‘Social conservatives’ cautiously optimistic about unite-the-right possibilities
Pro-life, pro-family delegates to last month’s United Alternative convention in Ottawa are cautiously optimistic about the direction of this political movement to unite Canada’s right-of-centre federal political parties.
The convention was unlike most political conventions that pro-family, pro-life veterans have attended in the past. All opinions were respectfully heard, and delegates were given significant authority to amend the proposed resolutions (although amendments were not permitted to change the basic intent of the original pre-arranged resolutions). The main speeches tended to be sincere, serious presentations of well-crafted proposals for consideration by the assembly. The many proposals and comments from the floor were generally of a high calibre and made a refreshing show of democracy in action. MPs and party organizers were not given any preference at the microphones, and had to wait in line with the rank and file. And unlike most national political conferences, there did not appear to be any of the usual manipulation of the process by organizers.
In his opening-night speech, Alberta Premier Ralph Klein promoted his extreme, secularist position on moral issues. He indicated that such issues have no place in the political process. An amendment was proposed to add the Premier’s direction on moral issues to the UA resolutions. It was overwhelmingly defeated. The media did not report this vote which indicated the assembly’s strong social conservative mood.
Also, John Crosbie’s negative, demeaning comments from the floor on Saturday were helpful to the process. There could not have been a better demonstration of why the old, manipulative, authoritarian party culture has had its day and must be replaced in all the parties for the good of the nation. Once again, this naysayer got lots of press, which was quite unrepresentative of what was actually going on at the convention.
One resolution originally contained a reference to “sustainable development,” a key United Nations buzzword. It is code language used to justify population control and all kinds of leftist social engineering in the name of environmental protection. Thankfully, the term was deleted via amendments. In the same section, another deliberately vague UN favourite, “families,” was used. It was amended to the more definite term “the family,” which is not so susceptible to manipulation by gay activists. This change received overwhelming support from the assembly.
The resolutions calling for major changes in the electoral, parliamentary, judicial, and party systems should appeal to many Canadians. All of these would make it much easier to bring about the democratic restoration of protection and support for life and family. They would also make it very difficult for leftist social engineers to continue to manipulate the political and legal systems according to their unpopular agendas.
Other successful amendments included statements in support of the rights to life, freedom, and property, respect for the family as the building block of society, and recognition of the supremacy of Parliament vis-a-vis the courts in making laws.
A delegate motion calling for the recognition of the supremacy of God in the UA resolutions was defeated, unfortunately. Some delegates felt that had it been submitted again in a better form as an amendment to a later resolution it might have passed.
In determining the future direction of the UA, delegates were presented with four options. Fifty-five per cent of the 1,216 delegates who voted called for the creation of a new party as their first option. (Three hundred delegates did not vote.) A strong second-place vote was given to co-operation between Reformers and Tories through the selection of one right-of-centre candidate in certain ridings. The other two options, merging the two parties or folding the movement into one of them, received less support. Sixty per cent of delegates were Reformers and about half of all delegates were from Ontario.
It is very uncertain where the process goes from here. The Reform party will conduct a party referendum asking for acceptance of the UA resolutions. That acceptance is far from certain, since many Reformers are afraid that they will be forced to abandon core principles in any new arrangement. There is a real concern that strong social conservative policies will be left out of the process as they were left out of the original resolutions.
Also, it is even more likely that the Tories will reject the UA. Joe Clark has refused to co-operate, and it is difficult to see how the entrenched, old-school Red Tories would ever consent to join Reform without social conservatives giving up their core principles. The UA might end up agreeing to avoid conservative social initiatives, just as the Mike Harris and Ralph Klein Tories have betrayed their core social conservative supporters. Still, some younger Tories may reject the dictatorial approach of the old guard and lead other open-minded Tories to join this new, more dynamic movement, without asking for such conditions.
Political pundits and some delegates fear that the end result may be an even greater splintering of the right-of-centre vote in Canada. There is a concern that the UA process went too fast, and that the intermediate step of co-operating in individual ridings should have been taken first.
There are other causes for concern. Some of the main conference organizers hold strong social liberal views. It seems there is not an opportunity for delegates to take part in the committee that will implement the conference resolutions. Preston Manning continues to promote his Pontius Pilate approach to life issues, whereby the Reform Party has avoided taking a stand on such crucial matters.