The Ontario Progressive Conservative Party is looking for a new leader and pro-lifers who support the party are seeking one that will offer more to social conservatives than recent Tory leaders.
The PCs will have a leadership vote the first week of May 2015 and thus far there are five declared candidates: federal Conservative MP Patrick Brown (Barrie), and Ontario Progressive Conservative MPPs Christine Elliott (Whitby-Oshawa), Vic Fedeli (Nipissing), Lisa MacLeod (Nepean-Carleton), and Monte McNaughton (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex).
Campaign Life Coalition national president Jim Hughes said his organization is not endorsing a candidate yet as it seeks more information from the leadership hopefuls. “We want to talk to all the candidates so we can better advise our supporters on who would make the best Tory leader,” Hughes told The Interim.
Brown has been an MP since 2004, and CLC gives him a green light as a pro-life and pro-family MP. In 12 actions and votes rated by CLC over the past decade, he had a perfect record, including speaking out against Henry Morgentaler’s Order of Canada award, voting for C-484 (Unborn Victims of Crime Act) and M-312 (motion calling for studying the scientific evidence regarding preborn life), and voting against C-383 (An Act legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide) and various incarnations of adding gender identity to Canadian human rights law (which opponents have labeled bathroom bills).
Normally such a record would warrant an automatic nod of support, but during an interview in Kitchener in September, Brown said he “would not change the status quo” on abortion and would “oppose any efforts to do so.”
Hughes said CLC is seeking clarification because, if true, “they would be problematic and fly in the face of his perfect record on Parliament Hill.”
Elliott has been an MPP since 2006 and has generally not been pro-life or pro-family. She publicly praised Toronto Pride Week organizers during a statement read at Queen’s Park in 2006, defended the Ontario Human Rights Commission during her previous leadership bid in 2009, and co-sponsored Bill 33, the Bathroom Bill, giving special rights to transsexual and transgendered people which became law in 2013.
In 2006 and 2007 she answered the CLC candidate’s questionnaire and it’s a mixed bag. She acknowledges human life begins at conception (fertilization), agrees that women should be informed about fetal development and the health risks of abortion, supports conscience rights for health care workers, and opposes euthanasia. But she opposes the rights of parents to withdraw their children from school classes that they find objectionable, would not state if she supports defunding abortion, and said “I believe that any women” seeking abortion “should make the decision in consultation with her doctor and her faith or beliefs.”
Hughes said that although there are serious concerns with Elliott’s record, there is enough in her answers to warrant seeking more information about how she might handle certain provincial responsibilities or to see if any of her views have changed.
There is little information about Fideli, MacLeod, and McNaughton. None of the three have answered a CLC candidate’s questionnaire and there are few votes at Queen’s Park on which to rate them. All three voted against Bill 13, the “Accepting Schools Act” which social conservative critics said radically sexualized the school curriculum and promoted Gay-Straight Alliances under the guise of anti-bullying, but that is the only vote CLC has rated during their time in office: MacLeod since 2006 and Fedeli and McNaughton since 2011; Bill 33 was a voice vote.
However, in May 2012, MacLeod told the homosexual newspaper Xtra! she supported students running clubs like GSAs and indicated that schools, including Catholic ones, should not deny students who want to start gay-straight alliances.
Fedeli began his leadership campaign calling for a “big tent.” He is also reported to have told a meeting of Tories in Mississauga that he supports transgender rights and that the party would have to do so too if it wanted to win seats in Toronto.
Hughes said the comments are troubling, and that while in theory he has no problem with the idea of a big tent, “too often we’ve seen people who talk about a big tent clamp down on the democratic rights of socially conservative voters.”
McNaughton, on the other hand, might offer hope for socons, if not on public policy, on party policy. He has released his “Member’s First Plan” which would reform how the Ontario PCs operate. He would make nominations a “riding-driven process” and have the party membership approve the election platform.
Hughes said McNaughton indicates he values the input of the grassroots and restores democracy to the party. “It augurs well for the future to recognize the rights of citizens,” Hughes said, noting that “for too long party leaders and their strategists have ignored regular folks.”
People interested in voting for PC leader must have a valid party membership by Feb. 28. CLC encourages people who support or are inclined to support the Tories to have their memberships updated by mid-February.
Memberships are $10 or $15, depending on if you submit an email address, and are available online at ontariopc.com or through the local PC riding association.