Before the last of the confetti had fallen on Patrick Brown’s victory celebration, political reporters had already filed their stories: another moral Neanderthal had ascended to the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario’s top spot. To judge from their reports, one might conclude that Brown, and his erstwhile rival, Monte McNaughton, spoke incessantly (and insensitively) about social conservative issues, with members of the press dutifully transmitting the messages of these candidates to the public in a fair, clear way. 

Now this would be a strange political strategy, indeed. After all, why would PC leadership candidates choose to focus on such long-standing (and largely unpopular) issues when, after more than a decade in power, the governing Liberals have left the province in shambles? Why wouldn’t these would-be challengers rail against the reigning party’s rank corruption and rampant spending?

The truth, of course, is that Brown and McNaughton had no such focus on the most contentious social issues in their respective campaigns and, instead, were both immediately and tendentiously type-cast by reporters and pundits alike; and the veracity of the media’s “reports” about them may be clearly judged by their similarity to the Liberals’ disingenuous attacks on them. The “scary social conservative” stencil that has served lazy reporters so well over the years is now being used again to trace the figure of a victorious Patrick Brown. In the coming months, members of the media will peddle a narrative that they will themselves create by practicing a studied ignorance on all other files so that they may constantly pester Brown about his well-known stance on social issues.

For our part, we at The Interim greet Brown’s victory with no small amount of satisfaction because he is, in fact, a social conservative. According to Campaign Life Coalition, he has a perfect voting record as a federal MP. And he has been a strong and forceful opponent of the provincial Liberals’ radical sex-ed curriculum, a fiasco that has precipitated a grassroots revolt across the province. Indeed, his criticism of the curriculum and his advocacy for concerned parents – along with his solid commitment to principled good government in Ontario – give us guarded hope for the future of a troubled province.

Thus do we give Brown two strong cheers; but, for the time being, we will demur from a third. Ontario’s provincial elections are a long way away, and Brown will have to prove himself worthy of our trust – and vote – all while suffering the smears of an adversarial media who would like nothing better than to see him repudiate his socially conservative positions.

Since Brown has already shown himself to be a passionate and canny politician, he must know that he would win no faithful friends by such an about-face turn. Yet, a leader whose hard work has made unprecedented inroads with local communities might be tempted to think that certain constituencies could be eventually won over with the same concerted effort. With a view to such false hopes is how we choose to take the comment that Brown recently volunteered in an interview with the National Post: “I’ve attended Pride events in the city of Barrie, and I would do so again and look forward to doing so again.”

The voters who would be swayed such a gesture exist only in the minds of antipathetic reporters: any citizens who would return the corrupt Liberals to power simply because Brown did not attend such events have priorities we cannot fathom. Social conservatives, on the other hand, would have good reason to attach great significance to an act of this kind. Having worked tirelessly behind the scenes for so long only to see similar candidates go wobbly, we might rightly read such statements as signs of an impending  “growth in office” – although, for now, we do not.

A one-time political underdog, Patrick Brown is now basking in an unexpected but richly-deserved victory. He would do well to remember who his friends were when the establishment and the media dismissed him as an unlikely long shot. If he does so, he may have pleasure of disproving the conventional wisdom again in 2018.