By Jonathon Van Maren
It’s a very good day for social conservatives in Canada. After a decade of being pushed to the fringes, commentators across the board were stunned by their show of strength during today’s leadership race. I was driving and thus forced to listen to CBC Radio One when the first ballot results came in, and with Brad Trost finishing fourth and Pierre Lemieux finishing sixth, the only topic of discussion was the so-con surge—and that discussion came to a crescendo when Andrew Scheer won the night and formally accepted the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada.
“I don’t think the party can put these issues back in a box,” one analyst noted. Steve Paikin estimated that at least a full third of the Party was socially conservative. Paul Wells of Maclean’s tweeted ironically that, “if Kellie Leitch had run on Why Can’t We Just Talk About Abortion she’d have done better than she did.” Peter Mansbridge mused that perhaps the media had missed the continued existence of social conservatives. And David Akin tweeted that a Scheer victory indicated the strength of social conservative organizations, with Warren Kinsella darkly warning of the same thing and Tasha Kheiriddin bemoaning the influence of the pro-life vote. As I wrote earlier tonight, it just might be a new chapter for social conservatives in Canada.
We now have a pro-life leader of the Conservative Party, a man that, as I wrote during the race, supports freedom of speech, Christian and independent schools, and has a perfect socially conservative voting record. He was supported by a large number of pro-life organizations as well as many pro-life Members of Parliament, one of whom read a statement from Scheer at the National March for Life earlier this year. If he only holds true to the policy promises laid out in his campaign platform, social conservatives will have much to celebrate.
The fearmongering from the media has already begun, with their ominous predictions of a fractured party that will have to silence at least a third of its members in order to have any shot at beating Justin Trudeau. That, of course, is what the media always does—attempts to create a narrative that casts the Conservative Party in general and social conservatives specifically as cruel knuckle-draggers. They did it to Stephen Harper, too, warning of his “hidden agenda” and casting him as a heartless and draconian politician. This is nothing new. But moving forward, with many policies finding much common ground between social conservatives and millions of other Canadians, perhaps this time that narrative will ring hollow.