By Jonathon Van Maren
Since last year’s leadership race, there’s been plenty of discussion within conservative circles about Erin O’Toole. According to an interesting new essay in Maclean’s, O’Toole’s war room is confident that the new leader is nailing it and priming the Conservative Party to begin winning the hearts and minds of Canadians—while on-the-ground organizers and many MPs, not so much. Every leader risks living in a silo surrounded by yes-men, focus groups, and the wonkiest Ottawa Bubble members of their party—but even so, O’Toole has managed to create an alternative reality in record time.
Consider this revealing paragraph:
Sloan’s ouster and the carbon tax flip-flop factored into many grassroots Conservatives souring on O’Toole throughout the spring. Especially among social conservatives and in the West, organizers say a sense of futility is setting in. “The most committed volunteers I have ever seen to this party, and that’s financially as well as in activity, are people in the social conservative movement,” says an organizer in B.C. “If you’re leaving them feeling like ‘this isn’t my party anymore,’ it’s a problem.”
It’s not just social conservatives, either—it’s pretty much anyone who holds small-c conservative views. It’s hard to see what O’Toole offers, besides the obvious fact that he isn’t Justin Trudeau or the other guy. Maclean’s, incidentally, states that Sloan was evicted from caucus because he was a troublemaker—which might be true, but at the time O’Toole shamefully smeared Sloan as someone who accepted support from white supremacists. You don’t need to be a social conservative to think that essentially labeling someone a racist to accomplish a political outcome is pretty gross.
Another interesting quote trots out the trope that has essentially become political doctrine for the Tory establishment post-Harper—that social conservatives must be muzzled, evicted, or otherwise beaten down in order for Conservatives to win (this despite the recent vote on sex selective abortion revealing that the majority of the current caucus holds at least some pro-life views):
Ken Boessenkool thinks Erin O’Toole is threading the needle handily. The long-time conservative guru is not optimistic about the party’s electoral prospects, per se—if the Liberals aren’t particularly weak and the NDP isn’t particularly strong, it’s an uphill battle—but he says he’s hopeful about its overall direction. “He’s got to take off the table some of the more rabid social conservative issues and he needs to have a credible climate change policy,” Boessenkool says. “He’s doing the work he needs to do to give himself a shot.”
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: There are not enough social conservatives to win an election on a so-con platform, but there are enough social conservatives in the Conservative Party to ensure that elections will be lost if you don’t figure out some way to keep us in the tent. Boessenkool refers here to “the more rabid social conservative issues.” What, exactly, does he mean by “rabid”? Would that be a motion or law on gendercide, ostensibly supported by a super-majority of Canadians? Would that be opposition to sex changes for minors? Opposition to Bill C-6, which directly targets religious freedom? Is an issue “rabid” because Trudeau’s war room says it is, or does any polling or analysis ever go into this babble?
The real problem with the Conservative Party elites is that this isn’t really about which social conservative policies might have broad appeal with the Canadian electorate—something Leslyn Lewis did a very good job of articulating. This is about accepting the Liberal and media narrative that social conservatism in any form is beyond the pale. The Liberals continue to jog left, accepting every single new manifestation of the sexual revolution. They now accept and defend things that, when social conservatives brought them up a decade or so ago, got us labeled fearmongers. The Conservative Party’s response, for the most part, has been to jog behind Trudeau, huffing and puffing and calling: “Not so fast—we’re right behind you!”
What Boessenkool and the Conservative elites mean by “rabid” and “social conservative” is actually “any opposition whatsoever to the LGBT agenda and abortion activists.” It doesn’t matter that a majority of new and non-white Canadians are not on board with much of this agenda; it doesn’t matter that the goal posts keep shifting and the transgender agenda is being challenged in the United Kingdom and elsewhere; it doesn’t matter that many pro-life policies suggested by so-cons are supported by liberal parties in other Western democracies. What matters is that the Conservative elites would like the grassroots to shut their mouths and vote so that they can regain power, despite having a moral compass indistinguishable from their opponents.
Again: I understand that there are many policies and laws that I would like to see passed in Canada that are not politically viable. Every social conservative I know understands this, too. But I have a few questions for Boessenkool and the Conservative elites: Is there any line in the sand? Can the transgender movement ever push too far, especially with regard to children? Is there anything too extreme for them? Is any policy recognizing life in the womb too “rabid”? From where we’re sitting, the sexual revolution has been moving at warp speed—but the Conservative Party of Canada is more concerned about social conservatives speaking their minds than they are about children getting sex changes and parental rights being undermined and baby girls getting aborted just because they are baby girls.
This isn’t about social conservatives having “rabid” moral views. It’s about the Conservative Party of Canada not having any moral views at all.