MP Brad Trost (Saskatoon – University) was first mentioned as a possible Conservative Party leadership candidate during the party’s policy conference in Vancouver in May. He was critical of the decision by delegates to remove language from the party’s policy book upholding marriage as the union of one man and one woman, saying that it was a mistake both “policy-wise and politically” to accept same-sex “marriage.”
On August 16, the Brad4Leader.ca website was launched although according to his campaign team, he will not formally announce probably until the week before Parliament resumes Sept. 19. Trost was in Mongolia with his wife Gerelt and 16-month-old daughter Isabel at the time of the “soft launch” of his campaign. Trost spoke to The Interim by telephone from the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar on August 22.
Trost says he is running because the Conservatives “need a strong, across-the-board conservative: a social, fiscal, national security conservative, who will stand firmly for these principles.”
Trost says that “people who run on principle, do well,” saying that good policy often makes good politics. He said the Tories lost in 2015 because the government abandoned core principles. He says that when the party talked about senate reform and tax cuts in 2006 it was elected, but in 2015 when the story was scandal in the Senate, the Conservatives lost. “Why change principles that work?” he asks.
Asked whether being a relatively anonymous backbench MP hurts his chances to become leader, Trost says the leadership campaign is an opportunity to raise his profile. He also notes that prime ministers Brian Mulroney, Stephen Harper, and Justin Trudeau had no cabinet experience when they sought their party’s respective leaderships and that, in fact, his 12 years in Parliament is more than Mulroney, Harper, and Trudeau had combined before becoming leader.
He also says that he does not carry any of the baggage of being in the Harper cabinet and points with pride to the fact that he voted against the government the second most of all members of caucus. Indeed, Trost was not afraid to publicly criticize his party including its 2009 decision to give $400,000 to the Toronto and Montreal Pride parades and the 2011 decision to give $6 million to the International Planned Parenthood Federation. Trost also came out against Harper’s “ironclad party discipline” when he voted for the 2015 Reform Bill that gives more power to MPs and seeks to limit the power of the party leaders.
Trost says he will continue to defend pro-life principles as he runs for leader. “The number one purpose of government is to defend life,” he explains. He said “science is clear when human life begins” and that he considers “all human life sacred” and “is meant to be protected.”
Trost, who attends Elim Church – a part of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada – in Saskatoon, says that when he talks to fellow Christians, he can use faith-based language. But he stresses that the scientific and human rights case for protecting the preborn can win over those who are not church-goers.
If elected leader he will allow free votes for Conservative MPs on matters of conscience, as is the tradition in the Westminster parliamentary system. He also says he would look for issues to win over MPs who do not consider themselves pro-life or socially conservative, “to find legislation on which we all agree.” He cited conscience rights as one such issue, noting that in a culture that values choice, freedom of religion and freedom of speech represent choice and need protection.
Although Trost is the first pro-life and pro-family candidate to enter the race, others including former MP Pierre Lemieux and current Conservative House Leader Andrew Scheer are expected to run, too. Trost describes them both as friends, but vows to win over the social conservative vote based on his past actions and promise to continue being outspoken on the issues. “I have a 12-year track record of not only voting the right way but speaking out.” Scheer, Lemieux, and Trost all have perfect voting records on life and family issues according to ratings by Campaign Life Coalition; since being elected in 2004, Trost has voted for all 14 life and family bills and motions CLC has tracked. He also spoke against the Trudeau government’s legalization of euthanasia this spring and fought to have conscience rights recognized in the new law.
Asked whether he would accept the policy convention’s decision to move on in the marriage issue, Trost says “it is never wrong to do the right thing,” vowing to continue fighting to restore the traditional definition of marriage as party policy. “It is not a dead issue,” he explains, because the underlying principle of same-sex “marriage” impacts more than just marriage policy; it is being used to undermine parental rights and against Trinity Western University, because if same-sex “marriage” is the law of the land then schools must normalize homosexuality.
He says he will be a “risk taker” during the “long campaign” for leader by introducing policy in a number of areas, including agriculture and mining. He refuses to be pigeon-holed as the social conservative candidate, insisting he will be the only “100 per cent pure conservative.” He told the Toronto Sun’s Joe Warmington he would never support a carbon tax and said conservatives were put on the earth to oppose tax increases.
That said, Trost says the Conservative Party must be socially conservative or, at the very least, accepting of social conservatives. He is seeking to build a coalition that includes social conservatives but says political success means he cannot limit his message to just one group. He says every candidate must do that to win, and he is confident he will put forward a plan that attracts people from across Canada and the political spectrum within the Conservative Party. He also said the party and the media are underestimating how many people are out there who will agree with his consistent conservative message.
He encourages people to become members, which they can do through his website. He needs donations; just registering and providing a deposit requires $100,000, although a credible campaign will cost several times that. He also says that the campaign needs volunteers, including to organize events in local ridings.
Trost says that a leadership race maximizes “your influence as a voter, because your voice matters more.” He says that with the point system in which every riding has 100 points, a dedicated volunteer who influences a dozen or so people to join and vote could be significant.
Asked about whether social conservative voters snake-bitten after supporting Patrick Brown in the 2015 Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership race only to see him march in the Pride Parade in Toronto, Trost says there is a difference in having a good voting record and a “12-year track record of speaking out.” Reiterating what he told the Sun’s Warmington, he promised to never march in a Pride Parade.