minimum of five years to take the party” but “at my age and stage of life, I’m not prepared to develop such a vision.” He ran in the Macleod by-election in June, garnering nearly 800 votes where voter turnout was just 18 per cent. Still, his 774 votes translated into 4.24 per cent of the vote.
His focus has been on growing awareness of the CHP and he’s traveled to Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Saskatchewan to spread the Christian Heritage Party message. He has found that there is great “disenchantment, even disengagement” among Canadians with the three major parties in Parliament, especially following the senate scandals afflicting the Conservative Party and Justin Trudeau’s statement that all future Liberal MPs must be pro-abortion.
His message to Tories in Bible Belt areas of the country is to ask how long they are willing to wait until they realize Stephen Harper means what he says when he insists he does not want to re-open the abortion debate.
Thus far the only candidate to step forward to run for leader is Rod Taylor, the national development director of the CHP and interim president of the CHP’s British Columbia council.
Taylor, 63, is focusing on the membership drive, which is part of his mandate as development director. He is working with grassroots members to increase the base of the party.
Taylor, who has a long history in provincial politics in various parties and the CHP at the national level, said he was attracted to the Christian Heritage Party because of its non-negotiable principles of pro-life and recognizing the Supremacy of God. He said he ended his relationship with the now defunct Reform Party of B.C. when he realized it was not officially pro-life. Taylor, who worked in the lumber industry for more than 20 years in Alberta and British Columbia, has been involved with the CHP full-time since 2009 in various capacities. He and his wife Elaine, who celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary this summer, have a son and daughter and four grandchildren.
Taylor has also run for the CHP in Skeena-Bulkley Valley in B.C. four times, garnering more than 1,000 votes each time. He also ran once for the B.C. Unity Party, which was formed from a coalition of parties including the B.C. Family Coalition Party.
Taylor wants to grow the CHP and says that its goal of providing an ethical alternative for pro-life voters and electing MPs is not mutually exclusive. To those who say that a vote for the CHP is a wasted vote, he says, “we believe the only wasted vote is one for a party that doesn’t represent your goals and faith.”
He says, “if people do the right thing, their reward is sure” in Heaven, but it is “possible to see CHP members elected to parliament if God’s people were to be obedient.” He said the belief that standing up for moral values such as life and family is a losing proposition risks “becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy.”
Taylor told The Interim no one should have the impression that “we aren’t running to win: we are.” But he added, “winning isn’t everything; getting out the pro-life and Christian message is more important.” He said the CHP is a vehicle to “declare the truth” to the nation. And he stressed that victory is “only hopeless if you give up.”
Reimer, like Taylor, said he often hears that voters consider a vote for the CHP a wasted vote. He counters that “if you vote for your conscience or values, you never, ever waste your vote.”
Taylor said he is running for party leader because “I see an opportunity for this party to gain credibility with the voting public.” He also wants to “advance the connection between the CHP and the pro-life movement.” He said both sides need to reach out, and the CHP must work to build bridges with like-minded groups. “We offer the only place for people to vote pro-life.”
Yet Taylor is also proposing something radical for political parties: strategically not running candidates where another party is putting forth a candidate that largely shares the CHP’s commitment to protect the unborn. Taylor said, “there are a handful of devout and devoted men and women serving the unborn and serving the Lord without compromise.” He calls these MPs heroes – naming Maurice Vellacott, Brad Trost, Mark Warawa, Stephen Woodworth, and Rod Bruinooge – that have both the voting record and a history of being vocally pro-life. Taylor said, “we want to be strategically sensitive to those who have put their careers on the line.”
He also said the CHP wants to “run candidates where they can do the most good.” Taylor said this is a guideline, “not an eternal promise,” and that the party leadership would not prevent a strong, working EDA from running candidates if that is what the grassroots wanted. He stressed that the party leadership would not deliberately seek candidates to challenge pro-life MPs.
In June, the CHP did not run a candidate in the Scarborough-Agincourt by-election, stating that they deferred to Campaign Life Coalition’s qualification of a pro-life candidate for the Conservative Party.
While Taylor is not a one-issue candidate – he vows to fight for responsible stewardship of Canada’s resources and to fight for compassion for the country’s vulnerable populations, he stressed that abortion is the ultimate issue for him, his party, and Canadians. He also said he would fight to use the notwithstanding clause to counter the judicial activism of the Supreme Court of Canada.
If he becomes leader, Taylor also wants to get more EDAs active, so they meet once a month like the CHP electoral district association in his riding does. They also put up signs about abortion and the party year around “so people don’t forget about us between election campaigns.” He wants to engage the public more between elections, perhaps if they can raise the money, with regular print and broadcast advertising.
The party is already planning to roll out a new website and social media campaign to engage a new generation of Christian and pro-life voters.
Taylor also wants to work with more churches, if only to educate pastors that they can become more politically involved by taking positions on issues such as respect for life and encouraging their congregants to become politically active to promote Godly values.
Taylor is the only declared candidate who has signed up at least 100 members in support of his bid, by passing the party’s integrity analysis, and filing his papers with Elections Canada, which all leadership contenders for all parties must do.
The leadership vote is schedule for the evening of Nov. 6 following speeches in the afternoon from the candidates. Even if no one else throws their hat into the ring, Taylor must be affirmed by the leadership convention. He said he expected two or three opponents, but “I haven’t heard a whisper of anyone” else running, he says.
Taylor said it “would be easiest not to have an opponent but it is healthy for the party to have a contest.” Reimer said he would prefer others enter the race so that there could be “the excitement” of a race in which different visions for the party are outlined for the membership to consider. Reimer, who as interim leader is officially neutral, said that by announcing his intention to run early, Taylor probably scared off marginal candidates but still thinks the party has “a handful of potentially serious contenders.”
Taylor said whoever leads the party, the Christian Heritage Party will “guide the nation by example and education.”