The Interim recently published an online opinion piece from former MP Brad Trost, titled, “Why I will rank my full ballot” (as well as my Campaign Life Coalition blogpost on the Conservative Party of Canada leadership race).

As Trost considers Campaign Life Coalition a friend, so we consider him a friend. As I alluded to in my blog about the CPC leadership debates, Trost and Pierre Lemieux paved the way for present pro-life leadership candidates Derek Sloan and Leslyn Lewis. Trost has been relentless in his defense of the sanctity of life, which is why we awarded him the Joe Borowoski award.

On the matter of leaving pro-abortion candidates Erin O’Toole and Peter MacKay off one’s ballot, though, we must hold our ground. Thankfully, friends are allowed to disagree, and in the pursuit of truth, should challenge each other.

I’d therefore like to respectfully respond to Trost’s arguments.

His first point is a good one; we want campaigns to fight for the support of social conservatives. If either O’Toole or MacKay were offering substantial pro-life policies, CLC would consider assigning them a higher grade. We would not endorse them unless they were 100 per cent pro-life, but we could tell our supporters to use their own judgment about whether to leave them off their ballot or not.

However, despite the split amongst pro-lifers about whether to fill out one’s full ballot or half of it, I’ve yet to see O’Toole and MacKay work for our vote beyond swiping some breadcrumbs off the table onto the ground, where social conservatives have been relegated to beg for scraps along with the dogs.

O’Toole’s recently touted “pro-family” policies—expanding the Canada Child Benefit and providing parental/bereavement leave for parents who lose a child before or after birth—are nice gestures, but it’s pretty insulting to think they’re sufficient to earn our vote. Social conservatives shouldn’t validate our cheap date reputation by accepting these meagre gestures.

Let’s not forget that both O’Toole and MacKay support both Bill C-8 and Bill C-16, which together will make it very difficult to speak the truth about transgenderism and save children from LGBTQ indoctrination. Bill C-16, by the way, contravenes the official party policy against compelled speech.

They both support an end to the “blood ban”—i.e. the requirement in place to protect recipients from HIV/AIDS stipulating that gay or bisexual men must defer donating blood for at least three months since they last had sex with a man.

They both intend to march in Pride parades, in which naked men (and women) expose themselves, simulate all sorts of sex acts, and flaunt their sexual fetishes in front of a crowd that includes children. It used to be that in any other context, e.g. a home or school, this would be recognized for what it is: child abuse. O’Toole’s and MacKay’s refusal to reject this leftist litmus test also signals their susceptibility to the never-ending demands of the insatiable LGBTQ lobby, which does not bode well for Canadian families.

Furthermore, neither O’Toole nor MacKay are presenting the prospect of pro-life progress—they’re protecting the “right” to abortion-on-demand, without restriction. That, frankly, isn’t good enough.

Secondly, I am not a single-issue voter. I care about all human rights injustices, so I would not vote for a racist anti-abortion candidate, nor one who supports torture.

It is completely fair to see support for any human rights injustice, including abortion, as a disqualifying factor.

If you produce a perfect candidate with just one flaw—his support for toddler-killing—most voters would recoil and claim that try as they might, they can’t quite get over the toddler-killing part.

If pro-lifers genuinely believe the preborn and born are equally valuable, then morally speaking, the killing of the two groups is equally abhorrent.

I do take seriously other ballot issues like the national debt and the environment, but to pretend that these issues matter as much as human rights injustices like abortion—even if just to get others to pay more attention to socially conservative candidates and issues—would be wrong, misleading, and counterproductive.

Third, from where I’m standing, O’Toole and MacKay are looking pretty similar. When each boast social liberalism a mile wide, what does it matter that there’s a foot or two difference between them?

Relatedly, I don’t buy the idea that O’Toole “wants to keep the party more where it has been.” I just detailed above how he wants to move the party leftward. He admitted that part of the reason why he lost the last leadership race was because he was perceived as “too moderate” on social issues. Like most other politicians, he’s currently just saying what he thinks he needs to say to win.

If I can address you directly, Brad Trost, you became a hero of mine when you ran for party leadership in 2017 and urged CPC members to “choose a principled Conservative who stands for something you agree with and care about.” You pledged: “In this leadership election, I will only vote for principled Conservatives. I encourage you to do the same.”

Let’s be honest: O’Toole is not a principled Conservative. You were right then. You’re not right now.

Fourth, “politics is not always about good, better, and best; sometimes it’s about bad, worse, and worst” sounds like a quick race to the bottom, in which we continuously settle for increasingly worse candidates.

As you suggested in your first point, the onus is on the candidates to earn our vote; they are not owed our support simply for being better than the other guy. The responsibility lies with them, not us. (In fact, your first point is undermined by your fourth point. There is no need to impress someone if you can depress them and still get their vote.)

When Richard Décarie was barred from the race and Jim Karahalios was disqualified, we told our supporters not to give up on the leadership race for the sake of pro-life candidates Lewis and Sloan. We did not remain engaged in the race and convince thousands of our supporters to buy memberships simply so that they could prop up O’Toole (who is responsible for there being fewer social conservatives in the running).

Finally, I owe it to myself to vote my conscience and maintain my integrity. Trost is right—no one forced me to join the Conservative Party. I joined solely for the sake of advocating for the sanctity of all human life, so I am quite confident that I will not let myself down by refusing to compromise.

In turn, Brad Trost, I encourage you not to let down the many people who look up to you for your pro-life heroism.

Josie Luetke, an Interim columnist, is a Campaign Life Coalition Youth coordinator and was co-host of this year’s Virtual National March for Life.