By Jonathon Van Maren
When my colleague and I arrived in the dining room of Redeemer University College in Ancaster, there were about 100 people already there, collecting cups of coffee and cookies from tables alongside the wall and taking seats at round tables spread around the room. The crowd was fairly diverse in age, with a slight skew towards grey heads. People glanced periodically and expectantly to the front, where a large banner stood next to a podium featuring the smiling face of the candidate for the Progressive Party leadership they were all waiting for: Tanya Granic Allen. Her campaign slogan summed it all up: Conservative. For a Change.
While we were waiting, a volunteer passed out campaign postcards, one side of which contained her resume—“20 years of political experience…businesswoman, writer, commentator,” and of course, head of Parents of First Educators (PAFE)—and the other which contained a laundry list of causes Granic Allen is passionate about. She is running, she said, “to be a strong voice against Kathleen Wynne’s sex-education curriculum and for freedom of speech.” Additionally, the card noted in bold, she is “pro-life and a social conservative”—“Pro-life, pro-family, pro-parental rights.” Then, of course, there is the corruption in the PC party, the political correctness, the carbon tax, and “Kathleen Wynne’s left-wing social engineering.” This candidate does not mince her words.
Granic Allen breezed in twenty minutes late, hoarse from a long day on the campaign trail. The crowd didn’t hold it against her, and greeted her with a standing ovation. Within minutes, she dropped the signature line that she had debuted during one of the leadership debates—her promise to “rip the wind turbines right out of the ground.” It got a big laugh. She was comfortable, sincere, and passionate, laying out her problems with the sex-ed curriculum, which is, of course, her signature issue. Over and over again, she honed in on the crux of the issue: This is about parents having the right to decide what and when their children get taught about sex and sexuality, she said—and if she was elected, she would repeal and review the entire thing. “Maybe in a revised curriculum we’ll even use words like ‘love’ and ‘marriage,’ words that do not appear in Wynne’s curriculum once,” she noted. There was applause all around.
Granic Allen noted that her entrance into the leadership race has already raised the profile of social conservative issues, and in this she is undoubtedly correct. Christine Elliot has become a passionate defender of conscience rights—something Granic Allen came back to multiple times throughout her stump speech—as well as promising to take a second look at the sex-ed curriculum. Doug Ford has promised to do the same, and has also said he’d consider parental consent legislation for abortion. Caroline Mulroney has said she doesn’t think parental rights were respected in the implementation of the curriculum, but that she’d leave it alone. Granic Allen’s acid analysis of this: “She sends her kids to a private school, so perhaps she just doesn’t care.”
The key to Granic Allen’s ability to connect with the crowd seems to be the fact that she’s genuine, she’s passionate, and she doesn’t try to scrape her way through questions about issues she isn’t as familiar with by using platitudes: “Please talk to me about this afterwards. I want to hear more.” She’s also incredibly blunt, referring to the Liberal energy policy as one that was “raping and pillaging the taxpayer.” Regarding to doctor’s conscience rights and attempts to force medical professionals to refer for abortion or euthanasia, she brought up the fact that her father had been in Croatia while “it was being ravished by the Yugoslav Communists”—and that this was precisely the sort of totalitarian policy they’d been fond of.
The crowd was looking for someone who spoke their language and didn’t back down, and that is precisely what they got. The government runs a lot of things, she said—but it’s time they stayed out of our families: “That’s not their job. That’s none of their business.” She mentioned that Dr. Jordan Peterson had done an interview with her and one of her colleagues at PAFE, and his name got a big round of applause. During the Q and A—which lasted until several staffers indicated that it was time to move on with the evening—audience members fired questions on everything from math scores, healthcare wait times, rural hospitals, and Ontario’s 320 billion dollar debt. While she answered questions, my phone buzzed—it was an email from her campaign, listing her priorities and highlighting the attention her campaign had brought to the social conservative issues important to many Ontarians.
I left the event thoroughly impressed. Tanya Granic Allen has been written off by many as a “one-issue candidate,” and although she—like everyone else—obviously has her priorities, she proved in her easy interactions with the crowd that she also has the ability to connect with voters and project her passion. “I’m taking time out of my life to do this and you’re taking time out of your life to be here because these issues matter,” she said, and that sums it up very well. Her presence in the race is creating a lively discussion around issues that many prefer to ignore, and because she is presenting them articulately and persuasively, she is giving credibility to those who care about the same issues that she does. The crowd, it was clear, was grateful to her for that.
And as for myself, I’ll be happy to rank her first on my ballot for the Progressive Conservative leadership. She’s earned my vote.