The media focused on a deal between anti-free trade activist David Orchard and Nova Scotia MP Peter MacKay (Pictou-Antigonish-Guysborough) that secured the latter’s election as leader for the federal Progressive Conservative Party but brought into question the party’s commitment to fiscal conservative issues. But pro-lifers lamented the lack of social conservative ideas among the leadership candidates.
The race in which MacKay eventually came out on top included Orchard, Calgary lawyer Jim Prentice and Scott Brison (Kings-Hants), a homosexual MP from Nova Scotia. Before the PC Convention in Toronto at the end of May, three other candidates, former Joe Clark-era cabinet minister Heward Grafftey, Calgary businessman Craig Chandler and Quebec MP Andre Bachand (Richmond -Arthabaska), dropped out of the race. Not one of the candidates offered pro-life, pro-family Tory supporters even a bone to chew on.
Jim Hughes, president of Campaign Life Coalition, told The Interim that not one of the candidates was acceptable to pro-life and pro-family Canadians and that MacKay “is a solid pro-abortionist.”
Hughes said that the party, which is barely holding on to official party status, is failing to reach out to social conservatives to broaden its coalition and voter-base. “The PCs are shooting themselves in the foot” by ignoring this constituency, he warned.
Voted the sexiest male MP for four straight years by Ottawa’s Hill Times newspaper, MacKay echoed the other candidates and the past three Progressive Conservative leaders (Kim Campbell, Jean Charest and Joe Clark), who all suggested that the way back to power for the party is to follow the tried and failed formula of fiscal conservatism tempered by a socially progressive agenda. By this, they have meant that abortion and family values are never to be mentioned. Never mind that this formula has resulted in a total of just a few seats since 1993.
The situation is especially distressing to the many pro-life, pro-family Canadians who have supported the Progressive Conservative party and lament the way it shuns social conservatives.
Hughes said, “It is a shame that Elsie Wayne did not run, so that the grassroots could have rallied to her.” A strong showing by Wayne would have “showed the party hierarchy that there is room in a mainstream party for defenders of life and family.”
A PC party activist told The Interim that MacKay, who has alienated the pro-free trade wing of the party with his deal with David Orchard, will have few conservatives left on which to build a credible alternative to the Liberals if he doesn’t reach out to social conservatives. “Unfortunately,” the Tory activist said, “MacKay is like most Progressive Conservatives: he sees the abortion issue as a political albatross. Never mind that it would be a great way to separate his party from the others who are all desperately offering pale imitations of each others’ platforms.”
MacKay was conspicuous by his absence from a House of Commons justice committee vote accepting the Ontario Appeals Court decision legalizing same-sex “marriage.” MacKay, who is on record supporting a registry of same-sex unions but not marriage, was missing from the vote, which passed the acceptance 9-8.