Ontario’s Family Coalition Party is riding a wave of enthusiasm as it prepares to enter 2010 by welcoming its third leader in its 22-year history.
Phil Lees, a Hamilton-area educator and municipal family issues activist, was acclaimed to head the party during its leadership convention at the Hamilton Convention Centre on Oct. 24. He succeeds Giuseppi Gori, who took over from founding leader Don Pennell.
The party has enjoyed only modest results at the ballot box in recent years after winning more than 110,000 votes in the 1990 provincial election. It shot onto the scene as essentially a pro-life party in the 1987 election and fielded 36 candidates on short notice, while garnering an impressive 48,000 votes. Its formation was a result of the need to do something politically about the fact that abortion had become legal in all circumstances throughout pregnancy and was being funded by Ontario’s taxpayers. In subsequent years, the party expanded its policy platform to cover areas such as education, health care, the economy and taxation.
Although the party did run a respectable 51 candidates in the 2003 provincial election, and 83 in the 2007 one, party president Lynne Scime said interest had been falling off and it became a challenge attracting qualified candidates. “It was very difficult, because of our own lack of organization, to bring these people onside. Plus, we didn’t train our candidates as well as we should have.”
Now, however, the party is preparing to turn a new page and the leadership convention was one step forward. A number of news faces were present at the event as a result of Lees’s candidacy.
“We are very excited and hopeful,” said Scime. “We now have a new leader and he is enthusiastic and has a lot of ideas. We’re hoping to set up a framework to support his leadership … I think, all in all, everyone left the convention with a very good feeling.”
One of the first points of business will be an educational tour and campaign to make Ontarians aware of the ramifications of the new Harmonized Sales Tax. Stops are planned for Kingston and Ottawa, among other places. Lees was also to attend a conference focused on combating euthanasia. As well, on the agenda for the new year is the formation of new riding associations.
Scime said despite the expanded scope of the party into areas such as the HST, “The principles continue to be the same. We’re pro-life and pro-family, but this extends into almost every area of life, because governments get more and more into every area of life, especially (those concerning) families.”
She added that the party believes “Canada has to get back to being the Canada we knew and families should be able to exercise the rights that belong to families.”
The current climate of political disaffection with the mainline parties offers an opportunity to the FCP, she said. “It would seem our young people … are interested in principle and are interested in getting involved … I think there is great hope.”
“We hope to build the party by getting new members,” Scime added, observing that most Ontarians now believe political involvement doesn’t make a difference. “I think we have to convince them that it can. If we work together, it can.”
The party paid tribute to Gori during the leadership convention, as well as to long-time board members Klaus Steden and Henry Klaut. Pennell offered the attendees a historical review, Lees presented his thoughts on the future of the party and small-group discussions were held on specific topics.
Scime encourages more Ontarians to consider becoming members of the party and strengthening it’s voice in the political arena. They can check out its newsletter or consult its website at www.familycoalitionparty.com.