John-Henry Westen
Special to The Interim

John Pacheco, principal organizer of the largest rally in the country in defence of traditional marriage in Ottawa on April 9, has been rejected as a possible Conservative candidate for the Ottawa West riding. The stunning development has left social conservatives within the party scratching their heads. Pacheco, working with life, faith and family groups, drew over 15,000 people to rally for traditional marriage on Parliament Hill.

In an interview, Pacheco told that he launched an appeal to the party once he learned of his rejection, but the appeal has failed. “Obviously, I am disappointed in the decision,” he said, “not so much because of my own political ambitions, which are quite secondary, but because the positions which I espouse, being held by many party members who share my social conservative views on preserving the institution of marriage and family, will not be given a full representation.”

Pacheco added, “Debate and dialogue are absolutely critical for the health of a free and democratic society and this is no less true for political parties. If an idea or position does not have merit, then the debate and dialogue among the party’s membership should decide that it does not.”

The central issue in the decision seems to have been the marriage issue. The Conservative party and its leader have made little secret that the party favours candidate John Baird, a member of the provincial parliament, who is willing to leave provincial politics to run federally. Baird, however, is a proponent of homosexual “marriage.”

In the provincial legislature, Baird spoke in favour of a provincial gay “marriage” law striking the words “husband” and “wife” from all Ontario legislation. In the legislature, Baird went so far as to heckle one of his provincial Conservative colleagues who opposed the gay “marriage” law.

Baird’s campaign information indicates direct ties to Conservative party leader Stephen Harper. “In 2003, John was asked by Stephen Harper to serve as co-chair for his leadership campaign. And in the federal election of 2004, John was again asked by Stephen Harper to serve as Ontario co-chair for the national campaign,” says the informational material.

Many social conservatives are disappointed that party leader Harper, although availing himself of the opportunity to speak at the huge marriage rally organized by Pacheco, did not intervene to at least allow Pacheco the opportunity to contest the Conservative nomination.

Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition, which is a member of the Defend Marriage Coalition, commented on the development: “I guess the party wanted a gay marriage candidate, rather than a pro-marriage candidate. This is ridiculous. I hope this isn’t the start of a campaign where they start shooting themselves in the foot just prior to the election.”

Pacheco was resolved to continue to work within the party to elect pro-life and pro-family candidates. “I encourage my supporters and all social conservatives not to be disillusioned or discouraged by this minor setback, but instead to redouble your efforts in making your voices heard and respected within Canadian politics. The dignity of every human person from conception to natural death and the institution of marriage are too important to abandon because one person did not accomplish his political ambition,” he said.