Laying down the Lawton

While I’m not generally one to set New Year’s resolutions, I may take it upon myself to assign one.

Make 2019 the year you get involved. Not just in church and community, but also politics.

I know, it sounds like a snoozefest. Try to embrace politics for the importance of it, if not the excitement.

The looming federal election makes 2019 a pivotal year for Canadians. So much so that the months preceding October seem like little more than a giant countdown.

The significance is most notable for values-based voters. Justin Trudeau has made imposing his worldview a hallmark of his premiership. Not just on his colleagues in parliament, but on Canadians as a whole, and even people around the world.

As much as this has stoked a fire in his opponents, Trudeau also has something working in his favour. For the first time in 19 years, the next election will see two major parties vying for conservative votes—the Conservative Party of Canada and Maxime Bernier’s fledgling People’s Party of Canada.

Unpleasant as it may be to start thinking of the election already (especially considering how inescapable the coverage will be by summertime), 2019 is a call to action for social conservatives.

In my first column for The Interim, I wrote about how much of a role social issues played in Ontario’s last provincial election. In the months since then, this conversation has remained. The most notable example was the strong showing by social conservatives at the PC party’s November convention.

I suspect a similar narrative to unfold in October’s election, for two main reasons.

Firstly, Andrew Scheer wouldn’t be the Conservative leader without direct votes from social conservatives and down-ballot support from Brad Trost’s and Pierre Lemieux’s supporters.

The second reason is the sheer level of organization social conservatives have brought to Canadian politics in the last couple of years in particular.

From nominations to leaderships to general elections, pro-life voters have impressively mobilized, and generated numerous political victories. This underscores the value of involvement at the grassroots level. It’s infinitely more useful than the general tendency for Canadians to just complain about the results of elections without having done anything to change them.

The influence of social conservatives on Canadian politics is apparent. The challenge now is holding to account those who have courted pro-life support.

To be clear, this isn’t about imposing impossible or untenable standards on politicians. It’s about holding politicians to their own words.

It won’t always work. There’s still a lot of anger for the way Patrick Brown courted social conservative support in his 2015 leadership bid only to kick it to the curb months later. Stephen Harper has been criticized for shying away from the key issues of concern for values voters.

In spite of the reasons to be cynical, there are also success stories that warrant hope for the year ahead.

Numerous pro-life candidates have been nominated to run for Alberta’s United Conservative Party. Many will get elected to the legislature. The same is true for the federal Conservatives, whose leader is circumspect, but consistent, on social conservatives’ issues.

While Bernier himself isn’t a social conservative, he sees them as having a place within the Right and has told me he will not block members of his caucus from raising issues of conscience.

It isn’t just about how party leaders govern, but also how they conduct their parties’ internal affairs. We just have to look back to 2015, when Justin Trudeau barred pro-lifers from even running as Liberal candidates. Doing this eliminated the chance that anyone in his caucus would oppose his scrapping of Canada Summer Jobs funding for charities and organizations that refuse to kowtow to his social politics.

A government with such disdain for free speech – especially on matters of conscience – is a government that must be defeated.

If Trudeau is re-elected, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar ideological litmus test put in place for charitable status, which would threaten the fiscal solvency of almost every religious institution in Canada.

There is enough anger to trigger action. It is critical, however, that voters not let Trudeau’s low bar become an excuse to settle for someone who isn’t much better.

A quiet ally is of no use when significant issues warranting leadership emerge.

The “be patient” approach only works when there’s actually something to wait for.

The demand that we “trust” someone only makes sense when that trust is earned.

The standard may be high, but so too are the stakes. Let that guide your 2019.