Campaign Life Coalition has endorsed Frank Klees for the leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservative party, noting that he is its “preferred candidate” in a field that includes three of his fellow Tory MPPs.
Klees is rated “pro-life” by CLC, whereas Randy Hillier (Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox-Addington) is rated “not pro-life,” Tim Hudak (Niagara West-Glanbrook) is rated “unknown” and Christine Elliot (Whitby-Oshawa) is rated “pro-abortion.”
CLC stated in a press release: “Campaign Life Coalition’s preferred candidate Frank Klees (MPP, Newmarket-Aurora) has a pro-life history, has been a strong supporter of parental rights and conscience rights for health care workers. He supports the traditional definition of marriage and the defunding of abortion.”
Klees welcomed CLC’s stamp of approval. He told LifeSiteNews.com that the endorsement was gratifying and confirmed his pro-life stance: “My position on pro-life positions has been consistent since I’ve been in public life.”
He served in the cabinets of Mike Harris and Ernie Eves as chief government whip and deputy leader, and later as minister of tourism and recreation and minister of transportation. He has a long record of championing socially conservative causes. In the late 1990s, he introduced Bill 91, which would have required that parents be advised of health care treatments for their children – including abortion, among other procedures. It is considered by some to be the only pro-life bill to have made it to a vote at Queen’s Park since the 1980s. The bill was defeated, however, garnering the votes of just a minority of his PC colleagues.
Among those who voted for Bill 91 was Tim Hudak, the early frontrunner in the current leadership race. CLC president Jim Hughes told The Interim he appreciated both candidates’ support for Bill 91 at the time, but added that, “Klees was a leader on the issue.” Hughes noted: “Hudak voted for the bill that Klees introduced.”
In 1995 and 1999, Hudak was qualified by CLC as “pro-life with exceptions,” but hasn’t followed up his rhetoric with actions. Unlike Klees, he does not appear to have ever sponsored pro-life legislation or risen to make an impassioned defence of life or the family in the legislature.
In 2005, when the Dalton McGuinty government was redefining the term “spouse” in provincial law to include same-sex couples, there was an agreement between McGuinty and then-PC leader John Tory that ensured there would not be a recorded vote.
On Feb. 24, 2005, Klees asked for other members of the provincial parliament to join him in demanding a recorded vote and only two other MPPs joined him. Five MPPs are required to force a recorded vote.
A week later, he made another impassioned plea for a recorded vote amidst the backroom dealing that thwarted a transparent vote. Klees said: “What are we hiding? What is the problem? Why, if they consider themselves so committed to this bill, will people not stand in their place and simply identify their vote in Hansard for everyone to see? People at home and people in the galleries must be asking themselves, ‘What is going on in this place?’ What is wrong with this bill that you’re not prepared to identify with it? What are we afraid of?”
On March 4, Klees was one of two PC MPs to filibuster so that two of their colleagues would have time to make it to the debate and join in the demand for a recorded vote. Pro-marriage activists called his efforts heroic. More important, Klees not only stood up for marriage, he opposed his own party leader, at great risk to his own political career.
Hughes praised the courageous stand taken by Klees and asked: “Where was Tim Hudak? Why didn’t he stand up for traditional marriage?”
That is a good question and one that Hudak has never answered.
Neither the Hudak nor Elliott campaigns would talk to The Interim. Both Klees and Hillier were interviewed by this paper and only Klees responded to a CLC questionnaire or agreed to be interviewed by CLC representatives.
Hudak has announced he will abolish the Ontario Human Rights Commission, while Hillier has alternatively said he will “abolish” or “reform or abolish” the OHRC. However, Hillier kicked off his campaign with the promise to do so, whereas Hudak did so well into his campaign in mid-March. When Hudak raised the issue, Elliott attacked the move by suggesting that such a position could be as unpopular as John Tory’s plan to fund religious schools.
Hillier also supports protecting conscience rights, including for health care workers and marriage commissioners. It is notable that Hillier, a socially conservative libertarian, has made these issues a priority in his campaign.
Unfortunately, Hillier would not return a signed leadership candidate’s questionnaire to CLC. Reportedly among the hang-ups he had was answering the question of whether he was pro-life. He told The Interim in April that he disliked labels, saying he refused to be “pigeon-holed.” However, in that same interview, he said he would seek ways to reduce abortion in the province. That would include informed consent for women seeking abortions and promoting adoption. On the issue of defunding abortion, Hillier said he did not know what the Canada Health Act required of the province and would not commit to a position.
Furthermore, he told The Interim that he would not fund the HPV vaccine campaign and would remove the legislative authority of professional bodies such as the Ontario Medical Association and Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons, both of which are increasingly hostile to conscience rights
Asked about Hillier’s supportive stance on numerous socially conservative issues, Hughes told The Interim that CLC supported Klees because he “far and away has the best record on life and family issues during his time at Queen’s Park.”
While none of the candidates appears to be as socially liberal as the man they seek to replace, John Tory, there are a number of other red flags, notably around Hudak.
While his record and rhetoric is mildly socially conservative – he tells PC supporters he is pro-life – he has surrounded himself with social liberals, including Mike Harris’s brain trust: Tom Long, Leslie Noble and, of course, his wife, Deborah Hutton.
Long ran for the 2000 Canadian Alliance leadership and campaigned as a social “moderate” while hammering away at the socially conservative Stockwell Day. Long was the vehicle for socially liberal federal conservatives to oppose what was seen as the immoderate pro-life and pro-family wing of the old Reform party. His rhetoric betrayed an increasing hostility to social conservatives in the public square. According to the March 18, 2009 Toronto Star, Long chaired an early strategy meeting for Hudak’s leadership bid. In it, participants reassembled the highly successful unit that catapulted Harris to power in 1995.
Noble was another architect of the “Common Sense Revolution” and is another socially liberal backroom operative who is especially hostile to social conservatives. Michael Coren has reported that in 1996, while at the Winds of Change conference in Calgary, Noble said social conservatives “have no place in a modern conservative party.” Party insiders say she and Long pressed Mike Harris not to address socially conservative issues during his tenure as premier. They will likely have the same influence on Hudak if he is elected leader.
While Noble and Long never served on Harris’s staff, Deborah Hutton was viewed as the triumvirate’s pitbull in the premier’s office, a rigid enforcer of their socially liberal heterodoxy. Today, Hutton is married to Hudak and no doubt is an important adviser on political and policy matters to her husband. Hutton is pro-abortion, pro-gay rights and firmly ensconced on the socially liberal side of the PC party. As one former party insider told The Interim, “She is socially liberal on every issue.” She supported socially liberal Ernie Eves in the 2002 Ontario PC leadership race over the more socially conservative Jim Flaherty. In 2004, she was a key member of Belinda Stronach’s team in the federal Conservative party leadership campaign. Stronach ran as a self-described “socially moderate” voice within the Conservative party.
While Hudak’s record isn’t anything particularly great or awful, his inner circle of advisers indicates that his leadership could be bad news for social conservatives.
Preferential balloting begins on June 21 and the results will be announced June 25. CLC has urged supporters to vote for Frank Klees.