The position of the Progressive Conservative Party on human life was made abundantly clear at its national convention in Toronto from August 6 to 10.
While nothing was spared I party or media hype concerning the economy, national unity and the distinct nature of Quebec, the preborn child and those facing terminal illness were very quickly expelled to the realms of the expendable.
In a resolution, submitted by the Willowdale Riding Association, which called for the protection of all children before, during and after birth, observers were treated to a display of blatant orchestration at its finest.
Two delegates, including the president of the P.C. Women’s Association, were permitted to speak against it, while Dr. Susan Kato, a delegate from Spadina, was denied her right to speak in favour of the resolution, which was defeated 341 to 155 with 57 abstentions.
Another resolution seeking support for Planned Parenthood and Women’s Centres was carried 366 to 327, while 71 per cent voted in favour of a mercy killing proposal.
Careful management ensured that a resolution calling for leadership reviews was not debated. Another, designed to put and keep the power to nominate candidates in the hands of the riding associations by removing the power of veto enjoyed by the upper echelon in Ottawa, was defeated. Both resolutions were presented by the Willowdale riding association, whose members were quick to reap the benefit of Joe Clark’s visible anger.
All in all, the convention (which boasted the theme “Many voices – One Vision”) was dull, in spite of Brian Mulroney’s upbeat promise that with the help of St. Patrick, (hands up those who knew St. Patrick was a Tory) the Conservative Party would be returned bigger and better than ever.
It was certainly no monument to the democratic process, but rather one which, for many, opened old wounds. Memories of microphone cords being pulled on pro-life speakers at policy conventions, together with strong accusations of party efforts to defeat pro-life M.P. John Oostrom, and behind the scenes games concerning the withdrawal of pro-life Tony Aristocrat from the nomination race in the Eglinton-Lawrence riding in 1988, still make many party members shudder.
The burning question for the disgruntled party faithful, particularly those concerned with one vision being a reality after the many voices have been allowed to be heard, has to be “Where do we go from here?”
The future of the Tory party is, in spite of the events of August 6-10, in the hands of its members.