Unlike some media that looked back at the 2010s to comment on the decade’s meaning, we did not do any retrospective articles or commentary when the calendar flipped on January first to begin the 2020s. But with a federal Conservative Party leadership race underway, we look back at recent political history and the impact of pro-life and pro-family Canadians in the various leadership races and think that the 2010s provides reason for optimism.
Looking back the leadership races on the Right over the last 11 years illustrates the power of the pro-life and pro-family bloc of voters within the parties. In 2009, former MPP Frank Klees had a surprisingly good showing to finish second in the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party race. In 2015, Patrick Brown beat the presumptive frontrunner, Christine Elliott, handily; he did not need the pro-life and pro-family vote to win, but he courted social conservatives and was their choice after Monte McNaughton dropped out. Brown won with two-thirds of the vote, and pro-lifers helped provide his clear mandate to lead. In 2018, Tanya Granic Allen was propelled to a strong finish by her pro-life and pro-family base to nearly overtake the early leadership favourite, Carolyn Mulroney; Granic Allen’s voters ultimately helped Doug Ford beat Christine Elliott by the narrowest of margins in the preferential ballot. Also, in 2017 and 2018, pro-life Albertans helped Jason Kenney win the leadership of the Wildrose Party, unite that party with the provincial Tories, and elect him leader of the United Conservative Party.
In 2017, Brad Trost and Pierre Lemieux stunned the experts by combining for more than 15 per cent of the first round votes, placing fourth and seventh in the federal Conservative leadership race. Trost lasted to the third last ballot and finished fourth. Lemieux’s and Trost’s supporters helped put Andrew Scheer over the top to edge out Maxime Bernier on the 13th and final ballot, after Bernier had led on the first 12 ballots.
Brown betrayed the social conservatives who provided his large margin of victory, quickly abandoning every pro-life and pro-family position he held. Doug Ford, who would not have won without the pro-life and pro-family vote following his stated opposition to Kathleen Wynne’s ideological sex-ed curriculum, also quickly betrayed his socially conservative backers. Scheer was supported by some pro-life groups but not others (including CLC and this paper), but he certainly disappointed many pro-lifers who thought his perfect voting record trumped his oft-stated position he would not re-open the issue if his Conservatives formed government. Kenney has disappointed some social conservative Albertans with his mixed messages on life and family issues.
But betrayal and disappointment are part of politics. That pro-life and pro-family voters seem to get thrown under the bus every time is an argument for caution, not despondency. We must demand more from the leadership contenders courting our votes, beginning with being perfectly clear about their principles, what they would be willing to do if they became prime minister, and what they would allow their caucus to do as leader. There cannot be mere hints that they support pro-life. They cannot count on their records. All Canadians need to hear how they will use the leadership campaign and the position of leader if they win to advance the cause of life and family. If they break their promises, we can get rid of them later and replace them with a new pro-life leader.
It may seem that Peter MacKay is the prohibitive favourite in the current Conservative leadership race. But even when the vote of pro-life and pro-family party members doesn’t deliver victory, it sends a signal. At the very least, we must clearly show that pro-life and pro-family Canadians are an important part of any political coalition – especially the conservative parties. We may not always win, but we always deserve a seat at the table and not just the right to talk about our issues, but the right to win the argument.
If we do not sign up as party members and support the declared pro-life candidates, we have abandoned friends and allies who were counting on us. These courageous and principled souls deserve our enthusiastic support.
We may be disappointed with some of our pro-life political leadership because we seem to lose more battles than we win; it may seem that we never win when it matters on policy. But eschewing partisan politics is not the answer. As the old saying goes, you lose 100 per cent of the fights you do not fight. Those vulnerable to the culture of death and families struggling to flourish in our decadent culture are relying on each and every one of us to be their voice in the political arena.