One observer of the Canadian political scene recently remarked that it “seems like Red Tories are to be compared to mad cows: not many of them, not good for much, but they cause problems, all out of proportion to their numbers.”
Yet, there seem to be just enough of these liberally minded “conservatives” involved in the new Conservative party to cause significant headaches for most of the caucus and the rank-and-file membership. At a Toronto regional policy meeting in December, the modest number of Red Tories who showed up were still plentiful enough to outnumber other members, and they managed to pass divisive resolutions for consideration at the party’s policy conference, to be held in Montreal in March.
The Toronto joint meeting of 32 ridings attracted a total of only 250 members, an average of fewer than eight members per riding. The Red Tories in the crowd successfully pushed two anti-life resolutions, as well as an anti-marriage resolution.
The first anti-life policy statement that was passed indicated unambiguous support for abortion, including partial-birth abortion. It simply read, “The Conservative party believes that a woman has the right to make choices about her own reproduction.” A slightly more complicated resolution proposed experimentation on human subjects. It stated, “The party should support a ban on the use of embryonic stem cells for human cloning, but support therapies that require research on adult stem cells, umbilical cord blood stem cells and existing early-stage embryonic stem cells.”
While such research on adult stem cells and umbilical cord blood stem cells is uncontroversial, and is indeed proving extremely beneficial in the search for healing therapies, embryonic stem cell research is radically different, because it focuses not on isolated, specialized cells, but on the undifferentiated organism that is a human being in his earliest stage of development. This research is possible given the advances in medical technology over the last 50 years, but in moral terms, it is no different than the human experimentation performed by the Nazis on their unwilling victims.
Given that abortion is a highly controversial and divisive issue within the Conservative party, and that there currently is no party policy, delegates to the Montreal convention are likely to vote the motion down to avoid the split that taking a position would create. The party is determined to continue walking on a tight-rope when it comes to abortion.
The stem cell research resolution is also likely to die a quick death, too. However, this resolution will fail, because a large number of party members and MPs who follow such issues will conclusively argue that embryonic stem cell research offers no hope for medical breakthroughs, while adult stem cell research has seen incredible progress in recent years. The resolution will fail not on moral grounds, but as a matter of practical economics and common sense.
However, if life issues don’t pose problems for the delegates at the convention, an anti-family resolution the Toronto meeting passed probably will. It dealt with the much more immediate issue of how marriage should be defined. It read, “A Conservative government would not support the use of the ‘notwithstanding clause’ in Section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to override any decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, which provides that the equality rights in Section 15 of the Charter require that marriage, for civil purposes, be available to same-sex couples, provided that the decision also upholds the freedom of officials of religious groups to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs.”
Despite the convoluted wording of the resolution, if it were to be ratified in Montreal, it would be viewed by the general public as an endorsement by the party of homosexual “marriage.” Currently, the party has no specific policy, although perhaps as many as 90 of the 99 MPs in the party caucus and a large majority of grassroots members support the traditional definition of marriage.
And, while there may not be any great danger of the resolution actually being passed, the fact that such a resolution would have to be given serious consideration by conservatives at a national policy convention is a sad commentary on the state of the party.
Indeed, the merger of the former Alliance and Progressive Conservative parties was the equivalent of mixing water with wine for social conservatives, who had enjoyed significant influence in the Canadian Alliance, pre-merger.
Even so, the Toronto policy conference seems to have had the effect of a canary in a coal mine. Because of the potential threat posed by Red Tories policies, pro-life and pro-family leaders have been able to offer their troops evidence that participation in the Montreal convention is critical, and grassroots activists are now applying for delegate positions within their local riding associations in significant numbers. Groups such as Campaign Life Coalition, REAL Women of Canada and the Canadian Family Action Coalition have urged members who support the Conservatives to redouble their efforts to ensure the party supports pro-life and pro-family positions.
The institution of marriage may yet find its champion with the Conservative party of Canada, but it faces internal opposition, in addition to the forces arrayed against it in the courts, Parliament and the media.