Following the U.S. election on Nov. 2, and the extensive discussion of the role of pro-life, socially conservative and religious voters played in the electoral success of the Republican Party, Conservative party leader Stephen Harper demonstrated an obtuse inability to learn from success. Harper said that the United States and Canada are quite different countries and that trying to build a coalition that includes social conservatives and people of faith was simply not in the cards.
Apparently, Harper never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Harper and the deep thinkers who advise him believe that running against abortion or for traditional marriage or questioning the moral filth that infects our nation are election losers. They point to previous campaigns by pro-life candidates, which did not seem to go anywhere. What Harper et al do not understand is that other social conservative candidates have not effectively communicated their pro-life or pro-family principles and agendas.
What seems more likely, as Campaign Life Coalition national president Jim Hughes makes a strong case for in a guest column on page one, is that there are hundreds of thousands of Canadians who stay home on election day because they do not feel that any party or leader sufficiently shares their pro-life and pro-family principles. If there was a leader who could effectively address their concerns, that leader would reap great political rewards. While there is no Canadian polling on the issue, American polling indicates that people who vote solely on the issue of abortion favour pro-lifers anywhere from a three to one to six to one margin. Furthermore, in the absence of clear pro-life leadership, many voters who would support a pro-life candidate move on to other issues they deem important. But if clear pro-life principles were articulated by a candidate, these voters would put other issues on the backburner in order to support the pro-life position. The number of narrow-minded voters who might be turned off by the enunciation of moral values will be more than compensated for by these renewed pro-life voters.
If Harper is not careful, the Liberals, adept political creatures that they are, will figure out how to siphon large numbers of socially conservative voters – and why not? For every Maurice Vellacott or Garry Breitkreuz in the Conservative Party of Canada, the Liberals have a Tom Wappel or Paul Szabo.
In January, local Conservative party riding associations will be choosing delegates for their first national policy convention in Montreal. The only way social conservatives are going to have their voices heard – and the only chance they will have to affect the platform of the now policy-less year-old party – is to be represented at the convention. If you are inclined to support the Conservative party, or are already involved with them, ensure your membership is up to date. Individuals must be members in good standing for more than two weeks before a riding association chooses its delegates, which will occur no later than Jan. 15. The Interim will have a story next month about the policies that are of most concern and on the agenda. For now, it is important to ensure that your voice is heard at the local level, because we certainly don’t like what we are hearing from the top of the party.