Grassroots pro-life and pro-family members of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario helped pass three parental rights and anti-sex ed resolutions to become PC Party policy and then ensured that another eight pro-family policies would be considered at the 2019 PC policy convention.
Campaign Life Coalition worked in the months ahead of the Nov. 17-19 convention in Toronto to encourage supporters to become delegates for the convention and move forward resolutions highlighting pro-life and pro-family policies. When the PC Party announced at the beginning of November which policies were approved for debate and a vote at the convention, most of the socially conservative resolutions were not included – issues such as repealing the bubble zone and conscience rights for healthcare workers.
At convention, there were three pro-family policies approved for debate and all were passed nearly unanimously. When all the resolutions were dealt with and time was left in the plenary, the chair permited debate on resolutions that would go directly to the convention floor next year if passed during the current session, as per party rules.
The pre-approved resolutions that passed included rejecting Kathleen Wynne’s radical sex ed curriculum and affirming parental rights in education. Resolution 32/33 stated: “The PC Party supports legislation to provide ample notice to all parents as to when sex-ed lessons will be taught, and offers parents an opt-out.” Resolution 34 stated, “The PC Party respects the inherent authority of parents as the primary educators of children.” Resolution 35 said, “The PC Party supports a Parents’ Bill of Rights.”
A PC government is not obliged to enact policies passed at convention, but CLC national president Jeff Gunnarson said the vote sends a strong signal what grassroots supporters of its own party would like to see the government do while in power. Gunnarson said in a statement, “These policies will help us to hold Premier Ford’s feet to the fire, so that he keeps his promise to repeal Kathleen Wynne’s radical sex ed.”
Some of the scuttled policies that ended up debated during the plenary included repealing Wynne’s sex-ed curriculum, protecting conscience rights for health care professionals, repealing Liberal Bill 89 which gave adoption agencies the power to ban couples who do not believe in gender identity from being able to adopt children, and repealing another Wynne government law, Bill 28 which deleted the words “mother” and “father” from all government forms and statutes. One resolution that passed which was covered prominently in the media was Parents as First Educators executive director Tanya Granic Allen’s resolution stating: “Be it resolved that an Ontario PC Party recognizes ‘gender identity theory’ for what it is, namely, a highly controversial, unscientific, ‘liberal ideology’; and, as such, that an Ontario PC Government will remove the teaching and promotion of ‘gender identity theory’ from Ontario schools and its curriculum.” It was passed with a only a handful of dissenting votes.
It was originally misreported by the Canadian Press that the resolution was party policy, rather than being slated to return for debate and a vote at the next policy convention, expected in late 2019. The online reaction to the denial of transgenderism was fierce, with LGBT activists, Liberal and NDP politicians, and even some PC operatives criticizing the move as transphobic and calling upon Premier Doug Ford to repudiate the resolution. Two days after the convention, Ford stated it was not government policy and that the issue was “done.”
Gunnarson toldThe Interimhe was disappointed to see the premier cave to the media pressure and bad political advice. CLC launched an online petition urging Ford to reconsider his stance.
Granic Allen said that when Ford was running for leader in February, he railed against the Wynne sex-ed curriculum and condemned it as “liberal ideology,” offering the specific example of “gender identity theory.” She said the wording of the resolution which passed at the convention reflected Ford’s own thinking and wondered what changed between his opposition to it in February and the convention in November.
In an email to supporters, CLC explained that the “clock ran out” before the plenary session could consider three policies the organization was backing: repealing the anti-free speech bubble zone law, defunding sex-selective abortions, and repealing gender identity laws.
There was less success on constitutional amendments that CLC supported. While most had majority support, they did not have the required two-thirds majority to pass. Only three CLC-supported amendments passed, including a ban on cash memberships; some unscrupulous candidates buy mass fake memberships. CLC supported the new rule to ensure candidate nominations, leadership races, and delegate selection meetings were carried out fairly and democratically.
The other nine amendments endorsed by CLC to ensure the rights of grassroots members would be protected did not pass, although most did garner majority support.
There was also a vote for a new party executive. Three CLC-endorsed candidates won seats on the party executive — essentially the party’s board of directors — and Gunnarson said he hopes they help keep the party honest by preventing the rigging of nominations and the policy process.
Gunnarson toldThe Interimthere was a tangible excitement among grassroots pro-life and pro-family supporters during the policy debates because they “felt they were making a difference” in the party. He worried afterwards that Ford seeming to ignore the grassroots vote would lead many to abandon their political involvement.
Gunnarson said that while CLC and PAFE helped deliver between 400 and 500 delegates to the convention, most of the resolutions were passed with well over 600 votes, indicating that socially conservative ideas have broad support among the grassroots of the party, the question being whether the leadership will pay attention and implement policies with broad support among its base.